Well, Thailand was a bust. It was supposed to be the easiest of the Asian countries to traverse, because of the high foreign tourist traffic and blossoming economy. It was not to be.
The two months I spent recovering from the fall were painful, depressing and boring. The boredom was temporarily relieved by trips to Koh Samui to see the doctor, but it was marginal.
I’ve contemplating quitting the adventure numerous times over the last two months, but they’ve been fleeting moments. My hand still hurts – but I can ride the bike – so I’m sucking up all the fear and self doubt and pushing on.
Right. That’s enough moaning and whinging. It hasn’t been all bad.
I caught the night boat to Surat Thani which was a bit of an experience. It was a converted fishing trawler with an upper and lower cabin. All our bags, and my bike, went downstairs, while myself and 60 other souls were allocated narrow mattress slots upstairs. Arranged in two bow-to-stern rows, we were packed in like sardines. We arrived at 5:30 am and disembarked with bleary eyes, and were pretty glad to say goodbye to fellow bed companions. I may be getting old, but I’m not really into sleeping that close to perfect strangers these days.
From Surat Thani, I caught the train down to the Malay border. It was the worst train journey I’ve ever taken. I decided to catch the earlier, slower, train as I couldn’t envisage waiting at a train station until 2:00am. So it was awesome when I discovered the earlier train was delayed, because I could then watch as the 2:00am arrived and departed the station, on time.
The train eventually rolled in and I gratefully climbed into my sleeping berth. Just as I was nodding off, the train pulled out of the station, and I prepared to be gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the train and the soothing clickety-clack as we glided along the rails. Nope. I think they got the work experience kid to lay the line because every so often we’d pass over a join so badly aligned that I was thrown around violently inside my hard plastic capsule. I even made good use of the safety straps that are in place to make sure you don’t fly out of your bed and into the aisle. It was not a restful night, and there wasn’t enough coffee on the train the following morning to ease my suffering. It was horrible… The bit about the coffee, the train thing was actually a bit comical after the fact.
On the last stretch into Su’Ngai Kolok, the soldiers on board out-numbered the passengers considerably. This area of Thailand has been experiencing a bit of violence due to the usual suspects: religion and politics. In fact, I was told by a local, at the Surat Thani station just before I departed, that a bomb had exploded in a hotel there a few days before. Good to know.
After the train journey I was too exhausted and elected to work with the probability that another explosion in a hotel so soon after would be slight, and found a room. After a few hours kip, I headed out to find a bite at the night market. At the station, this awesome transit cop had helped me get my bike and gear out of cargo, told me about a good cheap hotel and the night market (open air eateries that pop up in the evenings all over Asia) so I had some information on a town for a change. I didn’t have to wander around and hope for the best, it was fantastic.
I meandered through the market looking at the offerings and was trying to decide when this guy sitting at a table started chatting to me. It turns out he’s another cop, having his dinner, and so he asks me to be his guest. You can’t really say ‘no’ without causing offense in this part of the world, and he seemed cool, so I joined him and his colleague. They told me about the area and the dramas that have been unfolding, and that they need more tourists to come to the area. They may have to wait until the bombs stop exploding, but their enthusiasm was admirable.
The next morning, when I was crossing the border, there was one of my dinner companions manning the counter. I got whisked inside for coffee, local snacks and VIP processing out of Thailand. All in all, it was an awesome (& pleasantly surprising) end to a mediocre visit. Yay.
I’m in Kota Bharu in north eastern Malaysia and will be heading south again tomorrow. Being back on the bike will be great. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be rolling through new territory every day, breathing fresh air and not knowing what surprises lie around the corner.
I hope this post finds you fit and well, and excited about what is around your next corner.
I kept myself occupied during my recovery by doing some sketching. Here’s a couple that came out OK.