in the bangage]. I flung the door open in my PJs to find an exasperated Mike
standing there: “Let’s go!” “What? Where?…” I jumped in his car with
disgraceful hair and disgracefuller morning breath and sped off to immigration.
on Monday, possibly… but it was meant to be afternoonly and the reality of all
the maybes made me half suspect it would never happen… But there I was at 8am,
stamped out of Thailand with about half an hour to make it to the port to board
some sort of boat that would allegedly take me to somewhere in China for a yet
to be discussed cost… There was no turning back now!
update so people could know where my bodily remains could be located [if it
came to that], got on my bike and pedaled like the wind [on a particularly
my glorious timber boat – Fengshun 3. Mike and May-ee, who I’d met on Saturday
while trying to organize the non-existent, allegedly impossible vessel, met me
onboard. Mike speaks some English and Thai, May-ee speaks Thai and Mandarin and
the crew speak ONLY Mandarin… Through the various interpretation channels my
800 yuan ($125) fee was negotiated, and the rules were laid down:
Under no circumstances am I allowed to go to the
front, the roof, or the captains sector of the ship.
If they point to my room, I need to go there as
quickly as possible and close the curtains.
I am not allowed to disembark in Laos or Myanmar
|Mike and May-ee|
currently illegal to take passengers up the Mekong and that my mere presence
onboard made them far more likely to be targeted by Mekong pirates, of which
there have been a lot lately!
semi-stowaway. There was no need to have hurried though – it took hours before
we eventually departed.
the scenery became increasingly awe-spaculous! I met the crew in bits and
pieces, but with only charades to communicate with I couldn’t even get their
|The shower slash toilet….|
and plenty awkward conversation [I assume] about the stranger in their midst!
At dinner I was overloaded with rice wine (I think) as they “Gambei-ed” me in
rounds trying to out drink me. They did. I was honoured to share a room with
the cook – she won the love and appreciation of both my heart and my stomach!
wheel, 2 men who sat at the front of the boat with bamboo sticks to check the
depth of the water, one man in the boiler room, one man keeping watch, and at
any given time – for no apparent reason – there was always one person doing
laundry. Geraldine was the only one who had any time to spare, so I spent a lot
of time babbling to her – but I tried not to get too attached, I feared she too
may be joining the dinner table soon!
where I sat for a couple of hours with the curtains drawn shut while the world
went by outside, Tuesday morning again. On Tuesday afternoon, after I’d
finished washing my bike (yup – I had to at least pretend to look busy), we had
military board our ship with guns… but the excitement was short lived and they
Every time we hit rapids or a sand bank (which was quite frequently), 2 of the
crew would swim to shore with ropes and tie us to the closest country where an
intricate uber pulley rig would slowly lug us forward to easier waters. The
crew didn’t mess around.
|One section of rapids we conquored|
at the very last light – around 8pm. By 10pm (latest), the generators were off
and a world of moonless darkness with no light anywhere engulfed us. The
others, having worked a 14.5 hour day would all drift straight to sleep, I
would lie awake feeling the bugs crawl on me and having a few unwarranted
reunions with ‘the rat’.
week, so from the second afternoon, any time I saw any sign of civilization my
heart would start beating – “is that China?” – I lost track of how many times I
asked that question– it sucks to not know, not that it would have made much of
a difference I suppose, but I had to ration my coffee and…
|Is this China???|
into Chinese waters – there was no mistaking the flashing lights and massive
“Border police” sign. I packed up all my belongings in anticipation, but it
would still be hours before we reached the port.
stick man number 2 holding her by the neck with something shiny in his hands. I
went straight upstairs – I couldn’t watch – she’d come so close to surviving… Minutes later I watched her be placed on the
roof, along with her cage – stick man motioned a “shhhh!” to me and I breathed
a massive sigh of relief and broke into smiledom!
surprised to find me there and, after they excessively searched some of my
luggage, I touched dry land for the first time in three days. Because all the
forms were in Chinese, it took me 5 attempts to fill in my immigration card,
but apart from that it was problem free. Far too easy even.
and my little Chinese bicycle [and probably most of the other belongings] was