Published: October 28th 2011April 26th 2011
We had a long journey ahead of us and it started with a rather dodgy taxi ride. After a phone call to find out why our taxi was 30 minutes late a rather beaten up old banger turned down the drive and flashed its lights at us. We loaded our bags and waved goodbye to the hotel staff through the tinted window film which was pealing off and flaking away.
Our driver whisked us through the streets of Kata and pulled over outside an office. For some reason we had to swap drivers – it was a shame that we didn’t swap cars too. The poor clutch didn't stand a chance. The noises and smells were definitely not healthy, in fact I’m sure that on more that one occasion he managed to have his feet on all three peddles at the same time.
I’m no expert on cars but I can remember many times in my childhood being asked to listen in the back of Dad's van to determine which wheel bearing had gone. In this taxi it would have been easy to decide – all of them.
If our new driver had a licence it was definitely not one he had been required to take a test for. His driving style was to either drive up to the vehicle in front as fast as he could, and then brake as hard as possible at the very last moment, or swerve in and out of oncoming traffic with no regard for his nervous passengers. There was a lot of traffic on the roads and this erratic style of driving gave us our first experience of travel sickness since childhood. We were pleased to arrive at the airport and get away from the crazy driver, whirring sounds and burning clutch smell.
We were originally due to travel over land to Kuala Lumpur, but another bout of thai tummy made two days on coaches impossible. The cheapest flight to Kuala Lumpur was with Qatar so we were looking forward to a more luxurious flight. There was one thing we didn't consider when we were looking forward to our posh flight.....a better airline doesn't always mean better customers. For the first 30 minutes of our short journey we were forced to listen to a small child screaming at the top of her lungs every time her mother stopped paying her attention for just one moment. We were however given a free blanket and pillow, boiled sweets and a sandwich which went some way towards making up for the noise.
We had been assured that we would have no problems catching a bus to the low cost carrier terminal once we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. The guide books also made it sound so easy. Buses run all night it said - regular intervals it said. Everything we had read and were told was wrong.... the last bus left about 30 minutes before we arrived and the next bus wouldn't be for another 3 hours and wouldn’t get us to the terminal in time for our flight.
We met an Indian man who was having the same problem. His connecting flight home left earlier than ours. He had a great idea. There was a bus leaving but it was privately chartered and wouldn’t let us on. After a quick chat and a flash of some cash the driver let us on. As we were finding a seat one of the staff ran out from the station and told us to get off. We explained our situation, with pleading eyes, but he had little sympathy so we resorted to “well that man said we could” pointing at the driver.
We were stood outside the station wondering what to do. A taxi would have cost a fortune, but we were running out of options. Then just before the bus pulled away, the driver opened the doors and gave us a nod. While no one was looking we sneaked on, sat at the back and tried to look inconspicuous – not so easy to do on a bus full of confused looking Chinese tourists. We ended up with a good deal. It seems bribery costs less than a legitimate bus journey.
We had a few hours before we could check in so there was only one thing for it. We used the skills we had learned all those months back in Darwin airport, set our alarms and curled up on the hard marble floor to snatch a few moments kip in between the noisy flight announcements.