In retrospect, it was a good idea to take Pi Jib’s advice and plan a little bit extra for the unexpected on what was to be a quick and supposedly routine trip to the border and back in one day but that ended up being a slightly longer and more complicated excursion but not an entirely unpleasant one.
It all began with a series of miscommunications. First, no one had communicated to our driver that he was supposed to be picking me up at 6:45AM on a chilly Sunday morning to go off to the bus station. As a result it was a little late before someone came to give me a ride. Second, no one had communicated to me that the bus for Mae Sai would be leaving out of a different terminal than the one I had used in my previous two visa runs, and as I did not arrive to the bus station with as much leeway as is customary I was not able to cross the street to the correct terminal in time.
So, I missed my bus. The next bus going all the way to Mae Sai did not leave Chiang Mai until 3:30PM, and that was way too late, so I took the 11:30AM bus to Chaing Rai and then immediately hopped on a local bus for Mae Sai, though in retrospect, given the frequent stopping and low top speed of the local bus, it might have been better in retrospect, for a few more baht, to hop on the Green Bus van that has fewer stops and more room. I shall have to ponder that option for next time, if necessary.
It’s hard to describe how uncomfortable it is to sit in a bus when your shoulders are too wide for the seat, you’re watching some awful Thai “children’s” television (more on that later), and the school kid next to you keeps nodding off to sleep and bumping your shoulder while you’re in a hurry and the bus stops at every village (seemingly every kilometer or closer) while a woman yells out loudly Mae Sai like a state fair carney. By the time I got to Mae Sai I figured if crossing the border was going to happen it was going to happen and there wasn’t much I could do except keep on plugging.
As it was, I met two Russians (perhaps a couple) from Moscow, where the woman was studying Thai Massage in Chiang Mai and the guy had come to Thailand often for pleasure. We were on the same green bus to Mae Sai, in the same mad hurry to cross the border (I because my visa expired yesterday, they because she had to get back for classes this morning). As it happened, I was able to cross the border and immediately return, spending 500 Baht for perhaps the world’s shortest visit to Burma, of less than five minutes. That’s 100 baht (over $3) per each minute in the country. The Burmese government definitely made out well on that bargain. Since it was too late by then to return to Chiang Mai (the last bus leaves about 3:30PM or so), I spent the night, enjoyed a relaxing dinner, picked up some socks (!), and rested up and watched some rugby on the television before getting an early night’s sleep. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to eat more, though. At any rate, at least I got some rest.
I noticed from watching Thai tv the last couple of days that there are some definitely wrong signals sent to young women from children’s tv. There’s nothing that says how much a culture respects women better than having a studio crowd of ten year old girls watching young women in harem girl costumes dancing around to leering and appreciative men, or having women wear high heels and dance at the beck and call of their co-hosts on morning television.
I met a few interesting people during my trip. Aside from the Russians I met a Swiss German in his late sixties (I think he was 68) who is a frequent marathon runner who liked to travel around Thailand and apparently was on his way to Phuket to see a girlfriend of his. For whatever reason he wanted to take a picture of me. Dunno why. On the bus ride back to Chaing Mai this morning a comedy video was showing, which was funny to a lot of the people who were around me but which didn’t make any sense to me. I met a nice fellow who was a Trainee for Green Bus in Mae Sai whose English was good and who was very friendly–that was nice.
During the various delays and ups and downs of my trip, I wondered what the purpose of all of the stress was, which revealed that even when my health is less than perfect and I’m in a hurry that I have some survival skills and can manage to deal with pressure without completely blowing a gasket, though I could stand to improve when it comes to impatience. None of that was new, but it was nice that I fared alright despite the trip being a lot longer and more dramatic than I thought. Of course, I finished all of my books long before finishing the trip (book reviews forthcoming). Now, if only I could do something about those intestines of mine.