Sunday, November 11, 2018

Go Go Koh Lanta!

After enduring the Phuket Trap, I mini-bused my way to Koh Lanta to join up with a new friend (Alia) I met in Bangkok. While it took several hours longer than advertised, the trip was pretty easy going - much in contrast to the ones before and after. After arriving at the Hub of Joys Hostel and checking in (on the 25th?), I crossed the road, found a beer, and watched the sun set from the beach.

Minibus on a Ferry
After city living in Bangkok and feeling tied down in Phuket, it was a nice change to have little to no obligations and be able to walk to the beach and drink a beer. That being said, there were a few excursions as urged by my more outgoing new friends. My first night, after the relaxing beach sunset, turned into a small group of us going to a blacklight "paint" party filled with EDM and a special brew put together by the "Mushroom Bar" - I was super tired, so only drank beer, but I did help a few folks work through their first times. We ended up nearly overloading a motorcycle+sidecar style taxi (not-a-tuk tuk?) when we headed home only minutes before the police came to shut down the party.

The next day was a lot of sleeping and a little writing on my end. I also had an ill-advised adventure on a rented scooter - in an effort to catch up with some friends who were "only twenty minutes away at another beach", I ended up taking a wrong turn, nearly getting into three accidents (I had a penchant of hitting the gas when turning right), and driving straight into a huge thunderstorm. I managed to catch up with them, at which point I made my peace with the sunk cost and squished my way back to the hostel for a hot shower and clean clothes. It was an excellent decision - I ended up having a writing spree of ~2,500 words of fiction and a nice evening of storytelling around a table.

The next day held no ill-advised scooter adventures, just laundry, conversations, and relaxation. In fact, this pattern continued to the next day as well (minus the laundry). I boarded a minibus on the morning of the 29th to cross the border into Malaysia and head to Georgetown, Penang.

Since I started with the bus, I'll end with the bus - instead of the smooth, "everyone's on the same page" transit that got me to Koh Lanta, this was four (five?) transfers of madness. While I made friends with a French couple who were going in the same direction as I was, it was mostly through a shared sense "what the hell are we doing?" At one point we were just abandoned at a station that had no signage pointing toward Malaysia, generally, and told to wait. After an hour, a guy came, put us in the back of an open-air truck, and took us to a completely different travel agency. We did, eventually, cross the border, but not before picking up a woman who sat in the front of the minibus and scream-talked at the driver and the row of passengers behind her in a mix of Thai, French, and English. It was a wild way to be introduced to a new city.

Every storefront sells liters of gas like this.

An addendum: crossing into Malaysia had been sold as a real pain. When we arrived at the border, we were the only minibus there. The border agents (leaving Thailand, entering Malaysia, and customs) asked me one question total ("Simon?" "Yes.") and stamped my passport with a ninety day exemption. So, I'll be in Malaysia for the next three months, I think!

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