I could tell by the obnoxious smell that our ride was up.

That was OK with me. The nightbus we were traveling on just wasn’t that comfortable anyway. It was full, the AC barely worked, and it was painfully slow. I amused myself by talking about tortured souls with the Norwegian girl next to me and by trying to learn some Mayan words while watching Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

As our “VIP coach” gave up in a cloud of poisonous smoke and came to a rolling stop, I knew that we had to be in the middle of nowhere. We were precisely somewhere between Krabi town and Bangkok. To escape the fumes and 90F sweatbox inside, all of us farang climbed out into the tall grass outside and paced around on the highway. The driver popped the engine cover and pulled out a limp fan belt which looked like a dead black snake.

The driver barely spoke 3rd grade English (which is still better than my Thai), so next thing I know he is handing me his mobile phone to talk to a guy apparently at headquarters in Krabi. The guy on the phone must not have spoken Thai or English very well either, I could barely understand what he said…but I did make out that they were sending a new bus up from Krabi to collect us and to please be patient.

I quickly did the math, we had been on the road for 4 – 5 hours of a 16 hour trip, so this meant at least 4 hours of downtime. I handed the phone back to the driver and went around to all the clusters of backpackers to spread the news…

It was time to set up camp.

The beautiful thing was that even though I was the messenger of bad news, I never received a single rolled eyeball or snort in disgust. That is backpacking travel for you. Some people simply shrugged and said “mai pen rai” which is the famous Thai expression that keeps people from loosing their cool around the country. Others spread blankets on the ground, and lucky for us, we had broken down within eyesight of a petrol station, so excursions were sent out for food and beer. Mostly beer it turned out.

Backpackers have the uncanny knack of making the best out of any situation, so not a single complaint was uttered. Sure, we joked, offered to fix it for them MacGyver syle with our belts or straps from bags, etc…but everyone was still in the best of spirits. I love the people that you meet on the road. Well…most of them anyway.

Within a few hours, our salvation came rolling up from the blackness and the party was quickly and efficiently moved from the ground to the bus. I was asleep in minutes, my body was still on borrowed time after having spent all night at the Half Moon party on Koh Phi Phi island before starting this little adventure. When I opened my eyes again at 10 a.m. in the morning, we were sitting a block away from Khao San Road (shudder) in Bangkok.

There is never a dull moment when the world is your playground.

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  1. Get thee to the local bus station!! There’s always some type of fiasco with those farang buses…

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