For those pitifully few of you who haven’t yet read “Sri Lanka: Bus Ride to Hell”, it might be prudent to take a break from these musings and immerse yourself there for a bit, as the background information there contributes directly to the material for this article. Well, for the title, anyway.
We recently took two ten-hour bus trips from Bangkok up North to Chiang Mai and back. It provided us with a number of interesting and mirthful experiences which I certainly would like to share.
The buses in Thailand are not as magnificently adorned as their counterparts in Sri Lanka, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many have simple color schemes, without bats, or explosions, or tanks, or flying tigeroctopi. If that is even a thing.
The insides are relatively neat and do not crush their passengers with, first and foremost, the odor of curry, which is also a plus. Traveling by bus is a popular method of getting about in Thailand, but there is fortunately none of the stupefyingly irresponsible overcrowding one witnesses in Sri Lanka.
In fact, the buses themselves aren’t all that disagreeable, which made us all the more ready, as well as the low low prices, to utilize this mode of transport again.
The first thing I noticed this time on the bus was that, sitting in the front row, there was a heck of lot of leg room. For someone who was three and a half feet tall. There are overhead bins on these buses but they are only about as tall and wide as a mail slot, and my rucksack was certainly not going to fit up there, which meant it went under my feet. Also under my legs were my shoes–since I was planning on sleeping I wanted to maximize my Comfortabilty Quotient (CQ)–and my Trader Joe’s bag full o’ goodies for the trip. With my legs jammed into the small space between seat and wall, and above my necessities for the trip, I felt like one of those poor traditional Chinese women who had their feet broken to fit into ever smaller pairs of shoes.
Tiny feet are cool.
Within the first half hour of our trip a smartly dressed female steward person–yes, that’s a thing here on buses–moved through the aisle and passed out cardboard and plastic boxes o’ yum-yums. Like for example cold mini pizzas with croissants (as a dessert) or, for breakfast, a “chocolate”-filled bun with some very wretched Thai cookies (as a…dessert?).
I’m guessing the main ingredient here is paste. Yes, I tried them. Because they were free. And regretted it terribly. Until my next bowel movement. Which brings me to my next wonderful experience:
Before nodding off into a gently-rocked sleep, I made sure to visit the toilet in the back of the bus, which was an unusually high amount of no fun due to the overflowing trough around the porcelain gullet. I’m going to give the bus company the benefit of the doubt–primarily because I don’t want to think of the alternative–and say the three-inch deep liquid covering the floor was water. I was not going in there.
Thankfully, I’m pretty spry for my age and leaned into the bathroom from its ‘mini-foyer’ far enough toilet-wards to pour my bladder juice mostly in the toilet.
Going wee-wee in this manner may sound disgusting and inconsiderate to the other passengers but I don’t care and I also knew, in my defense, that we were headed for a rest area and would be ‘put out’ there later. That is also one of the interesting facets of these long distance bus trips in Thailand: after five or six hours the bus stops at a rest area and everyone is tenderly screamed at in Thai to wake up and get off the bus. We were not told in any language, unfortunately, that we were to bring our bus ticket into the restaurant. A free meal awaited all of the passengers with one. Oh, well.
The cafeteria-styled restaurant served up a choice of maybe meat or fish or feet with maybe noodles or rice–we couldn’t tell and no one spoke English. It cost us, being without tickets, about $0.37.
In our Alpha-wave state of half slumber we relaxed and enjoyed the hearty mystery meal, which was produced on a conveyer belt and glowed with the nuclear energy of some of the spiciest…spices ever to garnish a meal, for upwards of eight minutes before hopefully everyone was herded back onto the bus for the next leg of our journey.
A word about the ‘gentle sleep’ mentioned above. On the way up North, we had a normal-heighted (?) bus, while on the way back we rode in a double decker. The double deckers are a little more comfortable but, and I cannot emphasize this enough, avoid them if you plan to close your eyes at all. Any background in physics will tell you that the higher and more top-heavy a bus is, the more it will swing and sway like the S.S. Minnow when the weather starts to get rough, until, and this is true, I felt like the Hulk had a hold of one of my legs and was whomping me around like he did to Thor or Loki in one of the million Avengers movies. Please watch these scenes again somehow and consider it your homework.
Speaking of movies, on the way back to Bangkok we had the aforementioned woman as a stewardess person, but on the way up we had a guy who performed his stewardship competently and well. There was something about him, however, that made me think he took the job only because his girlfriend got pregnant and was, at heart, a tried and true headbanger. Maybe I’m only saying that because of the DVD he slipped in for us passengers to enjoy–and boy did we.
I’ll also mention here that we noticed that when trying to watch “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix, a safety code appears on the screen to make sure no immature elements are viewing that highly immoral, sex- and violence-ridden merriment.
Our steward seemed to have no such qualms about improper content when he slipped in a zombie movie. Not just any zombie–a Thai zombie movie. And not just any Thai zombie movie–one of the goriest, bloodiest zombie movies ever. As special effects go, it was not as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space, which, admittedly, set the bar pretty low, but not as high as the first Star Wars movie–I think it was called ‘War in the Stars’.
My daughter’s favorite scene was when the heroine, played by someone never heard from again, exchanged her fully capable, zombie-slashin’ short sword for a pair of hammers she could barely lift. Presumably because she was not worthy.
My favorite scene was when this heroine–who apparently nailed the role because of her ability to sweat and moan in battle (with zombies)–sitting in the background, chops a zombie approaching her from the foreground in half. Lengthwise. We’re left viewing her framed by two slimy, mucal halves of a zombie. I’m guessing zombie insides are much more slimy and mucinous than their human counterparts.
(Thanks to ErikaWittlieb on Pixabay for this beautiful image.)
On a side note here–and this is true–did you know that the mucin from snail slime trails is a beauty trend now?
I’d rather stay ugly.
Moving, Bus-themed Moral
I guess it would be easy to say ‘The important thing is that you got where you wanted to go’, but I don’t like thinking this way. It allows you to continue believing you somehow don’t deserve to travel comfortably. I’d rather consider bus rides like this one a challenge. I want to enjoy things like this, though it seems impossible, because of the many terrible circumstances and because there’s a wretched Thai zombie movie on that’s difficult to watch because it’s in Thai with no subtitles, because it truly sucks, and because there’s so much blood spurting everywhere it’s hard to find the characters. If you can enjoy things like this despite everything working against you, then it becomes easier to manage the more difficult challenges that life throws at you.
Like dealing with the 6 million people on Fitbit that don’t know the difference between ‘your‘ and ‘you’re‘. That is, however, another story.