So I decided to leave Pai before it completely sucked me in and had decided to head to an even more Northern town called Thaton. Something about the paragraph in the book made it sound like it was hiding fabulous (so much for heading straight to Laos from Hong Kong :)). Anyway, I had a bit of a plan on how to get there but needed to do some recon.
Below are some conversations I had as I tried to figure out how to get there. (Enjoy.) 🙂
BUS STATION, DAY BEFORE, FIRST ATTEMPT
Kim: Sa-Wad-Dee-Ka, Is there a bus to Thaton?
Bus Lady: No. Aya Services.
Kim: There’s NO way to get to Thaton with buses. I read somewhere you can..?
Bus Lady: [Firm head shake]
AYA SERVICES (tourist travel company), DAY BEFORE
Kim: Sa-Wad-Dee-Ka, can I please buy a ticket to Thaton?
Ava Lady: No Thaton. Chiang Mai… Thaton from bus station.
Kim: Kob-Khan-Ka, I tried that. They said they didn’t go to Thaton.
Ava Lady: No. You need to buy a ticket to Maemalai.
Kim: Ok. And THAT will get me to Thaton?
Ava Lady: No. That will get you to a fork in the road. From there, ask how to get to Thaton.
Kim: Kob-Khun-Ka….Can I do this trip in one day?
Ava Lady: Yes. At the bus station.
BUS STATION, DAY BEFORE, SECOND ATTEMPT
Kim: Sa-Wad-Dee-Ka. One ticket to Maemalai please for tomorrow.
Same Bus Lady: You buy the ticket for Chiang Mai and tell the bus driver to stop at Maemalai. Ok?
Kim: Uhm,… Ok. Can we tell the bus driver before he leaves so he knows?”
Same Bus Lady: We try [big smiles].
BUS STATION, DAY OF
Kim: [Shows driver the ticket] I need to be dropped off at MaemaLai please.
Bus Driver: Chiang Mai?
Kim: No thank you. Maemalai.
Bus Driver: Ok.
FORK IN THE ROAD, TWO+ HOURS LATER
Bus Driver: Maemalai!
[Off goes me and my bag, door shuts and the driver’s about to pull away… I knock on the bus window…]
Kim: Sorry. I wait here to get to Thaton?
Bus Driver: No English (Totally fair,.. my bad, not his)
Friendly Thai Passenger: Thaton, No. Fang, yes. About a half a kilometer to the left. Ask in Fang to get to Thaton.
Kim: Ah! KOB-KHUN-KA!
Friendly Thai Passenger: Ka!
BUS STOP, 45 MINUTES LATER
[A big green school bus pulls up]
Bus Attendant: Yes! Bag below, you in the back [big smile].
Kim: How much?
Bus Attendant: On the bus!
ON THE BUS
My lack of language skills means there was no dialogue but so much fun happened on that bus. First off, the bus was PACKED. There wasn’t a seat available that I saw… Until there was. A whole row squeezed together to make a space for me while I was paying for my ticket… And they were all smiling when I turned around and saw the space.
And my seat neighbors, a cute middle-aged couple, were the best. The husband played a prank on me within 15 minutes of sitting down… so obviously he’s my new best friend, d’uh. 🙂
The back door was open and he pulled down the bus attendant seat (which basically dangles in the air) and told me it was a “VIP seat”… For special people, like me. For one moment, I believed he wanted me to sit there, his face was deadpan. Then his wife hit him and the jig was up.
An hour or so later, after gum, fruit and water sharing, they got off the bus and waived me away like I was a long lost relative.
A half hour later, we were in Fang. The bus driver came back to help me figure out how to get to Thaton,.. And waited until he saw me get on the yellow covered pick up. Twenty minutes or so and a couple rounds of peek a boo with a little guy on the truck, and I’m in Thaton. Boom. Total travel time,… 6.5 hours. Total distance, less than 150 km. Total experience…. Awesome.
MY OSCAR SPEECH
I do feel as though I should do an Oscar worthy speech thanking all the many strangers who helped me to find my way, but I’ll spare you. And I’ll spare you the promise to aim to do it better next time. I don’t want to. I actually hope I do it just the same next time and the time after that. Because this day reinforced to me that good people are good people wherever you. And that language, culture, & circumstance are not the barriers we may think they are. Because on this day (and countless days to come, I’m sure), we were all just people trying to get somewhere.