lauantai 16. heinäkuuta 2011

A night to remember

Have you seen the movie "The Perfect Storm"? You know, the one where George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and the third guy die? Well, I was in that movie on Friday night.

I decided to head down south to Malaysia on Friday and booked a ferry and bus from Koh Tao to Kuala Lumpur. The boat took off at 9 pm, taking nine hours to get to Surat Thani on mainland Thailand. There had been a rainstorm earlier that night and watching the dark grey wall of rain approach Koh Tao I mentioned to my Canadian friend Hiro that I sure wouldn't like to leave tonight and face that with a small ferry. I thought the worst had already passed when the boat left the dock but well, it hadn't.

The boat was a fairly small old ferry with one big open area for all the passengers. We had numbered sleepers which were 40 mattresses half the size of a human being, crammed side by side so that even I had trouble fitting my shoulders straight with people on both sides.

Nice and cosy.

No life jackets for everyone.
After the boat got out into open waters the waves started crashing. And they crashed hard. The wood was creaking, the biggest waves sounded like cars hitting the bottom of the boat and the ferry was tilting from side to side, riding the waves in a vertical position at times. And if you're thinking "oh, I wonder if it was as bad as she says", just so you know, even the locals were reaching for the life jackets. All I thought was, well, I'm happy I've been swimming a lot lately.

It wasn't exactly a comfortable situation but what can you do? No one's going to come and get you out of there. I tried to focus on my book (which ironically was a novel about the important journeys in life) but it was hard because we were rolling back and forth on the mattresses and the girl on my left had a panic attack and a British woman on my right got seasick. I've never gotten bruises before on a boat but now I've got black and blue spots on my legs and arms.

We made it to Surat Thani in one piece, though, and I even got a few hours of sleep. The only time I woke up was when rain started coming in through the window we'd opened as a possible escape route. The ferry docked sometime after 5 am and then we were whisked to a random restaurant in a speeding tuktuk with everyone's backpack on the roof of the car. In the restaurant we waited for the bus, had breakfast and watched Jackass The Movie on a flatscreen tv. One of the most surreal mornings ever, eating yoghurt at 5:30 am in a pitch dark port city in Thailand and watching Steve-O being pulled by a boat with a fishhook through his cheek.

After breakfast a minibus came to pick us up and we started the first leg of the 15 hour bus ride to Kuala Lumpur. It seemed to be half tourist bus and half school bus because we picked up kids from a school too. I tried to sleep and the British woman who got seasick got carsick.

In Hat Yai we had to change buses and were driven to a travel agency office to wait for our ride. The ride was an old Toyota with a driver who wasn't sure where we were going. And me and the British couple weren't sure if this was our ride all the way to KL. Thankfully it only took us to our real bus which was a big, air conditioned bus with good reclining seats. It was heaven! I slept almost all the way to Malaysia and had some great food on our pit stops along the way.

It was an intense traveling experience in all respects. My butt was completely numb from all the sitting and until late Saturday night I felt like my body was still on a boat. But that's traveling for you! I'd rather have these kinds of stories to tell (assuming I'll survive to actually tell the stories) than waste my money on first class transportation.

Oh yeah and at the Malaysian border control my passport was checked by the coolest guy. He scanned the passport and looked at me with this blank stare, asked where I'm going to stay in Malaysia and then said: "Traveling alone?" When I answered yes he smiled and said: "Yes, better that way."

Six and a half months

My trip passed the six month mark on July 1. It's kind of scary to say it out loud: I've been traveling for half a year. I thought only hippies did that. It sure doesn't feel like six months. Feels like I just packed my backpack for the first time, swearing and cursing how I can't fit half of what I want in there - and not sleeping on my last night in Finland, thinking what if I can't make it and have to come home after two weeks or something.

Then I decided the only failure would be not having even tried, slept for 2,5 hours and took off for Berlin in the morning. Now 6,5 months, 15 countries, 24 cities, 15 airports, 13 train stations and two ferry rides later I'm on Koh Tao in Thailand.

It is hot! I'm not usually a big fan of beach life but after one scorching hot week in Bangkok I'm not complaining. A coconut shake in one hand and a mild breeze in my frizzy, overgrown Jesus Christ style hair - things could be worse! I also went scuba diving yesterday which was just as awesome as it looks on wildlife documentaries: coral, fish (even saw a triggerfish!) and all kinds of little ocean critters I couldn't name.

Bangkok was not my favorite city but I did leave with some nice memories. Like going sightseeing with a Canadian and two guys from Chicago. After many failed attempts and long negotiations to get a tuktuk, or a meter cab that would put the meter on, to take us to the Royal Palace, one of the Chicago guys just nonchalantly hailed a taxi, said three words to the driver ("Palace. King. Meter.") and the driver responded: "Okay!" Off we went.

Another guy from Holland, a Dirk Nowitski look-a-like, got upset with a tuktuk driver trying to screw him over. He was asked 200 baht for a fairly short ride and getting upset he put his fingers on the map showing about an inch on it and shouted: "But it's only this long on the map!"

To all the beautiful people I've met so far on the road: it has been a privilege! And I'm looking forward to all the crazy new friends I'll make along the way. And that way is soon turning into a return trip. In a few weeks I'll be pretty much as far away from home as is physically possible.