My bus arrived at Phuket’s Provincial Bus Station a little after 3:30 this morning after a fairly uneventful journey north from Hat Yai. The minibus I’d ridden on from Penang had left that town at 16:30 in the afternoon; other than a very pregnant Filipina, a heavily-pierced European girl with short-cropped white hair who revealed a pair of extremely skimpy pink thong panties every time she stood up, and myself, the van was packed with Thai uni-girls. They didn’t learn that I could understand a smattering of Thai until we were at the Malaysian checkpoint at Bukhuit K. H. Changloon — following that discovery, several engaged me in conversation for the remainder of the ride home. When they’d originally boarded — at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) campus in Penang — they seemed a bit afraid of the male farang sitting in the back of the bus (a couple were Muslim and reluctant to sit near me). But once they began talking to me all ice was broken and they were thrilled to practice a bit of English and marveled at how well I could speak Thai (my Thai has been getting progressively better recently and what I tend to only say those phrases which I can pronounce extremely well). Again, this made the ride that much more enjoyable.
Despite talking to the Thai girls on the van for the trip from Damnok at the border to our disembarkation at the bus stop, I noticed something alongside the highway I’d never seen in Thailand before. In a field on the edge of a small provincial town I observed a teenage boy with a radio-control box and antenna and when I followed where his gaze was pointing I saw an RC airplane. While I see model helicopters for sale all over Phuket (I recently discovered three side-by-side hobby shops in Phuket Town which are full of the helos as well as RC cars), I’ve never seen one fly. But the plane was a complete surprise as I’ve never even seen those for sale out here. On one edge of the field was a stone wall encircling a Buddhist temple next to which was a group of boys sitting on their motorbikes watching the model airplane flying in the sky. It would have made for a great photo and even better video had I not been bouncing by in a small minibus with dirty windows. It did provide a nice flashback to my own youth, however, when I used to watch my dad fly his self-constructed planes in fields back in Texas and Tennessee.
We were dropped-off at the Hat Yai Municipal Bus Station just after 19:00. The next bus leaving for Phuket was at 19:30 but was a VIP type so I opted for the second-class transport departing at 20:30. It had more knee-room that the one I’d traveled south on but the seats were much more uncomfortable. The air-conditioning worked at arctic levels making me happy I’d packed my jacket afterall (it was the one thing taking up the majority of the space in my tiny school backpack). I was starving by the time we reached the stopover at the Trang Bus Station and was determined to partake of the free meal. I was the first one off the bus and marched right over to the tables and uncovered the plates of pork like I was a professional bus rider. As I poured myself a glass of water from the jug and looked around to find if the rice was on the way, one of the worker-ladies shooed me off with an emphatic “No!” and “Cannot!” I was downright confused as this had been the only food stop on all of my other journeys on this route, more so since I saw several others from my bus eating already. Another worker repeated the first’s admonishment so I reluctantly got up and shuffled back to the bus, wondering if I was being chased away because I was white. Sometimes I really wish there was an instruction manual covering such things. Needless to say, the next stop was 7-Eleven in Krabi but it was pouring rain at this point and I had no desire to get soaked for the sake of some snacks. Luckily, it wasn’t raining once we pulled into Phuket Town and I walked home.
After reviewing my trip photos this morning (while listening to the loudspeaker announcements from a nearby school’s Sports Day) I’ve decided to just create a series of galleries chronologically rather than trying to group them by theme. I could do the research, etc. to write about the photos properly but that would be very time-consuming and, in the past, I’ve always abandoned such projects midway due to slow internet connections. Right now I’d just like to get the photos online and be done with it (post-trip depression setting in here, I suppose). Look for the first to appear later today…