• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 36

Day 36 – 31st January 2020

Thanks to all the message senders, readers, and well-wishers you are all tremendous - Cheers!

This was so beautiful, it had to get a second viewing before I left.

I have enjoyed my time in Thailand, mainly you could argue, down to being able to share it with a mate. I reflected quite a bit this morning as I waited in the Angkana Bus Express offices, Hat Yai. I was told a little about the Thai culture and the language, by my driving companion of the last few days. He informed me that the language doesn’t really consist of any pronouns. So the words they use are very direct. They consider long sentences to be superfluous sometimes translating to commands rather than requests. They do not seem to use the definite article words like, ‘A, An, The, or it,’ for example. Politeness in language doesn’t appear to be used, but the generosity of spirit is in abundance and often obvious. Now there are two words ‘Krep' (pronounced Crap ) for men, and 'Ka' (pronounced Caar ) for women. Both words have no meaning, but they are used at the end of a persons speech to signify that they have finished speaking, allowing the other person to start. The same example for both genders may be… “Today no good work – Ka” or the man would say “Today no good work – Krep” both of which are short cropped sentences that allows the next person to speak. I know that I could have a field day with these rules but you guys try it out for yourselves. I arrived at the bus rendezvous office way too early, just happy to have a relaxed coffee, and observe the goings on. The office was a double fronted shop without windows or doors, just roller shutter security grills, shared with a café, whose chef cooked everything on the pavement outside. Both of the businesses utilised the others employees, for what appeared to be around twelve hours a day. In total there were four women and a man in work this morning, with all discussing plenty between themselves, quite loudly. The tone of their voices sounded like the twang of a rubber band. Nobody interrupted each other’s rants, so as you can imagine the Ka’s and Krep’s were all over the place. Just imagine as I did, the kind of exchange that is possible, when their vehicle wouldn’t start in the morning and the boss looks at his watch while tackling the issue of lateness…

“What this? Krep”

“Car no good, Ka”

“Car? Krep”

“Ya car, Ka.”

“Crap? Krep?”

“Ya, car crap, Ka”

“Crap car? Krep”

Ya crap car, Ka”

“Aaah, crap car, Krep”

“Yaaaah, Ka”

So my imaginary situation sorted, I am awoken from the workable ponderings to be told that my car is here – Krep. (I really must stop this!) The driver seems happy enough and takes my bag to stow in the trunk of the mini-bus. I am aware of a family of Ruskies behind me with two young children. The driver has already checked my ticket, and presumably theirs too, because they were already aboard. We proceed to what we all believe to be the bus station where we board the actual conveyance to Penang, Malaysia. Not so! How foolish to even think it! We stop at another tour office, we all assume to pick up some more passengers for the empty seats. Not so! How foolish to even think it! A woman wearing the face of a badgers footpad, slides open the mini-bus side door, demanding our passports and evidence of counterfoil tickets. We are all used to this system in the Far East by now, so we all hand over the documents, believing this was a stage before the bus station. Not so! How foolish to even think it! The woman returns, demanding 50 Baht’s per person, as an extra insurance, that we must pay or we do not go anywhere. Mrs Ruskie in the back throws an almighty Benny. Refuses to pay, goes in to collect her families passports, and after much deliberation and a mouthful of "dibri dobri dooskis," she marches off to the nearest police station to report a scam. Her husband Mr Ruskie, (Vest on, with arms like a bear ready to hibernate,) is left in the back with their two young kids. To compound the situation for the poor bloke's youngest Ruskie had delivered an involuntary pooh. The vehicle hums like a male choir from the valleys. Meanwhile I get out of the vehicle to retrieve my passport and ticket stub. In the melee that followed, over the course of twenty minutes, (with mother Ruskie still not returned and father Ruskie doing his level best to clean up youngest Ruskie,) it appears the problem is with them and their passports. I, apparently, are not subject to this extra financial burden. So now I am getting jittery because time is marching on, and my bus is however far away, while we are parked, arguing the toss over a £1.25p scam. (Principles sometimes, can get in the way.) Meanwhile, Mr Ruskie refuses to leave the bus with his kids, and see through plastic bag containing..., well, never mind, so that the driver can take me. What the fireman’s helmet do I do now? Through no fault of my own, I find myself stranded. The woman with the badgers footpad on the front of her head has suggested that she takes little old legitimate me to make my connection.

“Great idea Badge,” I hollered in frustration, to a meaningless audience, whilst she went to get the keys. Annoyingly, whilst her offer was great, I had no idea that it was to be on a bloody 50cc moped! So picture this – Badge, front helmeted, me, rear attached to a 95 Litre backpack, plus carry-on bag, being tootled away by a two mile an hour over loaded moped! We went four hundred yards to the first set of lights. The traffic moved, we didn’t! Badge couldn’t get any forward motion out of it, until, now here’s a thing, I got off. So now I am standing at a set of lights on green, with my orange and grey 95 Litre back pack attached, while badge roars off into the morning sun. People behind must have only been able to see a big bag with legs! The horns from obstructed vehicles were going like billy-o! To be fair she does come back for another go, which enjoys a modicum of success. Five hundred yards through the lights she tells me to get off. ‘Ka.’ I take it personally! But as she drives away she shouts, “Bus coming. Ka” I stood there bewildered. What the…? Who the…? when the…? What colour is..? I felt like Dusty Springfield, “I just don’t know what to do with myself!”

Good old Dusty! Bless her - she'd have known what to do!

My bus did arrive, turned out to be a twelve seater Toyota. Bag stowed I was on my way to Penang. Not so! How foolish to even think it! The driver, who was radioed to return to base, had three phones. One for Sat Nav, two for conversations on FaceTime with his giggly girlfriend, and the third for a constant stream of videos on You Tube! All splayed neatly across his dashboard, each with individual ear pieces attached. I had sat in the front next to the driver, so I turned around after we got back to the bus station, to acknowledge the other eleven passengers. They were all looking straight forward wearing green surgeons masks. I thought they were all from Madame Toussards, they were so focused. Eleven surgeons looking for a patient – can you imagine? Then, just to make my aghast expression, exponentially compound, the driver gets back in with his mask on! Three things quickly occur to me, as he starts his engine and we move off. One:- Am I the only one without an AK47? Two:- Are they all just over precautious about this new Cocoa cola virus? Three:- Are we about to hit a field of smog, so vast that it can penetrate the inside of the bus?

We are about thirty minutes in, and one by one I have discounted all of my theories. The journey has become a tad mundane so naturally I have drifted off to the land of Bob. Forty winks had never been so sought after. I am in a place where I am good mates with Evel Knievel and he’s round our house.

“Yo Bobster, what’s troubling you man?”

“Well I’ll tell you what is troubling me Eve. When I asked you this morning if you wouldn’t mind dropping the kids off at school, I didn’t expect it to be from the top of thirteen double deckers!”

“The kids loved it, why don’t you just…..”

My chest was getting tight. Did I recognise the signs of a heart condition? I quickly said to myself, “Look I know I haven’t been to church much lately but couldn’t this have waited until I got back home?” Then I woke to a spinning sensation! The Toyota was breaking hard, my seat belt was doing its job, and the car was skidding on what it turned out to be hundreds of squashed oranges on the road. It was like a remake of an orange Bambi. The car came to a halt, the driver stopped Face-timing his bird for a bit, and we all surveyed the carnage of a motorbike accident involving a pick up full of oranges, on their way to market. Thankfully no one was hurt.

Customs was a breeze and Penang looked really interesting.

Tonight I have walked the mile into George Town, to find something to eat. I perchanced on something called the “Food Garden.” A delightful set up of maybe thirty cooking establishments all vying for your business as you sat in the middle of them all, as any of the chefs would prepare any dish available, then bring it out to you at the table. All outside under a huge canopy affair, it was quite atmospheric. They served beer in a wine bucket and the glass was the size of a whisky tumbler. Bless - you cant get everything right can you?

The food as to be expected was delicious, in an urban, street, don’t worry about the hygiene kind of groove. (Get me the old timer with the wurdz – kids!) I was actually feeling rather mellow. Nice, chilled, (modern synonym for okay,) when the unflustered atmosphere took a dramatic turn.

“It’s showtime!” the speaker system blurted. Lights flashed, music cranked up to level six on a deaf aid, tinsel pieces floated down miraculously from a clear night sky, and some bouncing show business craving mid-twenties lunatic appeared on stage to my right. The audience of diners went wild. (If you call four claps from a spectators collective of two hundred or so, wild.) You could see through the curtains of the stage, to appreciate that there was a performing cooperative of around eight. Sadly this meant that, as it was only one single mike, they were all going to have a go. Correct, we went through a singing playlist from Madonna through to Perry Como, each with their south east Asian slant on the original version. I thought that I had had enough when Elvis gave us all a squeaky rendition of “Your cheating heart,” but then the audience where introduced to a red netted, see through skirt over black knee length jeans, Marie Osmond – Yes! Marie Osmond – No not that Marie Osmond – This Marie Osmond from Penang! Local lass goes by the name of Penang Wang. You guessed it! She sang “Paper Woses.” There were now fifteen people on their feet hootin’ and a hollerin’ baying for more, while the other one hundred and eighty five carried on eating.

At no point did I sing along with the awful ‘Paper Woses,” but I did become intrigued by a lady handing out envelopes on every table. It was for a three women circus show. I went into a hopeless downward spiral and thought that they couldn’t possibly..., as there are kids in the audience? I had to stick around though for research purposes – well you would wouldn’t you?

My time was soon to be over at this most feeble attempt at show business. Three grown women, all perhaps in their twenties, juggling, dropping, skipping and hopping around the stage in denim boiler suits. Producing umbrellas from god knows where, throwing work-out beach balls at each other, and throwing batons out of time all got a bit too much. Even for the absorbed thirty eight people with no friends, in the audience.

These girls – well let me attempt some kind odd descriptions. Firstly, I think that they were all originally from Lesmahagow in Scotland, overly affectionate if you ask me. Secondly their appearance was oddly misplaced in a mish-mash of styles of the decades. And thirdly the creative styling of their Barnet Fayres. Wow we had the oddball, umbrella wielding Liza Minelli, Sinead O’Connor, who wanted people to stop clapping and throw raw meat. Finally a Leo Sayer who for some reason known only to herself, wore Japanese fighter pilots goggles! With the tightness of the goggles band around her massively curly hair, it mushroomed like two gooseberry bushes, either side of her ears. This was all madness! I had to go back to my £17 per night, twenty sixth floor room, where hopefully I wouldn’t still be humming “Paper bloody Woses,” in my head.

Position: 05°25'37” N 100°19'16”E – Miles completed: 11469

Location: George Town, Penang, Malaysia 23:42 - 31st January 2020 - Journey 36 days 22 hours

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