A Lemonade at Last
Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
141Trip End Dec 15, 2005
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Where I stayed
I went down to the bus station to try and find an actual bus heading north, but really none exists. The only official way to travel north is by the train, but it leaves at 6 in the morning! I soon found that ever vendor and his brother would call the same magic bus company and arrange to have us picked up for the same price. Eventually I settled on a vendor who had a shop in an actual building, figuring he at least couldn't run away with my money. For a mere Rm22.00 ($6) each, we had a van ride up to Thailand
I'll jump in here and add that in Malaysia, the stoplights at big intersections often have numbers that countdown how many seconds are left on the redlight, and sometimes how many are left on the green light. It takes away all the mystery, but its really nice if you're trying to do something else in the car at a light. Most of the crosswalks in KL had timers on them with an animated walk symbol that got faster as the time decreased. When the timer hits 0, the drivers hit the gas so watch out!
Around 12:15 the air conditioned van picked us up and off we went. This is my first ride in a non-bus in Asia, and its not as thrilling as I'd hoped. The most exciting part was just kind of drifting around the lanes. In Asia (and Malta for that matter), the right-of-way is a 'might makes right' system. If you are a bus, everyone yields to you. If you're a motorbike, you always yield (except to bicycles). If you're a pedestrian, you never have the right-of-way. There are tons of motorbikes here. It's like a cross between the European bike system and the US car system. Everyone has a small motorcycle. You'll see large packs of 20 bikes or more riding together on the highway. The highway in Malaysia reminds me of the ones back home. It's mostly all forested or small farms on the side, and the lanes are wide like the US
When we got to the border, the 8 of us (4 strangers) shuffled out of the van, and through the passport control of Malaysia. Then we jumped back in and headed a little ways down the road to the actual border where Thailand checked our passports and gave us a 30 day visa stamp. As always, customs didn't check any of our luggage or belongings for any bad items. I really wonder how much of a moron you have to look like to get them to check you. Perhaps acting like a lost tourist relives them of any desire to mess with you.
As soon as we crossed the border, the wide open spaces and decent highway changed to a narrower road with city-like buildings on both sides. Our driver is from [[w:Hat Yai|Hat Yai]] so he knew his way around fairly well. After an hour, he dropped us off a block or so from about 8 different guest houses.
We walked over to one called the Cathay Guesthouse that was listed in the Lonely Planet. This is by far the cheapeast place we've been so far, and it shows. A 4 person room was a total of 297 baht, or $7.25. Split that 4 ways! The accomodations are equally bad though, yet sufficient enough for me. The bed is a frame with a mattress thats not really a mattress, but more like one of those pads on the wall of a school gymnasium
Wandering about in search of food is kind of strange. You're surrounded by so many smells and sights, but you're not sure whats safe to eat. Since its my first day in Thailand I decided to stay relatively safe and just have some chicken and rice. Food isn't my thing anyways, its no big deal to me. Not having anywhere to sit, I started wandering around town looking for things. I found an eyeglasses place that I'll return to tomorrow to try and get some prescription sunglasses made. My companion says that many people come to Thailand to have LASIK surgery done for half the price found in the US. I may consider this one day, but I'm not sure when that will be. I don't trust the US doctors yet so the Thai ones will stay on hold.
Every country I've visited so far seems to have a specific allocation of foreign drinks and snacks
Thailand is the first place so far where English is not known by a majority of the population. Shopkeepers have few options for getting your attention, and their vocabulary is almost always limited to just "you buy" or numbers of prices. Signs are almost never in English. Street signs and signs for international schools are some of the few readable things around Thailand. Some stores have descriptions in English, but its usually subtitled and smaller instead of being 'the name' of the store. One man I walked past had kind of a goofy grin on, and I swear he said "G'day" as I walked by. I said hello to him and he said hello back as I went past. Very strange. I think he's watched too many Aussie movies.
Every since the first day in Paris, I've realized that I need at least one more T-shirt, preferably a somewhat interesting looking one
The humidity is just unrelenting. Without A/C, it will get you. I got back to the hostel, took a shower, started typing, and my forehead is already sweating. I'm sitting down with a fan blowing on me! So much for today. I'll probably look for more food tonight or just hit the sack early. I'm not sure how safe it is at night. Luckily I have people to walk around with. Thailand is an hour behind Malaysia, so I've fallen to only 12 hours ahead of home. Makes it easier to convert at least.