After a few more days and quite a few more drinks in Langkawi, and twice more missing my way out of Cenang, I finally managed to get up early enough to take a taxi down to the jetty in Kuah. My vague, general plan was to wrap up Southeast Asia and get to Taiwan, but travel to Bangkok overland first.
At the terminal I bought a ticket to the Thai port of Satun for the ridiculously cheap price of about $10 and went inside to find some rows of chairs labeled “Waiting Area for Satun”. Fifteen minutes after scheduled departure there were still a lot of people sitting around and no officially-looking folks so I was starting to worry that I missed something. I noticed a girl holding a Canadian passport who seemed to know what she was doing so I walked up beside her and asked “Excuse me, is this the line for Satun?” She turned around with a smile and said it was and asked where I was from. “Scotia, noticed your passport, hows about yourself?” She was from a small town in BC but living in Vancouver these days. She said the only reason she had any idea of what was going on was because she was traveling with a Thai friend (pointed to her a few feet away) who’d been explaining the drill to her. Her friend seemed like she was deliberately looking away from us, headphones in and looking pissed. Her name was Crystal, we talked about where we were going and where we’d been, she’d been planning on a three-week trip but decided to say fuck the return ticket and just go till the money was gone, she was just getting into the travel vibe now. I told her it took me a bit to really get into it as well but I think I had it down now; she said “Yeah I think you do, I can see it in your eyes.”
The security gates open and we went through one at a time, handing over our passports for exit stamps and scanning our index fingers for biometric check-out. In the hallway Crystal ran past me waving and said she had to catch up with her friend who was fifty feet or more ahead. She caught up to her, tapped her on the shoulder, her friend took our her headphones and they started arguing. I aloofed past them and her friend stormed past me, music back in. Crystal walked up beside and sort of scratched her head saying “Clearly we’ve been traveling together for too long but this our last day.”
We reached a second waiting room and I grabbed a seat near a window and pulled out a book. Crystal enthusiastically leaped into the seat next to me with a notebook (a real one, not an electronic one) in her hands. It was full of pencil scribblings about places she was planning on hitting but hadn’t yet, Bali and Vietnam especially and although she wasn’t sure whether or not to go, Laos as well. She started picking my brain about what I knew about the three and I told her I’d been to all three, she lotus-positioned and her eyes grew wide as she said “Tell me everything!” I told her about the Paradise Cave outside of Hue, the bowling alley in Laos, the dickhead ice cream-thieving monkeys of Ubud. I looked over her notes to see what she had… “Oh, Mt. Phousi, I ate mushrooms up there, they were no good but the view was great.” On and on I rambled, she jotted down notes furiously until the next set of doors opened and allowed us onto the boat.
The boat was a sealed-in deal by the looks of it, no way to get on the deck and the windows had tint applied so there wasn’t much of a view. We were assigned seats so I sat down next to a niqab’d chick with an array of shopping bags who didn’t seem like a big talker. We started going and the TVs began playing fucking Sam Smith videos, ugh. The reading light was poor, the view was lousy and the music ate a big sloppy dick so I decided to figure out a way to get onto the deck regardless of my probably-accurate impression that it wasn’t going to happen. I asked a crew member “How do I go up top?” and pointed up. “One hour”, he replied. “Hmmm. No I mean outside. Upstairs. Deck.” I pointed up again. He pointed to a few stairs at the front of the boat with a heavy metal hatch clearly labelled “Emergency Exit”. I took this as implicit permission to go outside using the emergency exit.
I threw on my backpack and went up the three steps to the hatch. Two heavy-duty metal latches held it in place, I snapped them down and started to lift it straight up. Fucking heavy emergency exit. Put a shoulder into it and it flipped open, I pulled myself out into the now-blinding sunlight and saw the water flying past and islands going by us. A loud WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP went off. I looked backward to see a guy, presumably the captain, glaring at me through a window with a what-the-fuck-is-he-doing expression. I jumped back down the stairs pulling the hatch with me, smashing my elbow off the metal edge and pinching a thumb on one of the latches. My eyes adjusted to the darkness in time to see two crew members storming towards me. They gave me the business and I acted like a goofy bastard who didn’t know any better. Their tone softened up and they told me to sit down.
There were some empty sections of seats in the back of the boat and I noticed one that had all the tinting peeled away so I snagged it and enjoyed the view despite the crew’s efforts. Crystal walked over with a huge smile on her face. “You must’ve seen me getting the business eh?” She had no idea what I was talking about, she’d been sleeping, apparently she just has a constant smile on her face so I told her and she burst out laughing. “You seem like you find trouble wherever you go, even on a ferry!” She gave me her phone and asked me to punch in my email address so she could stay in touch, but she had to run to the front of the door when we docked so she could catch a van to make a bus to one of the islands a bit further north or else she’d be stuck with her friend several more hours until the next bus.
The boat began to slow down, I took my time for everyone in a hurry to do their thing, grabbed my bag from the storage cage and walked into Thai customs.