Same day, Different shit. .
Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
90Trip End Oct 01, 2006
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Got off of the second bus in Hat Yai, waited, got some nice soup for lunch, sat, waited, smoked, and finally got on to the third and last bus. 1pm in the afternoon, to arrive singapore the following morning at 6 am.
The border crossing into Malasia was pretty easy, they did not look twice at the few westerners that dare to go overland from Bangkok to Singapore by bus. They did however, give many thais a hard time. There were separate lines for each of them.
Returning to the bus (on which I was the only one who spoke English), there were two new women sitting in the back with me and the thai man next to me. Attempts at conversation were rough, but they shared food, and the man explained in his spotty English that any one of the five women at the back of the bus would come with me back to the states. . "You take one, Yes?"
Perhaps not. Call me old fashioned, but I see conversation as moderately important in any relationship, especially with a woman. I don't want to have to marry her, then wait two years or more for her to learn my language before I can explain that I'm going outside to mow the lawn. . Lovely ladies, yes, but, well, not today. If I am still a bachelor at 60, as I probably will be, I'll give that route a shot. (or perhaps "give that rot a shout?!?!).
The bus barreled into the night, and sleep came on and off. At least this was a 'deluxe' bus, and had nice wide seats that one could actually sleep passably on. They leaned back so far, in fact, that if the person in front of you fully reclined, you were caught like a mouse in a trap. Better that than an arranged marriage, I guess.
Malaysia looks a lot like Florida, in fact. There is much development and sprawl along the new highway, 7-11 shops are here too, yes, it's true. Mountains rise in the distance sometimes, but for the most part it is leafy forest interspersed with palm trees, banana farms, palm kernel (oil) farms, and rubber plantations and factories.
I half expected a sign to say: "Miami, 22 miles," and for Don Johnson and his Miami Vice partner (whom no-one remembers, a sort of tv Darryl Hall) to drive by in an 86 camaro, the sound of a Kramer guitar, a yamaha d-50 keyboard, and roto-toms passing with them.
Stopping for food, I got some chicken and rice, with a healthy dose of chiles, and my entourage of women who were just before making eyes at me, watched in horror as I actually picked up a chicken thigh to bite off the meat. They sort of picked at their own, holding it down with a spoon, and awkwardly trying to scrape the meat off the bone. A pretty inefficient way to eat a bird, if you ask me. Apparently, custom dictates that food should not be touched with the hands very much, probably beginning as a sanitary practice and over the years turning into a rigid social structure, it's original purpose all but forgotten, and the very reason for it eliminated with the advent of such modernities as soap, clean water, and serviettes (napkins, for you Yanks).
I heard her say something in Thai, I could make out a couple of words, Hindu being one of them. From the way she looked as she spoke, I think she said that I eat like a Hindu.
At least that seemed to get me off the marriage hook. .
Of course, quite a few others ate their chicken in the same way at the crowded spot, but looking over, I noticed that indeed, most of them were in fact Indian transplants to Malaysia. Perhaps there is a bit of resentment at Indians here, certainly there is in Bangkok, they call Indians dirty, and backward. As for me, I don't mind being compared to Hindus, I make no secret of my love for India, even though it is dirty, sometimes backward. That "edge" is what makes me prefer that country to the sanitized and vainglorious thailand, "Asia Lite", more concerned about appearance and taking money from farang than the maligned Hindus.
Actually "Farang" as a term, though used by the Thais all the time to describe the westerner, is a pretty derogatory term, implying stupidity on the part of the early europeans who came to Thai for trade. Apparently, from what I am told, it is a bastardization of "francais," or something, and means something like "stupid pig."
Cheeky bastards, these thai rascals.
On the peninsular highways, the cars are spotless, the roadside gas stations ultra-modern, everything groomed and clean. Malaysia, at least the parts that I could see from the bus window, makes the nicer parts of florida look pretty dirty and geto. .
Finally, at about 4 am, we reached the border of the famous "nanny state" of Singapore. I knew that everything about me would check out, but, as I had tried and failed to pass the **ahem** remnants of my meal, an ominous gurgling began as we approached the gateway out of Malaysia and into Singapore.
Funny thing about the border between these two countries, there is no toilet anywhere in the Malaysia exit point, nor is there one in the Singapore entry point. Presumably so that a "drug mule" who gets second thoughts about his smuggling cannot get rid of the goods, and will have to get caught, and take his punishment of Death by hanging instead of flushing the suspect contents down the toilet. To get from one to the other you ride by toiletless bus through a no man's land a couple of hundred meters long and with barbed wire and walls all around.
Passing the Malaysia exit point was quite easy, though there was the usual x-raying of bags, and it was up stairs, then down again. My long-suffering bowels had come fully awake, and the pressure had built to about 100 psi by the time I passed the Malaysian side.
Quickly retaking my seat on the bus I strategically positioned myself so as to plug the dike, so to speak. The cramps and pressure became so painful that I seriously thought that my colon would burst, and there I would be, embarassingly injured, and perhaps left to rot in the wasteland between countries.
A cold sweat began to flow from my forehead, so I directed the AC vents at my head and straining body. The cold seemed to help, as somewhere in the depths some inner relief valve sprung, and with a gurgle, the pressure decreased to manageable levels. Safe for now. Thank god it was not the "outer relief valve" that gave way, or I would be in a world of shit, quite literally.
Nightmare visions of the singaporean border patrol being suspicious of a solo white traveler sweating and so obviously struggling to keep something up inside his rectum flashed by in my head, though as anyone knows, when in such a condition, one needs to try not to think about anything bathroomy, or else, well. .
At least if they got suddenly suspicious of me, and wanted to do a search of that area, the man with the glove would be surprised by an expulsion of such magnitude that they would momentarily believe they had caught someone smuggling C-4 up the butt instead of hashish or opium.
Of course, when they checked the "contents" and found no contraband, solemnly wiping their spattered faces (a fortuitous misspelling of "faces" here of course would be to add just one letter to make "faeces.. . "), they would most likely become slightly annoyed, and I could find myself swinging from the gallows just the same, my only crime being bad timing, and a slightly grumpy intestine.
Fortunately, by the time the bus dropped me off at the singapore customs house, the pressure was still off for the time being. I immediately went to the shortest line, only three people in it, and as the man in front of me went up to the desk, I thought I would be in the clear soon.
Alas, but how Cruel Fate reared her hydra's head once more. The Malay man in front of me did not have, for some reason, the proper stamp on his passport, and the stern-looking woman behind the desk had to ask for assistance. The minutes passed, and the vesuvian caldera that was my lower torso began to boil again. More minutes passed, and finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the man was led away by another customs officer, to be questioned, strip searched, or just beaten with a bamboo stick..
My turn at last. I was hoping that I had properly filled out my entry card, and that everything would go smoothly. I managed what I thought was a friendly-looking smile at the woman, and she softened, stamping my entry card and passport right away, and wishing me a pleasant stay. Mercifully, the x-ray man did not even glance twice at me, though I had set off the metal detector. I asked him if I should go through again, taking off my wallet and such, but he just yawned and said "Metal," and waved me on. Sometimes, when all seems lost, a ray of luck shines on you. .
Back on the bus, I knew I would have to wait until the bus dropped me wherever it was going to drop me (they all seem to drop at different locations), and then hope there was a restroom close by. At least I was sitting, and the tide had ebbed, at least for the moment.
At long last we came to our destination--just a few hundred feet down the road was a service station with a sign: "Relax! we have clean refreshment rooms!" I did not really know what a "refreshment room" was, but I just hoped it had a toilet, otherwise they might have a little unpleasant surprise in the corner. Though the emergency had passed (no pun intended) I was not going to risk a shart* out here in the street. Quickly buying a canned coffee,(as it was 6 in the morning) I made my way to the toilet, trying consciously not to look too pained or in a hurry.
Taking my seat, I made the spin** just in time, and fury reigned from my colon, and an involuntary groan of relief escaped my mouth. It was after the first wave had passed that I realized that the walls in the place were paper thin, and that I could clearly hear the two girls talking behind the counter. That meant they could hear me, and as the second wave was even louder than the first, I was understandably embarassed as I emerged from the door some 5 minutes later. Adding to this awkward feeling was the fact that a young boy of about 7 years old had been waiting patiently outside the door, perhaps hoping that he would never become an adult if this kind of digestive distress is what awaited him. . . Of course, not to mention the smell the poor lad had to step into.
At least I had relief. Feigning a smile, I hurried quickly out, feeling at least 5 kilos lighter, though with my shoulders slightly hunched from embarassment. I had a sudden urge to put up my hand like donald rumsfeld and say "no comment."
If this were anywhere else in the world, I would not have cared, and may have even been slightly amused and proud of myself for such a feat of constitution, but as Singapore is extremely tidy and sanitary, and the people very reserved, so I felt just a bit uncomfortable. . At least explosively loud bodily functions are not technically a crime in singapore, like everything else. At least not a crime until they hear about a certain incident at a certain service station "refreshment" room.
And, sorry no pictures of the mass in question, I had to flush the evidence quickly. People get the "cane" for jaywalking in this country. .
Finding the MRT, the Mass Rapid Transit system down the street, I had a smooth ride on the ultra modern subway to the Newton stop, found Sandy's guest house, got a nice room, and passed out for a few hours from sheer exhaustion. I don't really know what was more tiring, 35 hours on the bus, or 2 hours of strenuous sphincter tensing. Either way, I got up around noon, and set off to explore the tightass city-state of Sanitized Singapore. Pictures in the next entry.
*shart--noun. Combine a certain two words, and you will see what the meaning is.
**"the spin"---a maneuver performed when someone is in a hurry to relieve one's self, consists of dropping the pants, turning, and sitting, and releasing all at the same time. The timing of such a move must be perfect, as if any one of the steps is done out of order, there could be catastrophe. .