Blessed to be a witness

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Monday, May 30th

Visa Run

Our unplanned stay caused us to come to the end of our 30 day visas, so to avoid being fined, we had to go to the mainland and travel to the Malaysian border in order to re-enter Thailand. We had pre-arranged to be met by a driver who does such a job for many long-termers on Phi Phi, who would take us the four hour trip each way. Leaving Phi Phi was odd - I felt a little desolate, like it was a rehearsal for when we do leave for good.

We crossed a sea as flat as glass, watching barracuda jumping out of the water and running away from the ferry along the surface for tens of metres on their tailfins - looking like skinny, manic penguins.

We arrived in Krabi where we met our driver, and got into his minibus. And what a minibus. Eight hours in a vehicle is rarely a pleasant prospect, but I would happily do it again in this vehicle. It was a brand-new Toyota, with amazingly plush seats, great air conditioning, and, best of all, a VCD player with a screen embedded in the roof. Alas we had brought DVDs with us, not VCDs, but no problem - he drove us to a VCD shop where we purchased Ocean's Twelve and The Last Samurai (not a great selection, but what the hell, they were only 150 baht each), and set off down some pretty smooth roads to Malaysia. Feet up, munching crisps in the cool atmosphere was a nice touch of the kind of luxury we have become unused to, and made the journey fly.

We reached the border at Wang Jayang, near Satun, the gateway to Langkawi. We had debated going to Langkawi for a day or two, but somehow visiting another tropical island, except one without us having a reason to be there, just seemed a bit pointless. We disembarked from the minibus and walked up to the border hut and handed in our passports. Little provision was made for pedestrians, so every time a car or pickup truck came past we had to squeeze ourselves against the wall.

We could actually have just walked straight into Malaysia without getting stamped out or in - it was about the most laid-back border crossing I've ever seen. Then we walked ten metres to the Malaysian hut, filled in the rater irritatingly long Malaysian immigration form, and entered the country. Though to fill in the form we had to go right into Malaysia to lean on a desk, so for a short wile we were illegal immigrants. We were stamped in, walked round the hut and got stamped back out again. Then we went to the duty free shop, which sported Cadbury's Dairy Milk, and returned to fill in the rather irritatingly long Thai immigration form, and got stamped back into Thailand for another 30 days. What a palaver.

The way back was slower due to the torrential rain, and we stopped in a little local restaurant and had the kind of food not usually offered in western-oriented restaurants, and as a consequence nearly burned our tongues off. Then back to Krabi where we checked into a little guesthouse and spent the night. The next day we revelled in visiting Boots, and M got some glasses, and a bicycle.

The next day there was the now-expected Asian confusion about getting the bus to the ferry pier, which resulted in about 20 of us climbing onto the roof of the bus, together with bikes and luggage. Which would have been fine had the bus driver, due to the lateness caused by the 'can we get on the bus or not' confusion, not decided to drive across a waterlogged dirt track as a shortcut, rather than sticking to the road. Thirty people in the bus and twenty on top made for a high centre of gravity, and at one point, as we traversed between two high barbed wire fences, the bloody thing lurched to about a 30° angle, M screamed, and I prepared to jump off, hoping I would clear the fence and not get stuck on it and mashed by the bus. Thankfully it righted itself, but I had the shakes for a long time afterwards.

And then back to Phi Phi in the rain, but it didn't matter. The peace and the people and the the atmosphere were such a pleasant contrast to the bustle of Krabi, and we were happy to be back.

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To comment on this, or just to say hello, mail me at jim@crowaptok.com.