INDONESIA

Malaysia Penang & KL, Singapore, Borneo & Sabah etc

Remember that the official exchange rate in Indonesia, is more dependent on how much the money changer wants to rip you off. It varied so 11,000 = $1 in Bataan and 17,500 in Lovinia so before exchanging check prices. Even banks and ATM’s vary and not a guarantee of good rate of exchange. I took a real cheap flight airasia.com from Bangkok to Singapore, I also made the mistake of getting a bus down town instead of the underground to Little India. I got a tourist map at the airport, and noticed that there were some backpacker hostels/GH’s in Little India so jumped off the bus there, I had originally figured China town was a good bet. I stayed at the “Inn Crowd” in Little India, which was $3 B&B [you cook your own eggs toast etc] great cheap food here also on the edge of China town [the famous “food st” and also Jazz street for entertainment also must do is raffles tea &Tiffin if cheap then just maybe a premixed Singapore sling in the bar

I missed the ferry from Bataan to Sumatra so flew to Jakarta again at the airport got a map of Jakarta, and was told that the backpacker place to stay was Jaksa st , from Airport go to International arrivals and pick up bus to the main Station Bromor walk two blocks south and then right and Jaksa st is on the left plenty of back packers places here. I too the train to Yogjakarta , as you leave station cross rd and Gangs 1 or 2 are opposite, again plenty of places to stay cheap I stayed Losman ANDA cheap clean and friendly.a day trip to see Borrobaddor and pramahnbana. Then a deal to Bali that included Mt Bromo and an overnight Hotel 150,000. Sunrise over Mt Bromo and also a climb into a live volcanoe crater were the highlights of this trip then bus onward to Bali and Lovinia in the nth I stayed next to beach at Astina seaside cottages $3.50 B&B sad as no tourists and they are desperate for custom. Couple of good restaurants on beach as well. In Kuta I stayed poppies 2 near the bomb memorial so get dropped off there and start. Also plenty shopping here as well I flew [flights tend to be very cheap here especially in advance and on line] to Jakarta and then on to Medan

Montyman’s GH’s are 1 step up from the street

That’s what someone said about me when I suggested a GH. Obviously I was really put out and replied immediately “Quick where is this GH ? “One step up from the street””Now I have found it, it is the Sakia Hotel Medan, Sumatra. I arrived 11pm and tired and hungry, I forgot Charles’s “Tolong turunkan saya di Mesjid Raya” rant. I only remembered derekinasia , saying something like “SOUK Hotel”So I walked away from the $5 taxis waiting to grab you and headed out to the main Rd. Ist Taxi stopped “Grand mosque? Souk hotel? ” “Yes Grand hotel mister!” “No souk Hotel” so I dismissed him, next guy seemed to know and we agreed a price 15,000 to Souk hotel, he just smiled and as we drove off he also said Gerand hotel ” NO! grand mosque ! you know Imman call out, Allah Akbah Allah etc, etc. so I left him to it and there it was mesjid Raya as I later learnt . and he dropped me off at Sakia hotel where he drops all cheapskate backpackers off . I noticed a room for 15,000 rupia B&B so thank you very much. Someone on S.E Asia mainland once said “don’t listen to Michael on GH’s he stays one step up from the street”

Of course I immediately responded “Quick where is this GH “One step up from St?” well I finally found it Sakia hotel Medan, it’s like a Salvation army hostel cubicle, back home in UK , only the sheets are cleaner and you get a sweet bun and sweet black tea free for brekkies, so $1.50 B&B can’t be bad. Except in the morning the IMMAN started his call to prayer at 430am, this rocked the hotel like a 2.5 richter scale earthquake, as he had obviously purchased, the Rolling stones Sound system when they retired. Obviously after prayer for the day and the FT index plus a warning to rip off tourists to help pay for a new digitised sound system that would carry over the whole of Medan, I took the local bus to Bukit lawang and the Orangutans, I stayed jungle Inn. I did the two day trek but not for $46 they demand even the $20 rip off I paid was two much for the two day one, When an Orang-utan Mum came crashing through the jungle the other trekkers fled I couldn’t figure why and she brushed straight past me with her baby on her back which I stroked (much to the indignation of the baby as he looked back at who had the audacity to touch him,)

Medan to Malaysia is a ferry ride, but the flight could be cheaper as I found out to my cost. From the airport in Penang, again get free tourist map at airport, walk across the car park to te main rd cross to other side left and there is a bus stop and bus will take you direct to Georgetown Penang which is China town and drop you off on Chulia st, Main rd for restaurants and Gh’s I recommend 75 travellers lodge and also Western oriental café next door, depending on what you require. From here there are regula bus services to hat Yai in Thailand and from there bsues direct to Surithani and Bangkok. I did a deal from hat yai with backpacker bus from hat yai minibus to Surithani and overnight to BKK 160Baht all inc. but expect between 250 and 650 baht depending on how you get there Ha! Ha!

I also stopped en route to Philippines in KL stayed Bukit Bitang and did trip to top of twin towers walkway from airport take Airasia bus to station and opposite is monorail to Bukit Bitang back packer area and food stalls, also just walking distance from markets, twin towers and central KL.

This year I did Suluwesi through East Kaliamantan Sabah and Sarawak but my diary says more about it than info I gathered

Following is just a diary as for info I was still recovering from Dengue so didn’t take note of too much as you will read

Suluwesi, Tana Toraja and walking with the dead

Hi so there I was in KL and fortunately had a big Mac special and found the legends Hostel in Makkassar with pancake and coffee breakfast, 75,000rupiahs

bus to tanatorajah 90,000 and I arrived last night hungry and tired booked into Poppies for 60,000 and went out for food but very little on the streets except fried bananas and wottever so went back to room but on way forgot that the path on right is the drainage ditch and when it ended suddenly so did I! pitch black I scraped the wall with my shoulder feet and nose and lay there in the filth and stench feeling very sorry for myself wasn’t sure if I’d broken anything just felt pain after about 10 minutes struggled to my feet and spent another 15 minutes grovelling in the mire for my glasses and flip flops . finally climbed out of the drain and onto the road and limped back to GH where I was a sorry sight bleeding hand sprained wrist bruised shoulder but it could have been a lot worst and I might still have been there if it was. Fortunately I had hot shower even if the shower sprayed straight onto the light element in bathroom, but I was beyond caring I put Iodine and plasters on my injuries and crawled into bed and slept till 830this morning . Nothing serious except this cheap skate had fried eggs and toast and coffee at hotel expensive but great relief. Tomorrow there is a Torajan funereal, the guy died a year ago and now after a year of being dead leaves the family house, so you go and say hi to him and take him cigarettes as a present Ha! Ha! look mate don’t you know that smoking can kill you, Oh your dead already suppose that’s Ok then. not sure if I want to take the alternative a 56kg bag of sugar or  a case of sweetened condensed milk.

lots to do and see here but need a guide and not sure if that’s a bit expensive still two days here and on further north to tongeans and Palu and from there figure out how to get to Borneo by ferry or fly, we shall see, first a decent dinner at Hotel and tomorrow is another day wish you were here as Beer Bitang s expensive

also after breakfast I had to do my washing and clean my trousers and jacket so now relaxing and wishing I were married and had a wee wifey to do these things plus bandage me up and feel sorry for me ;-P

So after the ditch incident and feeling more dead than alive, I decided to trek among the dead , which is what you do in Tana Toranga. Or go to the burial service if lucky and I was.

I talk to a guide he asks for 150,000rupias

15,200 =1pound GBP
10,000 =$ 1US

Well first the dead person has been dead for a year and lived (sorry he’s dead so he stayed,) in the home for all that time. After a year he has the 6 day funeral ceremony and his box is placed a hole in the cliff and an effigy of the man is placed among those of his relatives as if in a family
photo, we take present for deceased  56 kg bag of sugar or rice or case of condensed milk or if you cheap carton of cigarettes.

“Doesn’t he smell out the home?” I ask the guide

“No we have Glade air fresheners nowadays, OK”

So you take your gift to the coffin house offer your gift and talk to the deceased for a few minutes .OK

“Hi I’m Michael from England ”

“Thanks for coming Michael”

“I brought cigarettes as a gift, but I was wary about it, as smoking kills you know!

“I smoked all my life and it never did me any harm!”

But you’ve been dead for a year now, doesn’t that say something to you?

Point taken Michael but thanks for coming anyway
“OK well see you around then”

”No you won’t after 6 more days of this they inter me in a cave”

“Ok then see you in the resurrection then (on Earth after
wicked destroyed) John 5:28,29”

“Bye then Michael take care ” overheard from behind as I leave the coffin house

“Cheap Indonesian cigarettes could at least have bought a carton of
Marlboro, bloomin cheapskate”

I’m sorry I tell the guide

When you’re dead you’re dead that’s it, Dead! Ecclesiastes   9:5,10 and as for talking to the dead that’s definitely a scriptural No! No! Deuteronomy 18:11-13 * see postscript

*post script in Genesis 3:4 Satan tells the first lie “You will positively not die”

He has kept this Myth alive through all sorts of beliefs in after life, fact is because of Adam we all die Romans 5:12 and no point resurrecting our friend in Tanatoraga or anywhere else whilst this system and Its misery plods on first need to get rid of the wicked Proverbs 2:20-22

So we agree not to participate in the ceremony or talk to dead, which saves the cost of a carton of cigs and also we agree 150, 000 rupias and he is to pay all the bhemo fares which works out at around 38,000 rupiahs

So off we go

First stop bhemo to Lemo and walked off the main road up the hill 20 mins and come to the house of the dead in the caves in front of the tombs are the effigies of the family as if in a family portrait, after we walk back to main road and take a Bhemo to Makale and another to the funeral ceremony.

The funeral ceremony  is at Ranletaya so we take another bhemo there and  there are around ten ceremonial houses and 16 buffalo are being slaughtered for the guests, these are gifts to
the family and a book is kept of which family gave what and like a Greek wedding when you go their funeral you are expected to give the same remember a buffalo is worth more than a Toyota here so a expensive undertaking, forgive the pun.

There are three groups of dancers in traditional dress and then a circle of the ground is led by some in costumes as old as time itself depicting the origins the leader has a spear and chants and the others chant with him .

It reminds me of a Maori greeting and obviously of Polynesian/ Samoan origin, in my mind at least. The VIP guests are lead into their respective meeting houses and the ceremony goes on for 6 days and the widow sits high up in the coffin house next to her husband I’m sure there must be something on You tube it’s a fascinating and glad I did not miss it. It should be noted that although this ceremony predates Christianity all who attend are Christian

We leave the site and head back by bhemo to Makkale and from there the next burial site is Londa another hike off the main road and here small skulls are spread around as cheaper burials don’t go far into the caves again assorted effigies and now we go to Keto but instead of going back to the main road we walk over the hills and across muddy rice paddies for over 2 hrs I realize that the bhemo for this stretch would have been 18,000rupiahs and the cheapskate has now walked almost 3 hrs and made the guide an extra $2  Oh well Keto is interesting but again an assortment of bones ad effigies, we head for home and I eat a hearty meal of chicken
supreme and French fries but then more disaster it gives me stomach cramps half the night I spend trying to be sick and in agony,

I finally collapse around 3 am from exhaustion and wake up feeling sick and sore have cuppa tea fro breakfast and await my bus to Tentena lake which is supposed to collect me at 8am and arrives 8am Indonesian time which is 930am and off we go.

The Mountains here are beautiful and late afternoon we stop an overnight truck drivers halt for a coffee, Indonesian coffee s so strong you can stand your spoon in it , it puts lead in your pencil s to speak, no wonder the roadsides are packed with scruffy little sprogs shouting hello mister Ha! Ha!

There are 6 young women at this halt all smiling at you, The Driver nods to one of the girls pushing out her assets, and he gives me a knowing wink. Oh so that’s what they are there for and I wondered why they needed so many young waitresses when the old lady did it all including making the coffee. The driver dumps me off at the junction at 11pm and a motorcycle taxi takes e to Losman Victory 85,000 a night including pancakes and coffee for breakfast, 2
days here at lake but raining to much to walk to waterfalls and  take a boat out . then on by Bhemo 90,000rupiahs the 10 hr journey to Palu where I hope to book a boat or flight to Borneo Balikpapan.The woman next to me has a small 5 yr old boy and is pregnant so I offer to let the boy sleep on my lap later on in the journey he sicks all over me Ha! Ha! When will I ever learn

6.30p near edge of town driver drops me at a hotel with a travel agency attached 50,000rupias a night and I book a  312,000 rupiah flight Xmas day to Balikpapan which is tomorrow the local Warun (Café) fries me 2eggs for breakfast with great mug of coffee for 7,000 rupias so if you don’t hear fro me for a while I’ll be living in an Orangutan factory and meeting Dayaks the indigenous people of Borneo not to be confused with Dykes which I understand  are Dutch Lesbians.

East Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo)

Whatever you are doing have a nice holiday and think of me struggling here with life and on the verge of death, however I truly feel Psalm 32:8 as I brush with trials and adventures on the way

3 days of hell on the road to Tarakan.

They say the light at the end of the tunnel is another train  but an ill wind did blow some good and got me to Berau as you will see.

I arrived in Borneo Balikpapan, and had a fish and chip supper at a restaurant, it’s now difficult to get a beer Bitang outside of foreign aimed restaurants, it goes with Muslim disapproval for alchohol.

So next day bus to Samaranda and then onwards by bus to Sangatta the orangutang sanctuary by boat through the jungle . next morning we did 4 hr trek and only saw some hornbills and two Orangutangs one high in the canopy and one close to the camp an old lady with a scraggy baby which I think they keep close so as not to disappoint us tourists if we don’t get o see any in the jungle. Ok managed to get a 4 bed room with the Dutch and Argentinian guys I did trek with and next morning sat at the warun (restaurant ) waiting for bus or taxi to Berau, but none were going so in despair at 4pm a really nice guy offered me a free ride to Wau Hau and said it was 5 hrs on same rd to Berau and would b easier to get there from there FREE! Is a good deal for a cheapskate like me but what lay in store truly was a ride into the jungle and hell.

We managed to keep going through the potholes and mud baths of the nonexistent road and Eulai my driver did well he was a Dayak and also  head teacher in Wau hau and wanted to be back with his wife and kids  for new year.

At 830 pm we stopped for dinner at a roadside café and noted no one was coming through anymore either way. He was told the road was bad and suggested we stay here overnight, I said that as it was only 2 hrs to Wau Hau and we had done so well why not continue which we then did to my regret OH dear!!

We travelled about 15km’s and for some reason coming down a sharp hill to a bridge he panicked and slammed on the brakes which then spun the car around almost on two wheels then still jamming on the brakes he tried to control the car by turning the steering hard on lock. I braced myself as we crashed into  a concrete stanchion of the bridge pushing his wing and front assembly of the car back.

In pitch dark with Mr Eulai saying Sorry almost in tears at the wreck of his car I trundled out into the deep mud to inspect the damage. The Horn was blaring so I ripped out the cable and then we managed to force the bonnet open and saw that the radiator was against the fan and the battery pushed into fan belt

Fortunately there was a truck parked up the otherside of the bridge and we borrowed an axe and freed the battery then with Mr Eualai stil muttering “I’m sorry” we backed the car up to inspect the damage, fortunately the wing was already ripped almost completely off. So I axed away the rest of it but what about the crashed in front assembly. We borrowed a strong rope,  fed it through the broken headlight hole and tied it to the concrete post of the bridge,. I then backed the car hard and snatched the assembly and inner wing roughly into line and managed to free that battery from the fan and also the radiator and jumped on the bonnet to flatten it a little and we turned around and limped back to the roadside restaurant for the night. Mr Eulai didn’t sleep and shuffled around saying sorry to his car, God, Wife me and everyone he met.

7am and I checked the car out and tied the battery into position and as there are no car repairers in Wau Hau he was still distraught and so found someone in the village there to drive it back to Sangatta with him.

I stayed feeling very guilty having encouraged him to continue when he shouldn’t have and finally at 11am I saw two Daihatsu 4X4’ so jumped out flagged them down and shouted Wau Hau he said Ok so in I jumped. After awhile I noticed the windscreen was back to front saying Coal Mine Berau and as the car was new discovered they were delivery drivers taking them to Berau. I explained how coincidently I was going to Berau and we went on but without 4WD I can’t see  how we could have made it, when you see the photos you will see what I mean and people stopped to help each other by  dragging  others in and out of the  mud bath that was not a road. On some occasions trucks had just slid over and a new pathway was made around them one tanker was stuck in a hole bigger than the tanker. It makes offroading in 4X4 seem like a stroll in the park as bumpers and wings were torn off in the mud and the taxis had to get everyone out to push. I felt like a chauffeur driven Royalty in this new 4X4 which with only 900kms of delivery miles that had lived the life in just two days of a twenty year old Landrover on a farm somewhere.

After arriving at Wau Hau at 1.30pm we drove on to Berau which seemed endless and finally got there  the jeeps almost unrecognizable for mud at 11pm he dropped me off at a hotel.

The Hotel advertised Karaoke which was loud so I went in thinking I could get a beer and noticed it was a bar for call girls with none being called for. The Manager followed me in as I was about to order a beer before bed and he told me he would get one from the fridge and asked if I wanted a woman sent to my room I obviously declined and I slept like a baby till 7am and got the shared taxi to BULUNGAN where one gets the speedboat to Tarakan. So now I’ve checked into a cheap Losman 66,000rupiahs a night and tomorrow say farewell to Indonesia and Indonesian Borneo for Tawau in Malaysian Borneo. Will send  what happens next when i leave Malaysia as this is turning out to be some adventure and dreams of Paradise are slowly becoming nightmares Ha! Ha!

Malaysian Borneo Sabah

Saturday 3rd  January 2009

Woke up 6 am with someone in hallway shouting “Coffee”  “Coffee” and I thought, can’t they do it a bit quieter for their family or friends then I realized it was the Losman’s free breakfast  coffee and donut with rice and small cake . so B&B for $6 at today’s rubbish rate for the pound. At 830 I had checked in for the boat to Malaysian Tawau this left on time at 10am which in reality Indonesian time was 1130.

Tawau was a shock to the system after the simplicity of Indonesia. With well kept streets more in keeping with a European town than Borneo had a meal at Piza hut after I went for coffee and donuts at a bakery and prebooked my $6 overnight, 630pm, bus to kota Kinabalu. Be here for 530pm he told me and I expected to leave at 730pm but hey we were all there at 545 and off we went Malay time obviously works differently to Indonesian time I thought. The movie was The Mummy and in English We were spat out 5am in KotaKinabalu  

I looked up my photocopied info sheet that said Akinabulu youth hostel was best deal at 20ringits =4pounds GBP at todays rubbish exchange rates, but includes free internet and also free breakfast and coffee Tea all day. Great place to relax and get info.

Monday 5th Jan off on the minibus to Mt Kinabalu I didn’t think I should tempt to climb the 4,000m peak but there is no gain without pain but this was an expensive exercise

I took a cheap dorm outside the park for 18 ringit and had great chicken  meal with rice and 2 beers and a mug of tea for 14 ringits at a roadside shack and at 730am queued up to share a porter  you pay 3 pounds GBP for entry to park then 20 pounds for permit then 12 pounds to stay overnight at the halfway point  then you have to have  a guide which is  another 13pounds for me who travels on less than $10 a day, Sabah in  Malaysia is fast becoming an expensive journey.

I already told them that with only 60% lungs I wouldn’t make it to 4,000 m  summit

So off we went my lungs and not my legs finally giving out after 3+ hrs climbing at just below the 2500 m mark, I became lightheaded (wasn’t I always you might say) and dizziness set in so I told the guide I would walk back down on my own and he caught up with the others going up in our group the Café hostel where you stay and acclimatize at 3,400 m for the push to summit the next morning.

I was disappointed not to make the stop off point at 3,400 m but even my short walk was equivalent to climbing Snowdon so I was appreciative that after all the problems with my health I can still go some but then Machhu Picchu is 3500m so we shall see. I stayed the night at the hostel I paid for with hot showers etc etc and after fried egg and tea breakfast headed back to town and a last night stopped out at music bar till 1am with people from Hostel after a cheap deal at Pizza hut again ie mushroom soup, cheese roll coke and hawaiin Pizza 6” for 9 ringit Yummmi. Met Lyndsey at Mt Kinabalu and she shared the dorm I was in so with her and Richard a Malaysian Dr heading for UK, we all went to Sapi Island for the day to see the monitor lizards and also the bearded wild pigs and a snake crawled up Lyndsey’s leg whilst we ate lunch. Her attractive legs must have attracted it ;-))

So a great day on the beach till 3pm and time to go the rain came well it is Monsoon season! This was the first time I actually sunned myself on a beach this trip, and Saturday I fly to Kuching and next monday to Luala Lumpur and then next day to Changmai and my beloved Laos so will e mail you then . it’s 32degC here and hot what’s it like where you are ? are you off to the beach as well? Ha! Ha!

Kuching Sarawak Borneo

Next day took  16A bus to the airport after tea and cakes in town and arrived Kuching 6pm and was picked up by James his French wife and  his two sons and daughter.

They are a beautiful family I met in Bukit Lawang 4 yrs ago and kept in touch with.The Kids speak French, Baha Malays, English and Chinese no mean feat as their ages range just 7 -12 yrs old .

Totally dysfunctional by English standards, as they work hard at school and also all play musical instruments and No TV or video games to distract their busy schedule . Why aren’t they out playing truant from school, robbing and abusing old ladies stabbing other kids and taking drugs or  being Hoodies like English kids I thought (this comment is not serious about all English kids)

They treated me out to dinner at a famous for Kuching Sea food restaurant and I remarked as we tried to choose from all the live fish tanks, crabs prawns and Kalimari and squid, I remarked Hey they don’t have fish and chips. The owner overheard this and approached me quietly said  “I can do that for you sir” and hey like magic I had the best fish and chips outside of the UK, talk about Decadence,

Kuching and all the surrounding areas were under flood as it had torrented with rain continuously for the previous 4 days and was not  about to let up just because yours truly had arrived  at least if I were to fall down an open drain here I could swim out of it.

“Why do you come to Kuching in rainy season Michael asked James and Servane his wife.

Simple put because I am stupid Have a habit of not thinking Ha! Ha! I would have liked to have gone to an ethnic Longhouse with some tattooed tribesmen or a day trip to Baku Island where there is an abundance of wild life but had to settle for a visit to a mock up of a long house at the museum with a few tattooed tourists, this was eye opening also to see ethnic differences within Borneo s indigenous peoples. The kids wanted to feed the crocodile with their siblings but were dissuaded by mum. Obviously there’s hope for them yet  Ha! Ha! so after a few days watching the rain come down heavier than in Noahs day, I took a walk on  Monday 12th January  around town and the rain stopped in time for me to have a cuppa tea and cake and visit the tourist office where they only give brochures if you pay $1 US for each brochure you require Ha! Ha! I’ve never seen that anywhere no wonder Sarawak is under subscribed with tourist hoards.

so farewell to my wonderful “couch surfing” hosts, who can now relax after an experience similar to the Griswalds in Vacation in Paris where they turn up at the doorstep of what they think is a distant relative. THANK YOU James and Servane for such wonderful hospitality, even if the kids will end up so dysfunctional so as to become qualified as Doctors scientists or famous orchestral musicians and not burning cars in Paris or doing wheelies in them in UK then burning them. What is this World coming to !!!

so after spending all night on the cold floor of KL but made up for it with a Big Mac meal when I got there at 8pm and an egg and sausage breakfast with free coffee refil when I finally gave up trying to sleep amidst the clamour and bustle  of LCCT terminal KL. I Handed in my list of complaints to Tony Fernandez CEO of Air Asia and I flew into Changmai and Hurrah how good it is to be back in a country where I can actually afford it. Booked straight into Green House but sadly all the 100baht $3 rooms were taken and had to put up with 150 baht double at 3 pounds GBP so tonight I’m off to the Saracen centre with free Thai dancing and Thai food no more Nasi Goreng or Ayam Goreng (fried Chicken and fried rice )

tomorrow morning I’m heading off for the final leg of my trip my beloved Laos and hopefully the costs of expensive Indonesia Borneo will be offset by the cheaper Laos, before heading home to my overdraft which, with the pound as useless as Monopoly money means a lot at the moment,

 

looking forward to a beer Lao for once at just over a 1$ US a far cry form 3pounds a pint on Sabah, or in Malaysia as a whole.

I obviously spoke too soon in my last email. The pound falling and the baht rising I don’t stand a chance, obviously the need to borrow a baby and beg on Sukhumwit becomes more urgent as the days go by

I was really appreciative of my friends in Kuching James and Sevane  and their hospitality and kindness.

A couple of Thai bites to wind up with alright

Wooden Bhuddas
[Although Thailand referred to here; same same, in Myanmar Laos and Vietnam]

When you get into a minibus in Thailand [or any bus there, for that matter] you will notice a Bhudda in a box hanging from the rear view mirror, which itself will be obscured by floral garlands. This is necessary for protection against accidents, When accidents do happen the Tv seem to be there in minutes ensuring the graphic details are televised immediately to bus station TV’s around the country. The cameras go in close on decapitated m/bike riders and I’ve even seen them on TV even push paramedics in the middle of mouth to mouth resuscitations, out of the way to ensure good pictures of the dying. Hence the importance of the Bhuddas in a box.

How many times have you been in the minibus, overtaking as it speeds around a mountain bend to be confonted by a truck or bus coming straight at you. This is where the Bhudda in a box takes over. As you see the terror in the drivers eyes and he sees yours, as you are about to be crushed into oblivion, something remarkable happens and as you open your eyes to realize you are still alive he is gone and you see the rear of the offending vehicle slinking off into the distance behind you. The box once again has worked leaving the driver to continue overtaking on bends in impunity. However there are two kinds of Bhudda in a box that you will come across in Thailand especially, some are superior and made of wood these work efficiently and I am only here to tell this because of travelling in Thailand with many drivers sufficiently concerned over their passengers well being to have invested in this superior wooden ones, also they replace the floral garlands regularly from roadside vendors at traffic lights. The other inferior ones are made of plastic and I believe that these are responsible for the many tragedies we see on the bus station Tv’s with their in yer face reportage of traffic accidents. I also think that they have a connection straight to the reporters mobile phone so that they can be at the scene of the accident as it happens. I once saw a dead motorcyclist being filmed just outside Rayon on the Trat rd within minutes of the accident, what further proof is needed and he had neither a plastic or wooden Bhudda in a box.

Road Rage: On Yer Bike

I’m off to the temple to have my motorbike blessed by the Monk. It must be cursed with an evil spirit, damn thing crashed on me the other day. Massive loss of face. I burnt a ‘Bike Tattoo’ on me left leg. Me two mates, who were on the back, are pretty bruised up and my girlfriend, who I was on the phone to at the time, thinks I hung up on her. Now how’s that for bad luck! The bike is pretty scratched up but never mind that, I have lost face; I’ll be the laughing stock next time we go drag racing.

It wasn’t my fault that we crashed really. See this big noodle in his posh Volvo pulled out in front of me, which is kinda dangerous’ cause it’s difficult for people to steer their bike when they have a hand on their phone. Plus, the idiot didn’t notice that I had taken my helmet off after we passed the road block at Nimmanhaemin intersection. Bloody inconsiderate geezer could’ve damaged my brain.

So I’m taking the bike back for reblessing so it will be ‘lucky’ in time for the drag racing next weekend. At the last drag the Police showed up and confiscated a few of the guys’ bikes ‘cause I guess one guy died after the brakes failed on his bike. I’d hate to get unlucky and lose my bike like that.

Also, I’d taken off the mirrors, because mirrors just aren’t cool and the bike goes faster I reckon, but I didn’t notice the big old Merc. Behind me, and of course here in Thailand an orange light means speed up, so if you suddenly brake it’s letting the side down because there’ll be a guy ten cars back flooring it to follow the rest of the traffic through the red light. Anyway, I stopped which was pretty uncool because at least five of the drivers behind me were also flooring it and chatting on their mobiles at the same time. Oops! Well, what a mess that was. It took hours to sort out, with 1,000 baht notes [$22.50 US] changing hands loads of times, and arguments over on-the-spot cash payouts to take care of whatever insurance bribe was necessary. The Locals can be rather efficient at resolving situations which have massive potential for litigation.

I was pretty lucky no one noticed that my headlight wasn’t working, ’cause there’s an ’insurance fee ‘ for that as well. The men were arguing among themselves and there was a lot of loud “Krap, Krap, Krapping” going on. I don’t really understand Thai much but when Thais start “Krapping” on each other like this, you know they are being formal but serious, kind’a like an argument in a mens club where people keep starting their sentences: “With all due respect…..”

The thing is, here in Thailand, no one ever gets road rage, which is just as well. More people died in accidents over songkran than Sars and Iraq war combined. Never mind the temple blessing. Bloody hell, I’m safer in Baghdad than Bangkok. S. Cumming