November 17, 2000 Narathiwat to Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Our border crossing today was another interesting experience, long, hot and very third world. We waited in line for 90 minutes while the one border patrol person typed in each individual name, hunt and peck style. It was clear to see he was not the least bit familiar with a keyboard. It was actually painful to watch. I guess we should be thankful for the fact that he even had a keyboard to work with, but when you are standing out in the noon day sun, with no shade, no refreshment and very little patience left, it’s hard to be grateful.
One of our riders rode up just as I was finished processing. Instead of getting in the very long line, he hopped on the ferry to cross over into Malaysia. Several of us noticed him in the immigration line behind us and told him he needed to go back and check out of Thailand before he could come to Malaysia. He told us to “hush.” So we did. I processed through that line and proceeded to on to the hotel. Later that day, by at least 2 hours, I saw this rider and asked him if his plan worked. It didn’t. They sent him back on the ferry to “check out” of Thailand, before they would stamp his passport for Malaysia. Nice plan, too bad it didn’t work!
We always have someone trying out a new angle.
Malaysia is absolutely delighted to have us visiting the country. We didn’t know it at the time, but the government sent out a “welcome crew” to meet us at the border. They didn’t realize we were crossing at the ferry and so they were at the highway border crossing, the most popular place. They stood there in mass with cold drinks, cake and entertainment, waiting for us. We never showed up. My former bus took that route and were both sad and happy to see the welcoming committee. It was such a shame the rest of us missed it.
My ride to the hotel was uneventful except for the fact I missed a turn but didn’t realize it. I ended up following signs to Kota Bharu rather than the DRG, it resulted in me arriving at least 15 minutes ahead of the people who were in line at the border in front of me. Go figure! When I got to town I got lucky and spotted a yellow head so I knew I was close to the hotel and back “on route.”
Our hotel The Renaissance was brand new, so new in fact that some of the rooms are not completed yet. I got to ride my bike deep into the garage below the hotel where a bellhop checked my bike, giving me a claim check. After having me sign my name to a list, he addressed me as Ms. Kraft and showed me to the stairway to the hotel. It was a little taste of Wow service. I can get used to that very quickly.
t was a long, long day to Merang. There were a couple things that kept me going, first the thought that tomorrow I had a day off and second the kids who lined the streets greeting us. The kids of Malaysia were out in full force today shouting “hello!” Their beautiful faces were so delightful and full of joy to see us, it really pushed me forward. We were heroes to them.
The excitement was contagious. It is absolutely impossible to ride by without acknowledging a hundred shouts of gleeful “hello’s” and waves. I heard little voices shouting from back in the trees, from inside of homes where I suspect they were supposed to be napping, eating or studying. “Hello! Hello! Hello!” It never stopped all day long.
At checkpoint the local government set up a huge welcome buffet with coconut milk served “au natural” in the shell, cake, pastry filled with curry and ice cold drinks. All this was under a huge canopy tent with chairs. They are glad to see us and want us to come back.
This young Muslim girl was enjoying watching us. She is a perfect little lady with her scarf and manners, most of the women (young and old) in this area dress like this. She let me photograph her, then she got shy and walked away. I later thanked and shared my cookies with her. She was probably 10 years old.