A price is agreed with the driver.It’s a three hour journey from Songkla. Wang Prachan, the border crossing, is my goal. A little figure of a monk is perched on some auto-deodorant attached to the dashboard. Buddha is going to take care of us.
I’ve got the shits, again. It’s the healthy kind. After round two, I know it’s my nerves speaking to me.
I’ve got the itch too. I scratch my balls. They ask me if I can feel it.
‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘and I’ll get the fuck out of here now’. There will be another crap before the days out.
Songkhla is a no go zone for the Insurgents but only 50 kilometres from Hat Yai, and 100 kilometres from Pattani, both bomb zones. Songkhla is not a Muslim free zone but there’s a common understanding, don’t fuck with us on Buddhist territory or we’ll strafe you.
My driver is a veteran of Southern Thailand. When’s he’s not running people to Phuket, he’s doing runs to Kalok in Narathiwat .‘Only drive during day,’ he says. ‘Then sleep over a night and drive back in the day. At night there’s only the car headlights and then total darkness.’
We turn towards Pattani. ‘Please don’t take me there, please don’t.’ He knows I’m joking.
He tells me about the latest bombings. ‘One at airport, a few dead.’ That was seven years ago in Hat Yai. What about the recent one outside the police station that killed a 7 year old boy. Now he remembers. ‘That was last month,’ he says, as we drive through that village.
My rough idea is to hit Satun on the East coast and then go due south to a little quiet border crossing. I won’t try my luck at Danok; those massage girls have most likely sent my pictures to either intelligence or the insurgents.
A guy in camouflages passes us on his motorbike. We are in Muslim territory. ‘Are we ok?’ I ask the quiet driver. ‘Yes, and this is a good stretch of road, isn’t it.’ ‘It is,’ I say as we lose the guy again, until he rears up behind us and passes again before doing a sharp right off the highway.
We are passing mostly rubber plantations. And the road to the border is a left, and 22 kilometres away. First it’s another petrol stop and another dump. The adrenaline is still plucking away on my nerves. I tell myself there’s nothing to worry about. What else can you do in a situation like this?
The last stretch is in mountainous area. Nothing but to enjoy the views now.
At the border, no hotels, no town, only stalls selling junk.
Next leg is Malaysia. I’m stamped out on Thai side and stamped into Malaysia. ‘Very quiet,’ says the Malay officer, ‘since the ‘border day pass’ agreement between the two countries was cancelled a year ago.’
Too many dodgy people flowing through the border is a good reason to cancel the agreement, I wanted to tell him. But why state the obvious.
One car is stopped and checked. A Middle Eastern man who looks like a Middle Eastern man gives his best, ‘I’m not to be fucked with look.’ The car is waved on after a quick check.
On the Malay side, no taxis, no busses, no transport. I’m waiting for cars to go through customs. A Thai denies me a ride. A few Malays deny me a ride. I’m not a fucking terrorist, get a grip guys.
The border staff ask a Malay driver if he can take me to the next town. I’m prepared to pay. Oh yes I am. He tells me he just got out of jail. ‘I did ten years and eight months for selling drugs in Danok, Thailand.’ He said he was stitched up by a whore. A common story I said.
He was dropping his girlfriend off at the border. ‘Those Thais are so fucking gorgeous.’
‘They’ll be the end of you,’ I said.
He’s now selling duty free cigarettes that he smuggles from Langkawi. We are in a new car.
“Only took me one year to buy that.’
We past customs.
“He’s from New Zealand,’ he tells them, as they wave us along.
I’m wondering what else was he picking up or dropping off at the border. I really didn’t want to know.
I hit The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and do what normal people do, I order spaghetti, a salad, a coffee and an apple pie. And I eat it, like normal people. And it really feels great to be normal.
The itches and urge for a shit have gone.
I must be in a safe zone now.