GRANDPA YARNS: A very patient trip north
PHUKET:The sound of voices mixed with the thudding of bags dropped on the floor of a six-wheeled truck. People were hustling and bustling to load their bags, boxes of food, and sacks of spare mechanical parts.
Friday 17 June 2011, 02:19AM
Soon the truck was filled with passengers and piles of parcels that would be delivered along the journey north, recounts Grandpa.
The engine fired with a roar that shook the ground in little Phuket Town. This truck, similar to a present day school bus, took passengers on a 130-kilometre drive from Phuket Town over the sea in the north and across to Phang-nga Town.
The trip took 12 hours. “Yes, you heard that right. It was a 12-hour drive,” says Grandpa with a laugh.
The truck ever-so-slowly rumbled through streets with rows of shophouses on either side. The scene gradually changed from that of a busy town to one isolated road, punctuated by small villages.
Then suddenly the truck turned to a different direction, heading out of its way to a mining camp.
“The first delivery,” a woman sitting on the back seat said, seemingly familiar with the deviations of the driver.
When the truck arrived at the mining camp, sacks on the back of the truck were unloaded. The driver ticked off an item from his delivery list and drove on.
After this first delivery, there followed the second, third, tenth, and so on. The truck didn’t just carry passengers but also delivered whatever the mining camps and villages needed along the way, said Grandpa.
Alhough driving a few kilometres took almost an hour, passengers adapted themselves very well to the situation. As the slow bus was the only public transportation available, they had no real choice.
They used the long hours of the drive to get to know each other and to gossip about strangers. Words flowed freely: “Who are your parents? Did you hear about his daughter? I heard that she’s just found a boyfriend...”
Some passengers slept leaning on others. Some unpacked and ate their lunches.
Activities slowed down when the truck approached the northern point of the island.
The smell of the ocean wafted and the salty breeze whipped through the bus. A ferryboat was waiting on the shore at the far end of the dirt road.
The truck was loaded onto that ferryboat that carried it across the sea channel to Phang-nga, there being no bridge like there is today.
When the wheels began rolling on new provincial territory, passengers resumed their conversations.
They had reached the half-way point.
There were yet many hours that needed to be spent in the bus and many more stops along the way.
The long, tedious hours of the journey north taught the virtue of being patient, says Grandpa with his usual wise smile.