One of the things I was looking forward to doing upon moving to Phuket Town was to learn to navigate the local routes taken by the highly-touted buses operated by the Phuket Municipality (PPAO). There are three routes that zig-zag through the southeastern portion of the island using a fleet of brand-new pink slatted buses. The stops that each route services are painted in a white stripe along the side of the vehicles and inside (on the back of the cab) an extensive bilingual route map is illustrated.
However, only a few of the stops (identified by a square pink sign with blue lettering) have a route map attached and those that I’ve seen are only in Thai. I feel that the PPAO is really missing an opportunity to attract more riders by not printing bilingual brochures illustrating the routes and giving important information about the service.
At any rate, I decided this afternoon after teaching my classes I would take a trip to Central Festival. I’d seen a bus stop a short distance from my new apartment so I grabbed my umbrella and set off. It was a good thing I was prepared for rain as it began to sprinkle just as I arrived at this bus stop only to find that only routes 2 and 3 stopped there. I knew enough from reading the sides of buses that I wanted a route 1 bus as this one began and ended it’s route at Big C which is right next to Central. I began walking further down the road — westward as I knew buses came from the north on the road just past Satree Phuket School and then headed towards Big C to the west. By the time I reached that intersection the sprinkle had become a downpour and the wind began to blow fiercely. My little collapsible umbrella was no match and as I ascended the pedestrian crossing over the busy intersection I thought I was going to become airborne just as Mary Poppins in the movie. I was a bit soaked as I ducked under the awning at the bus stop on the south side of Damrong Road. I waited some twenty minutes before a route 1 bus appeared (preceded by perhaps a half-dozen 2’s and 3’s). Naturally enough, I’d assumed that the way to get to Big C was to take the bus headed in that direction so I was a bit perplexed when the conductor asked me for 20 baht rather than what I’d understood to be the regular 10-baht fare.
As it turned out, I should have waited at the bus stop (no shelter from the rain there) on the north side of the street and caught the east-bound bus. But no matter, for my twenty baht and about ninety minutes of my time I was treated to a really nice tour of virtually the entire Phuket Town area, including all the way to the very tip of the Suphan Hin recreational area. Now I know how to easily and inexpensively travel to the fairs, food markets, royal celebrations, and other special events they hold down there! Also on this journey I had some nice conversations with some fellow passengers including a very shy high school girl whose mother wanted her to practice some English for free with the ajarn (teacher) sitting next to her and a very drunk mechanic who complained to me that he works hard but everybody wants a piece of his income so it’s difficult for him to keep his head above water. I could really relate to that! All the while, it was just pouring down rain outside leaving me to wonder how I was going to get home. The pink buses stop running around six in the evening and it was already closing in on four o’clock by the time I got to Central. By that time, the rain had become a sprinkle once again so I called a friend and he offered a lift after he finished work.
I really enjoyed my little “misadventure” on the pink bus. If it hadn’t been raining and the plastic screens hadn’t been dropped down over the sides, I would have had an excellent opportunity for sightseeing and photography. I did spot a number of shops and other attractions along the way that I’d like to investigate a bit more intently. Being newer, the bench seats lining the sides of these buses are still somewhat padded and much more comfortable than those on the “beach” (blue) buses that I’ve ridden in other parts of town. And the cost is very affordable — the regular fare is 10 baht per ride (unless you’re a stupid farang like myself and do an unintended double-loop) and it’s free for students. If the weather cooperates, I might try riding routes 2 and/or 3 during the long holiday weekend (no school Friday or Monday because of Asarnha Buja Day and Buddhist Lent).