I am ferried into a cab with a Swedish couple coming to the end of their travels. I have no idea what's going on (fairly standard for me) but I had thought i'd bought a bus ticket to travel across the border from Siem Reap down to Bangkok.
“Oh no I think it was overbooked that's why we are in a cab”
I'm always the last to know! We get over the border and I realise its the first time i haven't looked up the visa requirements in advance. Big. Mistake.
After an interminable wait at customs we shuffle through and I look at my stamp. Turns out you don't even get a month coming in overland to Thailand and my passport has only been stamped for 15 days. I have a big New Year's eve planned at the Full Moon party with friends from England on Koh Phangan and have then already paid up for a month's yoga course in January.
I check the date stamp again to see when I have to get out of the country by:
My brilliant planning skills strike again.
I head on down to Bangkok anyway and after some of the best street food known to man – bbq pork with lemon grass, rice and papaya salad (outside my hostel Lub d off Silom Road) I realise the only thing for it is to leave the bloody country again, apply for a 3 month tourist visa and then head back to Koh Phangan. After stocking up on the kind of essentials its been hard to find in the rest of Asia – namely a proper sports bra– I decide to head down to Penang in Malaysia for the visa run.
Somehow it all works out, and after treating myself to a glorious breakfast of waffles with maple syrup and walnuts at the trendy American cafe next door i'm standing at Bangkok train station buying a ticket for Butterworth – the strangely American fort -esque moniker for the train station you need to go to for Pengang.
The temperature of the cabin is cool, belying the humidity of the afternoon. To my left the sun sets rose tinting the clouds . I watch the palm trees that darken the landscape begin to whizz past and settle in for a long ride.
I love train rides – so i'm not too bothered about the roadtrip continuing. Its a sleeper and my top bunk (which is very slender) gets unfolded by the crew towards the evening. They have an a la carte buffet service which is good and the next day I get breakfast delivered to my bed with a hot coffee. Eventually I clamber down in time for us to traipse through customs into Malaysia, bleary eyed. Thank goodness for the Malays who have none of this visa nonense and just stamp your passport for 90 days.
I navigate my way out of Butterworth train station with The Bastard on my back and go in search of the ferry to Georgetown (in Penang) I filter through to some seats take The Bastard off and wait. I keep looking out ot sea and wonder when the ferry is gong to arrive. After about 20 miutes I turn around and realise I am surrounded by water – I've been on the ferry the whole time. Oh dear – another clue that I often remain completely oblivious to the world around me.
Finally I arrive into George Town and end up staying on
Muntri street just off one of the main roads.
After handing over 140RM (about 30 quid) to a guest house to sort out my Thai visa I decide to visit Master Wong the fortune teller. In the front of his room is an intricate multi layered shrine in red with incense burning. A woman is performing an animist ritual, lighting up silver curls of paper that smoke and then fall smouldering into a brass cauldron. She is remembering her ancestors who have passed away.
Master Wong heralds me in and starts with his patter – when he realises i'm 37 it starts to go awry. He clutches my palm a bit tighter and after much deliberation and some consideration says:
“No, No, is ok, you get married at …...43! – and you can have.... three kids!”
Assuming of course, that this what every gal wishes for...and then he adds a hasty warning....
...YOU GOTTA BE QUICK!!!”