Vans and Buses and Boats

A minibus picked us up at our guesthouse in Georgetown and soon we were heading off. It was a bit of a squash and the afternoon was hot and we were happy to have grabbed a couple of seats on the shady side. It was interesting to see the 13.5km bridge from the island back over to mainland Malaysia. Then it was a succession of motorways and expressways. With random stops for fuel for the van and for us. The plan seemed fairly vague and after a while it seemed we needed to make up a bit of time. So lots of tooting and overtaking.The sun set and we arrived at some border town and were let out to do the border crossing. On the other side we had lost one of our passengers who had wandered off. Then another was sent in search. And two more took the chance to go get some food. Talk about herding puppies. We had visions of missing our connection in Hat Yai further up Thailand.

It seemed our driver did as well as once we were all rounded up and told off the overtaking and tooting rose to new heights. At about 8pm we arrived in Hat Yai and were shown the door and told to report to an agent across the street. Then the driver and van disappeared. The agent issued us with the tickets relevant to us – we were all going in different directions. And then sent us around the corner to the Hat Yai bus station where we had to wait an hour and a half with the dogs and the heat.

Our bus finally arrived and already had many passengers on it. We jumped on and managed to get a couple of seats together. The person in front of me was already asleep with the seat reclined as far as it would go. There was just enough room for my knees. It looked like being a long night. Many of the other passengers were even more crammed in – every seat was taken. Then we stopped up the road for more passengers. Oh yes and the movie! It seems playing a ‘ blood and guts’ movie with the volume up loud is standard sort of entertainment on night buses. It looked like being a very long night.

With neck pillows and eye masks and ear plugs we did manage to sleep – and wake – and sleep. We woke once to find even more passengers sitting on plastic stools in the aisle. When we woke next they had disappeared – which was good. And the bus drummed on through the night – sort of Mad Max on a VIP bus.

I woke at 3am and realised that the sounds had changed. We seemed to be somewhere and my guess was we were near a port. We sat for a long time while I made a study of the pack behaviour of the local dogs. I had them sorted out by the time we drove on another km to the port we would board our ferry at – Dom Sek. It looked like there was a competition to see who could get the most freight onto a standard Toyota ute. We were given tickets and everyone wandered off to the ferry and soon enough it cast off and we were off to Ko Samui. I’d been there with my sister Julia 35 years ago  and was uncertain whether it would be a good idea to return. We’d considered lots of other islands but eventually Ko Samui was just the easiest and we were willing to take our chances.

Dawn dawned on the journey over and it was a lovely morning by 7am when we berthed. It didn’t look like the same place as last time and wasn’t, it seems there are a couple of ports now and we were at the southern one. For a few moments I wasn’t even certain we were at the right island. I picked up a map at the info place and opened it to find it was a map of another island. It took a couple of seconds to work out that it was a double-sided map and we were on Ko Samui. We’d done some research but still had no plan of where we’d go. As luck would have it we found an idylic spot – there’s a lot to be said for going with the flow.

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