Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Did we actually make it to Thailand?

For those in search of brevity this is not the post for you. So feel free to skip ahead. I'll start with the abridged version. We left the Camerson Highlands and nearly 24 gruelling in-transit hours later we were on the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi

The longer version goes a little something like this. Before catching our 4:30 bus we decided to grab some delicious chicken satay skewers at the road side stand near our guesthouse. Then in the pouring rain we proceeded to board the local bus which was already full seating wise. We were forced to sit on our packs on the floor. The bus was of similar standard to our journey up into the highlands. Since it felt like the bottom of the bus could drop out at any moment it proved an interesting experience

Two hours later we were in Tapah with about a half an hour before our bus connection. So I wandered off in search of snacks while Kirsten waited with our packs. I was gone less than 10 minutes but when I returned I was horrified to learn that the bus had arrived early and left without us. The shop owner/bus ticket attendant assured us another bus was on its way and would be there at 11:00 PM. He proceeded to close up shop and left us waiting on a dark and utterly deserted street. The 11:00 bus also failed to arrive and at this point we were seriously panicking over what to do. Everything else in the town was long shut for the evening. The idea of spending a night on the dodgy streets of nowhere town Malaysia was simply not appealing.

My feeling of relief when the shop owner unexpectedly returned is indescribable. A few phone calls later he determined the bus company had forgotten about us, but not to worry another bus was on its way (Haven't I heard this before) Finally, at nearly 1:00am we boarded a bus to Ipoh which continued on to the Thai/Malay border. The air condition on the bus was set to the maximum level and it turned the bus into an absolute ice box. For five hours we shivered and attempted to sleep.

At 6:00 am we had arrived at Malaysia immigration where huge queues awaited us. We chose the slowest queue and grew concerned as we watched everyone else for our bus get through before us. We, of course, were the only Westerners on the entire bus and even in all the queues.

When we finally got through the line we fruitlessly searched through the sea of parked buses for ours. Eventually we did find another man from our bus who with some rudimentary english and gesturing communicated that the bus was on the other side of the Thai border. We would have to travel through the one kilometre "no mans land" on our own. Being that we were still relatively inexperienced at the whole land border crossing thing we believed him. So we hopped in a taxi with the guy, another female and rushed over to Thai immigration. After some serious confusion we soon realized the bus wasn't on this was still waiting for us on the malaysian side. Eventually things were straightened out and the bus was on its way to Haddyai, but not before the bus driver gave us a proper tongue lashing with his minimal english (which somehow seemed to contain more swear words than anything else) It was impossible to explain that we were not the ones to blame so we accepted his wrath with minimal tears.

It should be noted that the gentleman who had led us astray did bring us packages of Doublemint gum as peace offerings

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Our route through Malaysia

The remainder of the journey which included a five hour very cramped ride in a minivan and a ninety minute ferry ride passed with relatively few incidents. At this point I was so exhausted that I just endured the trip in a foggy daze.

We didn't have much time and energy to explore the island that first night. The only thing we were interested in was a cold beer and a spicy Thai curry

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