Thursday, May 27, 1999

Breakfast in Thailand, Lunch in Singapore, Dinner in Malaysia

Bangkok, Thailand
Woke up around 5:45 am, showered and packed by 6:15. My bag is near capacity,
but I think I can still fit a few more things into it. Grabbed breakfast at the
Grand Guesthouse, while watching CNN. Forecast is 33C (91.4 F) in Bangkok, 31 C
(87.8 F) in Singapore. Toast, two eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, tea, pineapple and
banana ran me 80 Baht. Checked email (32 Baht) to get rid of some coins. So far
I've received 54 messages since I left Boston, most of them concerning Star
Wars. The minibus to the airport leaves at 10 am, for a quarter of the price
the cab cost me coming from there. It's now 7:30, and techno is already pumping
away. The sun just came up over the buildings, but before it did, the air was a
good, warm, humid temperature. Incense is wafting through the air, and I only
saw one monk with alms today. The people in the restaurants (vendors aren't open
yet) all say "Hello" as I walk by. Retired to my room one last time, beating the
heat without paying for food. Just had a funny thought: What if I stay in my
hotel room for the entirety of my trip..."This is Thailand, viewed from my window-
This is Singapore, etc." How lame would that be? I checked out of the hotel
around 9 am, walked across the street to Khao Sarn Center for a mixed fruit
shake, more TV CNBC Asia. Thinking back to the Tuk-Tuk hustlers, I ran into the
same 2-3 guys while walking around different parts of town. Most often they said
"You know _______?", "You've been to _______?", Standing Buddha and Marble
Temple, and "Closed for Buddhist holiday." Right now, 9:25, me and four
employees are just sitting around watching the TV. You can tell there's nothing
better to do when you're watching trading news. The van showed up 5 minutes
early, so my conversation with a Thai travel worker (who was from the North, but
has never left Thailand) was cut short. The minibus was 40 minutes of suicide
driving, but hey, everyone was driving like that. I arrived at the check-in for
my flight and was upgraded to Business class. Sweet!

To get to my gate, I had to descend 2 flights of stairs after passing through
the departure tax collectors and passport authorities. I'm on the ground floor,
and it really looks like we're going to board buses to take us to our plane.
While I was walking around, I saw a sign for "Muslim Prayer Room" with a little
stick figure man kneeling on a mat. Anyways, the transport bus took about two
minutes and was quite crowded. As the boarding would have been, had I not gotten
to use the business class entrance. Quite sweet. They have recliners and I have
to stretch to reach my feet to the bulkhead. They even have a screen to show the
runway during take-off. There's a bit of drizzle as we prepare to depart
Bangkok. I was served OJ (with pulp) while waiting for boarding to finish.
Reclining seats, toasted almonds. Thai flavored Salmon salad, prawns in mild
curry, and pineapple. Port and sherry too. And the flight attendants kept
calling me, quite clearly a college kid, "Mr."

Singapore
We arrived 3:15pm local time, passing over small boats with dot-like
fishermen. Blew threw customs, bought some Nerds to make change for the bus.
Hopped on the #36 because it had Orchard Road on it. Whereever I end up, I'll
walk to the bus station for Malaysia. This bus is like the one we rode in
Wales on the way to the hostel in Cardiff. There's a Hindu monk-type guy across
the aisle from me. Again, the driver is on the right for vehicles. I stepped
off the bus around Raffles Center (there was a big, yellow Lego truck there,
but it was all locked up). Grabbed lunch at an eatery-like place on Waterloo.
Chicken rice S$3, Coke S$1.10. Amazingly spicy. Well, the chicken was served
at room temperature, but the pepper spice-wow. Still haven't seen anyone use
chopsticks. Kept walking up Waterloo, past two temples, and into a little
market area, walked up to the Johor Bahru express station. The bus seats are
tight, but it's air conditioned. Wheels rolled at 5:45 pm, through customs
(get off bus, check out, get on bus, check in) by 6:45.

Johor Bahru, Malaysia
I went about the business of changing my money into ringgits, and looking
for the bus station to take me north. I entered a mall that was nearby. Met a
nice English chap heading to Thailand to finish the business of selling his
38 foot sailing yacht. If he does, he and his wife will move up to a 42-footer.
He showed me to the bus travel agents. So, there is a row of bus ticket sellers.
You find where you want to go, maybe have the luxury of when, buy the ticket.
I got my 12 midnight to Kuala Lumpur at Ekspress Grassland. I have to be back
here at 11 pm (it's 7:30 now). Through broken English all is accomplished. Did
somebody say McDonald's? yes, I don't like eating here when travelling, but food
is key. By 8:50 I was done with my postcards. Around 9:30, I was sitting outside
the mall, and this Indian man from Singapore started talking to me. Sultan was a
lecturer in Singapore and now was a jewelry store there. Anyways, he led the
conversation into the two no-nos: Politics and Religion. He asked if I was
Christian, and I said yes. Then he started talking about how Muslims and
Christians need to unite. Kosovo came up, Clinton was discredited, and
Republicans were declared the lesser of two evils. And Protestants are better
than Catholics. Moving on...

I am really amazed at how friendly these people are. An old security guard
just walked by and smilingly said "You have enough light? You see?" (I'm under
a street lamp curb thing at the moment reading my travel guide). The mall's
closed, I have another 50 minutes to kill before finding my bus. Mosquitos are
biting me. Just my elbow though. As much as Singapore was green and clean, Johor
Bahru is gray and dirty. Smells like exhaust or rot. But since I refuse to let
problems be anything more than challenges, I'll just sit it out until I'm on
the bus and asleep. But before that:

I found myself talking to the 20-year-old travel guy, who basically has to
wait for me to close shop. He does, and he, his coworker, and I hop into his
car. He takes me over to the bus station. After a little panic, (I see a bus
pulling out of my assigned bay bound for Kuala Lumpur) I am told to wait. So
I'm now in the middle of nowhere (I don't know where is more precise), little
English is spoken, I'm waiting for a bus I might have just watched leave, been
up for 19 + hours with no end in sight, and I have no place to stay tonight.
Wheee, Ain't life grand?

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