Looking back at these 2 days spent at the Thai-Malay border, I realize now how lucky I was (and still am)! Lucky because somehow I always find my way back. Lucky because problems seem to vanish (especially after good comforting food). But mostly lucky because I meet the nicest people on earth; people going out of their ways to help me and make sure that I am safe and enjoying their beautiful country.
This is the story about meeting a man named Bahari (not 100% sure about the spelling, though…) at the Thai-Malay border. Unfortunately my batteries were out, so I don’t have a picture of him, but he’s face is vivid in my mind. I will definitely never forget him…
It all started with a bus ride in Thailand, that took 2 hours more than foreseen. It was a local bus, so full that at one point we were 4 people sitting on 2 seats. These tiny Thai people have a way to push you and make room for themselves! As a Western, you’re used to buy your ticket and have the whole seat to yourself… well, that is clearly not the case in Thailand’s local buses! Unless you push back, you are bound to be literally squeezed against the window during the whole ride! And, to make matters worse, there were loud karaoke songs played on the TV the entire time!
After the usual customs and border formalities (Thai and Malaysia), it was already past 7pm, and I run to the Malay bus station. I was too late, it was already close! I was supposed to take a bus from Pedang Besar to Georgetown in Penang Island. Since there was no bus nor trains anymore, I started to walk around the town to find a hostel for the night.
After I asked 6 different persons for a hostel, and all of them told me there was no youth hostel nor a hotel in this town, I was feeling a bit down and desperate! I was already imagining myself sleeping on the street. And in desperate times, I have to eat sweets or greasy, comfort food! So, I stopped at the nearest snack-bar, and just sat there for a while, feeling completely numb. Some old men were watching a football game, saw me arriving and one of them approached me.
He said: “Hello Miss, are you feeling good? You look a bit lost”
Me: “No, not really lost, just desperate…a bit desperate…”
He said: “Why?” and I just explained my whole story about my Thai bus being late, me crossing the border to find out the last bus to Penang Island had left, and there were no hotels in this town…
He said: “Don’t worry, relax. What do you want to drink?”
Me: “An orange juice”. He went to the waiter, got me an orange juice, and then asked me to join the men watching the football game. His name was Bahari, and he presented me to the table. At one point, I though “This is surreal. I am in the middle of nowhere, drinking orange juice and watching a football game… like it’s normal and supposed to be; like I wasn’t lost at all. This is completely crazy!”
All old men wanted to know more about Belgium, and they had funny questions! What is our best football team, at what age women get married, do we have strawberry fields, what kind of car we have, etc… The conversation went on and on until the football game was finished.
Then, Bahari told me he was going to help me. He was a buddhist and a firm believer in doing good around him. He drove me 30 minutes from here to a hotel, and on the way showed me his buddhist temple. He negotiated with the owner of the hotel to have a discount for the room (as I was on a budget). And once he was reassured that I was alright and settled in, he told me he will come the next morning to pick me up and drop me to the train station in time for the first train to Penang Island! He refused to take my money and just wished me a good night! I felt so grateful and relieved!
Later that night, he dropped by the hotel before going to his work night shift and gave me a Vanilla Cornetto ice cream because I had a bad day and he though it should end well! He just gave it to me, said goodnight and left! I still couldn’t believe what had just happened! Was I really holding a Cornetto in my hands?!?
The next day, he showed up on time, drove me to the train station, went inside to make sure I bought the correct ticket, wished me good luck in my journey and left.
As I sat there to wait for my train, I was in complete shock and utter disbelief! I couldn’t believe it! Who nowadays goes out of his way to help a complete stranger? What was the chance I meet one of the few genuinely nicest man on this earth? One in a zillion?!? That man was my angel, my hero or should I say my buddhist savior! I will definitely never forget Bahari!