Arriving in Thailand

Indonesia and Malaysia share a common language, which happens to be one of the easiest in the world to learn.  After 4 months of real world practice we had gotten pretty good and were beginning to feel like we’d pierced the clueless tourist veil.  Then came Thailand…

From the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia we took an “adventurous” overland route into Thailand.  Instead of taking the expensive and easy 10 hour all-included transport we opted for the cheap, local’s route.  It took a mere 5 busses, a taxi, and two days to get to the border 🙂 which is where the fun really began.

We crossed into Thailand on a “long tail” boat, so called for their extended propeller shafts that hang comically far off the back of the boat.  When long tails are functioning properly they are loud, unstable, and require an inordinate amount of energy to operate.  This particular ride didn’t take place in a properly functioning long tail boat.  We boarded the boat which was pretty much already full (4 Thai men and two coolers of fish), but we found enough room for our butts and backpacks and settled in for a sweaty ride.  The men happily fed us lychees, a fair trade for us providing the in-flight entertainment.  We exhausted our 3 word vocabulary in about 30 seconds but were saved from smiling at each other in silence by a strange sound.

A fishing boat, leaning to one side about 30 degrees, was scraping along the bottom.  Having run aground about 25 feet short the dock the fishermen were desperately throwing nets of fish and cargo overboard trying to unweight the wounded side of the vessel before it tipped completely.  On shore 3 men seemed to be trying to pray an ancient pump to life.  No dice. The  full blown expletive symphony that then ensued was pure SE Asian comedy, no matter what language you speak.

Then our engine started, violently shaking the creaky boat and eliminating all other sound.  The Thai men fully enclosed us under tarps, leaving Val and I to wonder if this is a sun protection strategy or part of the vessel’s flotation scheme.  Perhaps we laughed to soon…

As it turns out the boat only had to be bailed once before we arrive 15 minutes later in Thailand.  Laughing resumes.

Thailand is populated almost entirely by practicing Theravada Buddhists,  but Satun, where we landed, is one of the few pockets of Islam, which eased our transition a bit as the etiquette is familiar.    The language, however, is impossible.  Not only does it utilize tones, which drastically alter the meaning of a word, but Thai has its own writing system.  Here we go again, right back into the exotic, now if I could just find where I put that clueless tourist hat…

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.