Negotiating The Road
When traveling from Bangkok to Pattaya I've never used the mini-buses or the "Sex Tourist Express" from Ekamai but I have taken both buses and mini-buses from Pattaya to other parts of the country. At one point I made a decision to once again follow my "My Precious Thief," from my earlier "The Gravity of My Hell" submissions series, to her home in Isaan for some meeting, greeting, and bug eating in Surin. We took a bus leaving close to midnight from Pattaya for the 10-hour ride to Prasat. Can't really say too many negatives about the bus. It was clean, efficient, and on time. A few scheduled stops along the way to pick up additional passengers in other cities and for toilet and snacks but each stop was timed and were no more than 15 minutes it felt. The company switched drivers at a scheduled stop about halfway through the trip. The worst part of the trip was a DVD of some Thai talk show involving some fat Thai lady whining and screaming at the top of her uvula at all of the males on the show. The volume was loud and the show was repeatedly looped for about 4 hours. The driving was rapid per the usual in Thailand but my spider-sense didn't tingle too often, but then again wrecking the bus would have at least stopped that damn talk show.
My actual stay in Isaan was a trip of a trip for sure. I know many of you have made this journey so I won't go into that here but at some point a decision was made to not take the bus but to take a mini-bus back to Pattaya. So at 8 PM the mini-bus (which is just really a larger mini-van) teeters and totters up to the front of her family shack on 3 full wheels and 1 wheel that looked like it belonged on a toy Hotwheel racer. Her uncles convened on the issue. Her dad wound up taking one of the wheels off of his carbon dated truck (the only wheel that fossil had by the way) and selling it to the mini-bus driver. Her dad kept the Hotwheel to go tubing with later (who knows). While the wheels were being switched one of the uncles offered the mini-bus driver a couple of shots of that ass-rot lao khao. He declined (to my relief) but then quickly stated that he had his own and proceeded to pull out a mostly empty bottle of his own from under his dashboard for a few upturns (to my horror). My only thoughts to that were to look up at the sky and say to myself "My Father, who art in Heaven. Hollow be thy name. Thy Kingdom come." I was interrupted from finishing my sinners last resort to heaven by my bar girl leaping into the mini-bus for the trip.
The seats were large but still managed to be stiff and uncomfortable at the same time. The schedule was quite unpredictable in that the driver had to pick up 2 others who were not exactly on the way. This was a negative compared to the bus which had predictable scheduled stops. Anyway, we ended up picking up a girl of about 18 as one of the pickups. She sobbed as loudly as she did uncontrollably in the last row for what seemed like hours. My bar girl comforted her for a bit and later explained to me that she was leaving Isaan and her family for the first time to go work in Pattaya. I would spend just about the rest of the trip trying to devise a way to figure out what bar she was destined for and slip 300 baht to her for a down payment on a bar fine first thing when we got back to Pattaya. I was not successful. Guess I'm just more of a scoundrel than I am clever. We also picked up another guy who wound up sitting in the front passenger seat.
The drive was copasetic until the driver started winking at about 1 AM. That winking soon turned to blinking which then turned to nodding. The nodding turned to almost swerving the vehicle on to the shoulder into a bank of trees. I saw the distress of the driver and I leaned forward to sternly express to him my concern but my girl held me back citing face for the driver as the reason. Shouldn't criticize. During the next hour or so we hit about 3 police checkpoints. It was my first time being grateful to run into these here as each check point woke the driver up. Though I was afraid that I may lose that 300 baht that I had curled up in my hand in my pocket, that was destined for my future short time with missy there in the backseat, to the boys in tight brown who were now flashing a light in my face through the window of the mini-bus. No money was requested. Soon after the last check point the driver was nodding again. I leaned forward again but with a different tactic in mind. In my limited Thai I asked him if he was a Manchester United fan. Being American, I don't know the slightest about non-American football but I figured all other males across this planet would. He perked up and we talked futbol for a while keeping him awake. My girl translated as the conversation got deeper. When that dog stopped hunting I started asking questions which brought about another interesting conversation. I was ready to keep this guy awake thereby keeping myself alive. Girl in the back is sobbing again. Now where is my 300 baht?
We stopped at a rest stop. I continued the tactic of smiling and talking to him as opposed to harshly criticizing his transporting passengers on a Hotwheel while drinking Lao Khao and drowsy. I offered him a coffee for this reason. My girl said he didn't want coffee but he accepted anyway in order to be polite and not reject me. Trying to do things the local way to get out of this one. I kept him up with coffee and conversation. We ended up dropping guy in the passenger seat off in a town waaaaay off from Pattaya so the trip took an extra 2 hours. The Isaan Princess in the back got off at Beach Road minus my indecent proposal.
We eventually made it back to Tim Boutique Hotel just off of Second Road and Soi 12, just behind Nid Bar 2005. My girl left on her motorbike that she had kept parked at the hotel garage. She didn't have a helmet as the hotel parking attendant had let his friend use her helmet because he didn't think she was coming back so soon. Thailand right?
I wound up using that 300 baht on a short time at "Up To You" Bar on Soi 6 post haste.
I had lived to walk another day in the one and true Sin City.