Today Grace and I had a flight from Bangkok to a southern city in Thailand, Hat Yai. As the day of our flight slowly crept closer through the week, my apprehension grew. Grace had been out of sorts, in a terrible, rebellious mood for the entire week. She simply refused to cooperate with anything. She didn’t want to get out of bed, or go for a walk. She would stand at the base of a stairway and refuse to go up. After doing some grocery shopping just the other day, such was the case. A stairway led back up to the main street to get home, but Grace decided she didn’t want to go. A thai policeman ended up helping escort her, he pulling one arm, and I the other, until the top. The policeman saluted us in response to my thanks.
As uncooperative, feisty, and combative as Grace had been acting, I wondered how I would make the journey to the airport with her and our bags.
The plan was to take public transportation to the airport by the BTS skytrain and then a bus. This morning, before leaving to catch our flight, I tried to get Grace to go to the bathroom, as I did every morning. She would have none of it. She fought me getting out of bed, refused to step in the bathroom, and kicked her feet while I put her shoes on, yelling “No, I’m not going!”
Today, she was in the worst mood she’s ever been in during our year of travel. She didn’t want her shoes on, much less her backpack. And there was no way that I could carry all the bags and hold on to Grace, up various flights of stairs, while getting tickets, waiting for the skytrain, getting on and off and changing trains, getting to the bus and on and off the bus. Just getting Grace to walk was proving to be a major challenge this morning.
We went down to the reception of the hostel. I checked us out as Grace drank her milk from breakfast. I told the receptionist that we were going to take a taxi, and then sat down and waited. I knew that taking a taxi instead of public transportation would be many times the price, but it was necessary. Before we headed out to hail a cab, a girl from our dorm checked out as well, saying that she was going to the airport too. How perfect.
We were happy to split the cab fare between us. Grace hopped into the cab easily enough, as sitting is one of her specialties. While talking with the other girl, a 6 month traveler from London, we made easy and direct travel to the airport. A journey that (with public transportation) could have been a nightmare, turned into a peaceful, fun ride. I couldn’t help but smile in complete gratitude that I didn’t have to struggle with Grace, nor fear missing the flight.
We arrived at our terminal with plenty of time and our flight went off without a hitch. As my first ever (outside of the US,) I discovered the beauty of domestic travel. We arrived at Hat Yai airport on a runway with a grand total of four planes on it. The rooms were small, the walk from plane to parking lot short, nothing was crowded and everywhere mostly quiet. What a wonderful, stress-free way to arrive! It hit me how much I am not a big city person. I like my small towns with ample acres of trees.
Out past the taxi drivers, through the parking lot, towards a spot of blue, we easily reached the songthaew “station.” It wasn’t a station really, just a few seats and people waiting. I had read online that the 12km drive from the airport to downtown would cost 300 baht (~$9.60) by taxi but only 50 (~$1.6) by songthaew. A songthaew is like a tuk tuk, which is like a pickup truck with two rows of seats and a cover over it, not quite bus, not quite car. It was local, public transportation, so we had to wait a bit until there were enough people to fill up the songthaew. I had read that 7 people filled it up, but as all things in Asia, 7 spots really means 13 people. So when we had 13 people we all shuffled aboard, everyone helping each other with their luggage and bags. We arranged ourselves in a very squished order, with two men holding onto the back poles, standing on the step, because there were no more seats. But standing, I soon saw, was just as regular as sitting. Locals would jump on the back and hold on for a short ride, then jump off, slip the driver a few bahts, and walk off.
After a while, a good amount of passengers had gotten off, so those remaining had a bit of wiggle room. There was a Thai Muslim couple sitting across from me and Grace who had helped me several times with arranging our bags on the songthaew. His English was good, so he started a conversation and told me about his brother who traveled with a backpack in Vietnam and sister who once worked and traveled in the US. He was young, friendly and talkative and even invited Grace and I to their home. She didn’t understand English, but smiled.
We got off at Kim Yong market, a name that I got corrected on pronouncing a few times. For once the fare was cheaper than I had read online. It came to only 60 baht for the two of us. When paying our fare, the driver gave me 500 baht back too much in change. I handed it back, and as he realized his mistake, a big look of surprise crossed his face.
We smiled and waved goodbye to our songthaew Thai friends and headed to the general area where a hostel was supposedly located. We arrived at the area without seeing a hostel, but popped into a cute coffee shop to eat. The waitress was a teenager with great English. Her and her family lived in the back of the restaurant. Her sister, only a toddling baby, waddled over to smile and giggle at us. We ate your typical meal of fried rice with chicken. By this time, Grace had been acting much better. Who knew what persuaded her, but after alighting the songthaew, Grace voluntarily put on her backpack. At the restaurant she made slow progress, but ate her meal and even seemed entertained by the baby.
I asked the waitress about hostels in the area. She pointed out one that I had apparently walked by. I went to check it out, but found it barred up and closed with a note saying that the bathroom wasn’t working. The hostel note referred us to another sister hostel in walking distance.
I walked back to the restaurant where Grace was still working away at her meal and talked again with the waitress. She called the other hostel and checked the prices for me, and told me the relative location of yet another hostel. As Grace and I made ready to go, the waitress and her brother offered to first go and find where the hostel was, then come back and take Grace and I one by one to the hostel on the back of their motorbike. The gesture was surprisingly kind, but Grace wouldn’t know how to balance and hold on at the back of a motorbike, so off we set on foot.
I followed the waitress’ relative directions and got more concrete ones by inquiry along the way. We reached a part of town that I suddenly realized I had been in before. It hadn’t occurred to me until then, but we had indeed been in Hat Yai in the past! It was only for several hours during a bus change on our way down to KL, but we had walked the streets of Hat Yai previously. It was a strange moment of both dejavu and “Why didn’t I remember that I had been here before?”
We finally reached a hostel, where I tried to ask questions to the girl behind the desk, but she had barely any knowledge of English at all. I gave up and booked our beds for the night. And so we are here, we are happy, and I had almost no struggle from Grace on a day that began so poorly and could have worked out so terribly.
Anxious, I prayed hard last night to Jesus. I told him my fear, worry, and requests about Grace and the flight. In turn He had me open to this verse in II Chronicles 20:17 “Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.” Despite the way things looked in the morning, God kept His promise and everything worked out very well. I have a Father who does marvelous things! 🙂
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