Arrival in a New Town
It was around about six when I rolled into town. The sun was low in the sky by now so I stopped to remove my sun glasses. Ahead was the part that I have done so many times before and generally find a bit of a choir; finding a pillow for the night. The town is a reasonable sized town, and as such it has a reasonable amount of small motor scooters cars and vans all vying for the same piece of road, or so it would seem, especially at six in the evening.
As I rounded one corner cursing the lack of hotels I came across a boy, or perhaps a young man, wandering down the street. He was not a typical Thai lad of his age, no motor-scooter, no cool clothes, no beautiful girl on his arm. He didn’t even have shoes, and his arse was, quite literally, hanging out of is britches. His hair was tangled and he carried from his shoulder an old rice sack. He was, in short, a raggedy-man. But highlighted by the blackness of his filthy face was the whiteness of his teeth, and the white of his eyes that shone. I smiled and nodded, and within a moment I was past him, and I cursed myself for not greeting him verbally. I was just another who passed he and his plight by.
I cruised around the town a little more and, as the memory of the raggedy-man already began to fade I was once more cursing my luck when a cobbled together motor-scooter and sidecar drew along side me. The rider was a middle-aged man wearing a moustache and a big grin. His sidecar was of the I-have-a-welder-and-can-soon-whip-one-of-them-up-from-some-old-pipe-and-a-wheelbarrow-wheel school, and in it where two plump middle aged Muslim ladies wearing headscarves and grins from ear to ear.
“Sewadee kap” they all greeted me in Thai. I returned their greeting and, by way of polite conversation, I mentioned that I sought an inn for the night. This was done as much through universal sign language as through the spoken word, well more so actually, but they got the gist. Follow me gestured the pilot, and to the sound of the laughter of his female companions we were off. Off like the clappers. We did a u-turn, took a left, hung a right, and blasted off into the thick of the traffic. He accelerated (as best he could, given two over weight ladies and a sidecar to hold back his 125cc scooter) and soon we were in the thick of it. A cross roads with traffic lights just changing to red, he opened it up and drawing enough extra breath to curse so did I. It was a tight manoeuvre but I feel I pulled it off with aplomb. Soon we were passing the solo machines, weaving in and out, and the astonishing thing about it was that although all around me looked like mild madness, my guide rode as though it was the most casual ride of his life. I was impressed, he never cut anyone up, or got in there way, or acted erratically. Well, perhaps a little erratically.
So here I was blasting flat out weaving through a mass of motor scooters following a home made motorcycle and sidecar with two plump Muslim ladies, head scarves waving majestically in the wind as they waved and grinned and shouted encouragement to me, and every now and again a little of the scrap metal he seemed to have gathered in the sidecar would fall out and bounce in my path to give me something extra to think about.
And then a swift left into a quiet side street and there it was, The Palace Hotel. My friends pointed to it, spun their machine around, waved and acknowledged my thanks, and were gone. I just had to sit for a moment and laugh out loud. What great folk.