That was to be our only rest stop and in another 2 hours we pulled into Chaing Mai train station. I commented to my seat-mate that we were only 3 hours late - "I tell you 1 hour!" - Mai Geng!
"I'm flying back to Bangkok" - her only negative comment.
"I had the same idea" - sealed my future travel plans.
Little did I know that my journey to Mae Sai was only a little more than half-way over.
Being one of the last to disembark the bus, I was able to observe and analyze the tuk-tuk hawkers and picked one who wasn't too aggressive, but still motivated. When I stepped off my plans went out the window. 3 drivers descended on me and my mark was lost in the melee.
"Where you go?"
"Ja bai bus (Bat) station"
"80 Baht bat station"
"OOOH peng mak - som sip baht"
"mai chai mai dai - ha sip baht!"
"Som Sip Baht" - I was a hard bargainer.
"ja bai toilet"
And with that, I slid past the chaos and into the train station to seek the men's comfort station. A slender tuk-tuk
driver followed me and was insistant on getting my business to the bus station. I let him know in words and facial expression that my trip to the toilet was no bargaining matter. He recognized the urgency on my face and gave way to my forward progress so as to aviod my dampening his feet. I was a bit surprised when I emerged to find him actually waiting for me and sucessfully negotiated a 40 baht transportation fee to the bus station. He had a clean ride and it was a relief to not need to re-enter the chaos of the crowd again. I probably paid 10 baht too much, but what the heck! That's about 30 cents.
The bad news came when I got the bus ticket to Mae Sai. The good news was the price at only 180 baht, then she told me it would probably arrive at 6PM! Well ... that was what time the train departed Hua Lumphone station in Bangkok the night prior. So if the bus arrives on time - I'll have been travellign a clean 24 hours. Nice!
A crack of thunder shook a lighting fixture from the cieling. The prprietor and I shared a laugh over it since no one got hurt - Thai engineering is a never ending source of humor. The laughter helped me discard the tension I was feeling over the long commute north and settle into the "Mai Ben Rai" attitude so well entreanched in the Thai culture. It WAS a pretty loud clap of thunder! I finally felt that I was settling into this trip. Even with the bad luck on the trian and the longer than expected travel time to Mae Sai, things were pretty good ... then I got on the bus. I couldn't believe when I sat in my assigned seat, the back of it only was able to hold me up to just inside my shoulder blade. That mean a good 6 inches of my back (and but) spilled into the seat next to me. As uncomfortable as it was for me, the poor woman who was assigned the seat next to me REALLY was aware of it! I had no give on my other side due to it being a window seatso she was stuck about half way out in the aisle. She was going to have to survive a 5 hour bus ride in a NON A/C bus with a big ole farang taking up half her seat. She gave me absolutely no attitude at all. There was no dirty look, no exasperated sighs or any other signs of disturbance. THAI STYLE! God bless her!
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