The line of tour buses extended for as far as the eye could see. Every single parking spot had been taken. It was the same for individual private Malaysian cars.
The lines of Malaysian holidaymakers snaking, and spilling over onto the kerb at Thai passport control made me wince. Our collective hearts sank as we parked our bikes.
But from the depths of despair came a voice. “Motosaikoww here. Motosaikoww here. Gay telee…” in pidgin English.
Initially, we thought this middle-aged lady, wearing an equally middle-aged boonie hat, was trying to sell us tickets to Hatyai’s infamous cabaret show. But it was her conviction, the way she kept repeating “Gay telee…” that convinced us to maybe see what she was on about.
She motioned us to a door that was devoid of people. At the top of it was written ‘Gate 3’. Ah, okay. We stepped in and lined up in front of a slightly cherubic, and jolly Thai Immigration officer. My forms were stamped in quick succession, a fee of RM2 went to the Thai government’s coffers, and I was allowed to take my bike in, to the back of the building, to finalise the Customs and vehicle entry requirements. The lady with the boonie hat was nowhere to be seen. I was unable to thank her.
All told, we spent a total of 30 minutes at the border checkpoint. We were tucking into plates of fried prawns with petai (Parkia speciosa), followed by sticky mango rice in Danok, within 40 minutes of entering Thailand, and drank a toast to the poor souls who came by bus and private cars.
“You guys keep your eyes peeled. You’ll find stuff coming out at you from just about anywhere,” point man Pravin Menon said, in between mouthfuls of fried mixed vegetables and rice.
This being my (and Captain MK Ganesan’s) first Thai ball by road, I needed some clarification.
“Define ‘stuff’, bro.”
“Old people, kids, babies on walkers, balls, chickens, cows, horses, midgets, bats, toilet seats … you name it.”
I reminded myself to keep my SA (situational awareness) up, head on a swivel, maintain my ‘space cushion’, always look for an exit route, to keep checking ‘six’, and my ‘three-nine-line’, and always maintain SMOG (signal, mirror, observe, go).
We still had about 40km to go to Hatyai, and the day was shaping up to be a long one. I was starting to feel a bit sleepy from the early morning push-off from Butterworth, and I think the adrenaline had started to wear off a bit. The next 40 klicks could end up being a real bruiser.
Twenty minutes into the ride to Hatyai and my mind was starting to drift. I had just avoided a head-on collision with a kapchai ridden by a craggily-faced old man in a white crop-top who looked eerily like Popeye, minus the pipe.
Now, I find myself behind a grey Nissan pickup truck. I see something that resembles a chicken coop on the truck bed. It is brown in colour, sitting on four pieces of wooden stilts, with an opening in the middle. But something is off. I cannot quite put my finger on it, and I find myself being drawn in, closer and closer, to this thing.
I must have inched within three feet of the pickup (curiosity got the better of me), when I finally realised that I was not staring at the opening of a chicken coop, but rather, at the posterior of a rather large cow.
The clumps of fresh cow manure falling on the hot, sticky asphalt, just 36 inches from my face, clued me in to what it really was.
Editor’s note: Part three of Haris Hussain’s adventure will be published next Sunday.