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Sun 12 Oct. Singapore.
My flight from Cairns is delayed by five hours, meaning a relatively easy 6pm arrival time has turned into arriving completely blind in a new continent with no currency, guidebook or bed for the night at a freckle short of midnight. "We apologise for any inconvinience this may cause" say Quantas, brightly.
15 minutes after walking through Singapore customs (including waiting for the three most irritating Americans in the world to stop bellowing at each other in front of the ATM) I have a fistful of Sing$, a bed in the YMCA and a shuttle from the airport. Damn, I'm good at this travelling thing.
Mon 13 Oct. Singapore.
Torrential rain falls on the shopping-centre nation. Seek shelter with a bowl of Laksa under the canvas roof of a street food hawker centre while tiny cats hunt cautiously between the tables.
Tues 14 Oct. Singapore.
After dry martinis in Raffles with J.M. of Scuba-SE, I spend an entire wet, sweaty afternoon trying to buy a simple coach ticket to Thailand. After several hours going round in (helpful, smiling) circles, I find someone who is prepared to sell me one. However, inevitably, school holidays have just started (I am becoming convinced they are following me around giving the little brats special holidays just to annoy me), and the 'luxury' coaches which arrive at a civilised time of the morning are full for the forseeable future. Book a seat on the (10 quid) cattlebus that gets in in the middle of the night. Why do I do this to myself!?
Unwind and cool off with a swim in the YMCA rooftop pool as the skyscrapers of Singapore light up around.
Wed 15 Oct. Malaysia.
2pm: Climb on board the surprisingly comfortable bus to speed across the bridge to Malaysia. The Malay passport guy looks at my request for a mere 24 hours in transit, and extravagantly stamps me a clear two month visa 'in case I change my mind'. Back on the bus, my fellow passenger is a lovely Thai girl with about 6 words of English, who feeds me fruit and sunflower seeds.
1am: A little less endearingly, my travelling companion has taken to pinching me every 5 minutes to giggle 'Good night!'
Malaysia passes in a blur of darkness, tropical rain, palm trees and jungle. Sorry, Malaysia - next time. Familial apointments call.
Thur 16 Oct. Thailand.
5am: Get to the Malay side of the border with an hour to wait until border control opens, giving a fine opportunity to view the gentle art of Malaysian queue barging. A saffron robed monk pushes past but I'm not quite sure whether I can say anything - maybe his monkdom gives him special queue privileges? However, the undisputed champion is a tiny, deferential moslem lady who comes out of nowhere, passes me effortlessly and gets through the exit gate a good half hour ahead.
8am: In the concrete bustle of the southern city of Hat Yai, get mildly ripped off for a ticket to Ko Samui. Gobble a pastry on the street to stave off the worst hunger pangs, before climbing into a Farang packed minibus.
2pm: Change buses again in Surat Thani.
4pm: Emerge from a valley lined with eggbox shaped hills to the coast, and board a big old rustbucket of a ferry, which creaks ominously as we climb aboard. The wreck of another old ferry in the water next to the jetty is a nice touch, well judged to instill confidence.
7pm: After 29 hours, two coaches, one minibus, one taxi, two sangthaews, one ferry, three countries and four passport stamps, I've got to the same beach, on the same island, in the same country as my sister. All we have to do now is meet...
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