Ante Scriptom: (yes that does exist) the following story is totally true and ends well, but some parts may be dramatized slightly. So as to not get anyone panicking, please bear with me and read on. Thank you.
From Koh Lanta, after long goodbyes with Baaw, I disappeared in a mini-bus that was to travel on the island, on a ferry, on another island, then on another ferry and then on the mainland to Krabi.
Being currently on holiday (I am relaxing after over a week of hard work with my teacher) I didn’t have specific plans, so I stopped in Krabi town, to wander around, see if I liked the feel of it and decide whether to stay or not.
I walked up and down with my big, yet not too heavy backpack, and sat down in a cool-looking “Bob Marley” style cafe and got a Coca-Cola. Being on holiday, I read my new book on the theory of Thai Medicine. Then this guy sat down opposite me. I absent-mindedly said hello and continued reading. In my field of vision, I could see his feet and I noticed that one was much bigger than the other. As I turned a page, I focused on his legs. One had loads of bruises and scrapes, with much swelling and the other one appeared normal. So I casually scanned the rest of his body, nothing abnormal detected. I went back to my book.
He asked me something – what exactly is irrelevant – when I faced him to reply, I saw that he had a very bad black eye, and a massive “cartoon-style” scar on top of it (like the ones you draw on your cheek to look like a pirate, with one big line criss-crossed with lots of parallel little lines) I couldn’t help myself, so I asked how it happened. Scooter accident. And I thought he was going to stop there, but no…
“But you should see my friend John, he’s in a really bad state” oh dear, they were both on the bike?
“No, he’s at the police station and they’re beating him with wooden sticks” shit… why is he there?
Well of all countries, Thailand is not a place where you smuggle drugs, right? So I finished my Coke and ran the hell out of there. Not a good impression of Krabi, at all. I got to the bus station and got on a bus to Surat Thani, from where I could get a night bus to Petchaburi.
If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry. Most guide books don’t even talk about it. It’s just off the road that goes from the South to Bangkok, about 200km South of Bangkok. So the bus company said no problem, they would stop there for me and even give me “special price”. On top of that, I got the priviledge of travelling downstairs, so I was fully lying down rather than on one of the reclining seats upstairs. Wonderful. One of the drivers was instructed to wake me when we got there.
3am. It’s dark, I’m alone and I’m tired. I find it difficult to open my eyes or focus my gaze, my legs hurt and they feel really stiff. I’m trying to remember where I am. I am in the Petchaburi hospital, trying to rest. The staff were really kind despite the fact they could not speak any English.
Fatigue is overwhelming. I can’t move so I just fall asleep, but I make many violent dreams.
4am. I’m lying on my side, my shoulder hurts and I’m thirsty. I roll over but nearly fall off. I stabilize myself, listen to the others around me, snoring. The neon lights of the ward are flickering slightly. I can’t be bothered to look or ask for water, I fall asleep again.
6am. I’m glad I got a chunk of sleep. I stretch out a little bit, but my legs fall off the end of the leather couch I’m lying on. I sit up this time, slightly dizzy. The other couches in the hospital lobby are also occupied by sleeping people, though I’m the only Farang (white person) and non-staff.
When the driver woke me, we couldn’t fnd a taxi to get me into town, and he didn’t want to leave me to find one by myself. We were in front of a major hospital, and he decided that was the safest place for me to wait until morning. There would be the night-shift staff, I could wait there and safely get to a guesthouse in a few hours.
I was relieved of the outcome. I went to the hospital, the security guard was asleep , and as he woke up suddenly he thought I was hurt somewhere. I mimed I was fine, used the Thai words for “bus” and “no taxi” and Bangkok. He seemed to understand and welcomed me inside the lobby.
The hospital looked new, and I was happy to find that Thais, like me, can sleep anywhere. So I put my already padlocked bag safely under the couch, lay down and tried to get some more sleep.
I slept surprisingly well, and only got up around 7am, when the day shift people were starting to come in. Noone asked me anything, so I just kept myself to myself.
Around 7.30, I once again used my miming abilities to good use, and with a little help from my phrase book. I found a taxi and got into town, put my bags down in a guesthouse and had a “continental breakfast” before going for a long walk around town.
I had chosen Petchaburi for its Khmer temples, and I was not disappointed, they were beautiful. I was soaked though, as the rain is also present here, a 1000km North of the Islands. I had pretty much seen everything I wanted to see, so picked up my bags and organised a different outcome to my day. I got on a Thai governmental bus to the city of Ratchaburi, where I was to connect with another bus to Chananburi, i.e. where the bridge on the river Kwai is.
The second bus was great – it took about two and half hours to travel 60km, but was an endless source of entertainement. There were no windows to speak off, a crazy conductor who kept singing loudly to announce the stops, and many young children who thought I was the funniest thing ever.
Actually Ratchaburi isn’t in the guidebooks either, and even the travel office and the tourist information told me I had to go via Bangkok to get to Kwai. But I figured there would be another way, since there is a road and the bus system is really well developed.
Even though the tourist/VIP buses are faster because they don’t stop to pick up and drop everyone on their doorstep… Even so, the journey as indicated by the travel agent would have taken 7 to 8 hours, whereas mine took under 4 hours, and a fraction of the price. So all in all a great deal!
The plan is: I am staying in a guesthouse called “Nita Rafthouse” which is great because it floats on the water! The downside is the amount of mosquitoes here!! I am fully sprayed in repellent, I am wearing clothes that cover up most of me, but I’ve already had a few bites. Anyway, I’m only staying the night, as tomorrow afternoon I’m heading to Bangkok to take a train to Chiang Mai. I’ve booked a seat and I’m really excited for my first Thai train journey.
Once in Chiang Mai, I’ll start looking at the schools I’ve already looked up and check them out in real life, especially the Old Medicine Hospital, which is a similar institution to the Wat Po, but teaches slightly different techniques: more stretches similar to yoga and less trigger-point therapy (which resembles the Chinese Acupressure).