Plains, Trains, & Automobiles: The Long Way to Bali

Ferry ride: Passing touts on Ko Samui

After Koh Tao, we were making a beeline to Indonesia. And what a journey it was! Our guesthouse on Koh Tao gave us a ride in the back of a pick-up truck to the dock. Rather than taking a package deal trip to Kuala Lumpur, we thought we could do it faster on our own (can you see where this is going?).

Summary of our ridiculous transportation:

1. Board ferry at 10am. Stop at Koh Phan Ngan & Koh Samui en route. Dock on mainland Thailand in the middle of nowhere (Don Sak).

2. Board bus (included in ferry price). It looks like an old crummy school bus with no A/C. Ride for an hour to Suratthani.

3. Take sawngthaew into town to a travel agency. Negotiate ride to Hat Yai.

4. Take minibus ride to Hat Yai. Arrive around 10 pm at night. Walk a mile to the train station and find out no trains cross the border at night. See lots of rats. Find a crappy, cheap place to stay.

5. Take train to Butterworth. The train was an hour late. This was my first border crossing by train. When we got to the border, there was this interesting sign.

Sign at the Malaysia border

6. Take a bus to Kuala Lumpur. While we waited 45 minutes for our bus, a little boy from Singapore chatted my ear off. He walked around the bus station telling people that I was his friend Shakira and rubbing my face. According to his mother, he loooooves Shakira, and he told me how I looked just like her. Jaded by flattery, I ignored the fact that he must not see that well.

7. Got in to KL and took local bus to Chinatown.

8. After search for a vacant place to stay and getting just a few hours of sleep, we took the monorail to the central station.

9. Took an AirAsia bus to the airport.

10. Took a flight to Denpasar, Bali.

11. Got in late and took a taxi to the bus station 30 minutes away.

This is where things get a bit hairy. Our plan was to take an 18-24 hour bus ride to Yogyakarta, Java. We sat on the bus for 30 minutes waiting for it to leave. The money-taker was arguing with everyone that got on the bus about price and locals were refusing to go. At this point, I believe it’s pushing 11:00 at night, we are completely exhausted, and both have an uneasy feeling about this long bus ride. We make the decision to get off,  screw the leg to Java and stay on Bali. Although we knew the effort might be futile, we decided to try to get our money back. We tried pulling the “Well you said the bus was leaving an hour ago” remark to which they frantically tried to push us back on the bus and said that it was leaving right now. We told them we weren’t going and the conductor tells the driver to go. Our stuff is still on the bus!! Lauren saves the day and stands in front of the bus, while I bolt back on to grab our bags. As this scene unfolds at the bus station, a worker from another bus company reams out the conductor and demands him to give us our money back. We finally got half of it refunded, considered it a success, and walked our tired bodies down a back street. We found a place to stay and collapsed.

The next day we took two bemos (local minibus) to get to Ubud. And here is where our Bali adventure began!

In case you need a recap of our trip from Koh Tao to Ubud, we took a truck, a ferry, a bus, a sawngthaew, a minibus, a train, a bus, another bus, a monorail, a bus, a plane, a taxi, and two bemos. I’m pretty resilient on long travel, but I reached my limit and couldn’t stand the thought of getting on another bus after that!

Our homestay in Ubud- gorgeous!

18 thoughts on “Plains, Trains, & Automobiles: The Long Way to Bali

  • That sign is brilliant! I wonder what is under The part where “underwear” has been stuck on!
    This seems like a mega journey if I have counted correctly 14 legs??? Man I would have probably given up after the 3rd/4th!!!

  • Seriously, you are my travel transportation inspiration queen!!! I can’t imagine doing half of this solo. I know you had a friend with you, but that’s a LOOOONG journey. You are a rock star. Hey, you ARE Shakira!!

  • I feel like I’m reading a Dr. Seuss book!

    And that sign is hilarious, looks like it should be a joke! I think I’d like to put something similar in the doorway of my house :)

  • This reminds me of the old lady who swallowed a fly and then swallowed 10 other things to get the thing she just swallowed… okay that was a bit confusing.

    It just kept going! You are a trooper!

  • What a ride! I bet you were sick of it when over- luckly Ubud is the place in the world with the best value for money- in my opinion. Oh, and don’t go East towards Timor; what you went through is nothing compared with that. :)

  • I loved how after point number 11, when it was already a hairy story you say “This is Where things get a bit hairy” I laughed out loud:) What a crazy experience, but hey, it made for an excellent story. Enjoy relaxing in Ubud.

  • Oh my gosh!! That’s crazy. Something about the way you wrote it exhausted me — it brought me right back to similar (not not as bad, I don’t think!) loooooong trip and how beat you get.

  • I’m with Abby as far as feeling your exhaustion (and feeling my age and thinking this does really make for a fabulous story (but it’s okay I just like listening to it, right?) :)

  • It’s the journeys like this that we all remember in the end. What is it that makes us either so optimistic or so stubborn that we think we can do it better on our own? Or maybe that’s just what makes travel fun in the end. Good for you for getting a partial refund. That’s not an easy thing to do!

    I love the sign. Too funny.

  • OMG…what an adventure! It reminds me of chicken bus rides I’ve taken combined with other modes of transportation, etc. Sounds rough. Love where you ended up, though. Looks great. I may need to talk to you, btw, since I’m thinking about a trip to Indonesia in May!

  • Wow!! it’s really amazing and exhausting journey…!!! But I’m sure you will have a great time in Bali. Don’t you wanna try to travel to East Indonesia?? Really beautiful there…!!!

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