This will be my 6th post in the series ST-Bound with the ST standing for Singapore and Thailand. I had a lot of adventures and one blog post wouldn’t cut it. Check out the past ones here for the one you are about to read to make more sense:
1.My Indian Friend, The Salary man, and Mr. Lebanon 2.The Feeling of Arriving 3.I shall call this post Emily 4.This Table is Reserved 5.High Expectations of the Bus Driver
From Singapore to Thailand, I chose to take the bus instead of the plane. With a lot of trouble throughout the night, I had only gotten two hours of sleep. I finally stepped off the bus at 10:00 in the morning and found myself in a bustling city. Locals frantically tried to get us into their cars, doing their best to convince us that their way would be the cheapest way. Looking around I saw food stalls, other tourists and curious people who kept staring at our group.
With quick goodbyes to my bodyguard friends, I got a couple of watercolor sketches ready and passed it to them as a thank you. I scribbled my name on the back of both in hopes they would find me online. I jumped on my bus and waved to their backs.
Thirteen of us including the drivers got packed into a small van with all of our luggage. I felt like I had been crammed into a can of sardines. My backpack stole half of my seat, leaving one of my legs dangling while the other sat firm in the gap by the sliding door. Although I was fairly comfortable, sitting a few hours in that position without moving made my legs swollen without my noticing. I got the shock of my life when I looked down to find my feet looking more like an elephant’s than my own.
I thought that I would be without friends for the remainder of the trip, but I started chatting up the man sitting next to me. They were also on the first bus, but I did not realize that all nine of them were on a family vacation together. I did not converse with them the whole way to Thailand because I didn’t think they could speak English. I was happy to have been forced into such close quarters, having the excuse to make more formal introductions.
He was a young man with a sweet smile. He wore black rimmed glasses and spoke earnestly. His wife was younger than him, my age. If memory serves rightly, her name was Ayu which means “Beautiful” in Malay. It could not have been a more appropriate name.
I spoke mostly to the husband because of the positioning of the seats. While he and his wife spoke English, the rest of the clan could only pick out words. At the one and only rest stop, I was happy that they invited me into their group and shared their spicy coconut snacks with me.
Upon getting back on the bus, I shared my story and background with him. He also shared his and we enjoyed a couple of hours of conversation. He expressed his worries about Singapore and the direction it is taking. From a tourist or expat point of view, everything seems normal. However, if you have a middle-class job the salary just doesn’t cut it for all of the living expenses. Although the people of Singapore seem content, there is a fault line underneath the surface. Shops in Chinatown and Little India close down because of the cost. People cannot keep up, forcing them to go to neighboring countries. His prediction was that in the future, those lower-class areas will be wiped out completely, leaving room for the rich to move in.
Whether what he spoke of is true or not, it was interesting to get an insider’s point of view for the first time.
Though the last bus driver was a nightmare, this part of the ride probably was the most dangerous. The speed limit was 80, which I am sure most people exceeded. The ride was like a video game, barely dodging the cars as they came by, or going into opposite lanes with cars coming head on. If you could drive on that road for even half an hour, you could drive anywhere.
I alternated between talking, sleeping, and staring out the window. Looking out, I noticed that all of the trees were incredibly straight. I was informed later that they are all farmed for their rubber.
Cows were also everywhere along the way. I saw beaches, advertisements, photos of the king, dirt roads, dogs roaming — everything I would expect Thailand to be. Similar to how I remembered Bali, but with everything in Thai writing. To my eyes it looked similar, but the air was different. Something about the people was different. I would have to go there more to see if I could differentiate the countries.
The family was able to get driven right up to their hotel while I would have to find another taxi to get to my Villa after reaching the main drop-off point. We exchanged goodbye’s and wished each other luck on our travels. They dropped me off at a busy street and I had the challenge of making deals with some locals to get another ride to my hotel. I kind of knew the drill — never take the price they suggest initially. Being physically and mentally exhausted I could not get it down too much, but I couldn’t be bothered to work harder for a local price.
My final driver was everything I wanted my first bus man to be:
He was slightly over-weight.
He took his business seriously.
He had no problem finding my destination.
He was soft-spoken.
He answered my questions as best he could in his limited English.
He had a kind smile.
His name was Sunny.
When I got to my Villa, I kissed the ground. I couldn’t believe it — I got there in one piece with an added bonus of being mentally sound. And it was all thanks to the Malay Bus Driver, My Singapore Friends, and Mr. Sunny.