I promised Lingamish that I’d post “the view from my office”, here’s a first installment:
I’ll also tell you about our journey and arrival here, I’ll finish with the holiday part of our Sri Lanka visit later…
Thoroughly jet lagged, after London – Dubai, Dubai – Bangkok, meeting Sarah and taxi to our hotel, we then undertook three days of shopping, tourism and shopping. We actually bought only a few things, most of our luggage is essentials like clothes and sleeping bags. One thing we did buy was mosquito nets (though since the pests are so well-controlled in much of Thailand they were not easy to find)! On Saturday we went to the bus station – it is a strange experience to be within a kilometre of a huge central bus station (actually the Northern and Northeastern only but there is so much bus traffic in Thailand that this one alone has busss arriving and leaving in an almost seamless queue!) yet still not know how to get directions – steering wheel mimes and broom broom noises accompanied by what we thought was its name did not help!
There we enquired about buses to Mae Sot: three choices VIP, 1st Class and 2nd class. Each costs less than 10 dollars for a trip of over 400Kms, so perhaps we can be VIPs!? Sorry, you can’t book today, please return tomorrow. The overnight buses go from about 9pm so we get there before 7 to be in plenty of time. Sorry, 1st class is full, there is one seat in VIP, but I can get you three seats together in 2nd class. Thais who travel must spend lots of time at bus stations as a Tuktuk would cost a good fraction of the total price to go anwhere elese and back after buying your ticket in the morning 😉
Even second class is airconditioned, and the seats if quite firm recline. With our neck pillows, sleeping bags (we are heading for the hills at night in an airconditioned bus 😉 and water bottles we are all set. Just a four hour wait since the second class leaves at 23:10PM 😦 We couldn’t find three seats near each other and near where we could stack the baggage (three people for a couple of months in three climates, so we join the squatters on the floor.
When we find the correct bus, and get loaded, we leave on the dot of 23:10PM and discover that Thai roads are superb, and this bus driver is very good. We begin to hope for a decent sleep. This is better than a plane! Except we stop several times to timestamp or pick up passengers. In the middle of the night we are glad to stop for toilets. We sleep pretty well between stops, till… climbing into the hills not long before first light the bus runs out of power, half the passengers get out, and walk. Since the explanation was in Thai we did not realise what was happening, till too late to join in 😦 Or perhaps given how sore and (I later discover) swollen my ankles are perhaps 🙂
At the top of that hill they catch up, and reembark. However after a few relatively uneventful, and carefully nursed by our driver, descents and ascents, on a steep downhill a smell of burning that grows stronger, till fumes drive half the passengers to the front of the bus. We stop. We evacuate the bus. The brakes are on fire!
Quite a lot of passengers flag down passing utes, and get lifts. With the bus thus lightened we set off gingerly for Mae Sot.
Dr Simon is still waiting for us when we arrive! After breakfast and some shopping, including sacks of oranges to reward the kids who are doing work on the paths and steps in preparation for the Jubilee, we head north to the camp. It is great to be welcomed by friendly faces when arriving in a strange place, especially when you understand nothing, and do not speak the language.