Thanksgiving day turned out to be our most grueling travel day to date. We left our hotel at 5:30 AM and for most of the next 17 hours, seemed to go from one uncomfortable form of transportation to another. The ferry was fine but after that things went down hill.
Thailand houses many expatriates who live in the country on short term visas and who have to go to a neighboring country every couple of months to get their passports stamped and visas renewed. Various tour operators organize “Visa Runs”, shuttling folks in and out of the country for visa renewals. Our trip to Malaysia was part of one of these runs. The place we had booked through had guaranteed us that we would be on a full sized, air conditioned bus and we had even been shown a picture of the bus. This was not to be. Once we arrived on the mainland from the ferry we were shuffled to a minibus that was crammed from front to back with people and luggage. It was a far cry from the bus in the picture we were shown. The four of us, legs and luggage on top of ourselves and each other, were squished into the back row for the next 7 hours. When it came time to switch vans the transfer meant running with our luggage across a busy highway and through a few streets to catch the next packed minivan. Throughout this it was in deed an effort to find our happy places. I tried to teleport to the Mickelberry bus and enjoy the comforts of that vehicle but I must need additional training as I stubbornly remained where I was. In spite of the discomfort, the boys were amazing throughout the day and we didn’t hear a single complaint. I actually think they enjoyed the free rein that they had to entertain themselves with electronic gadgetry.
Three mini busses and two immigration points later we entered Malaysia. Although it was already dark, the contrast from Thailand was readily apparent. Malaysia’s highway infrastructure seemed much more developed and single scooters with entire families on board seemed to disappear as did the battered pick up trucks loaded down with humanity. In the dark, the cityscapes and road network could almost pass for North America.
The bus dropped us off in Georgetown, Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage City. As we watched a rat scurry through the open sewer, we were reminded that this area was definitely not North America but as we looked around it was easy to tell that neither was it Thailand. We were looking forward to exploring but it was really late and we were pooped so we were glad to find an absolutely beautiful hotel and to call it a night.
Our traditional Thanksgiving day usually consists of participating in various ways in the Victoria Marathon and hosting or being hosted by wonderful friends after the marathon. Boy were we missing this. I would love to have been cooking a turkey and getting ready for friends rather than jammed into minivan after minivan – BUT – missing home is part of the travel package and you have to take the good with the bad. We were all thankful for the richness in our lives and we didn’t really need a turkey to remind us of this.