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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Swine syphilis and adventures in a mini-wan (part one)

Continuing my travel blog for the Penguins ahead of the launch of Spud – Learning to Fly

Notwithstanding three delightful near death experiences in the back of a Cambodian tuk-tuk, it has been a rather pleasant trip as far as transport is concerned. That is until we reached Southern Thailand this week. Now to place Thailand in its proper context, it is by far the most prosperous country on mainland South East Asia, primarily because of two reasons: It has never been colonised, and it hasn’t been bombed by the Americans. The contrast between Cambodia and Thailand is almost as stark as the difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Flying via Bangkok to the South Western Thai port town of Krabi, i was thrilled to be tested for swine flu or H1N1 virus, the Scientific name given to prevent pigs from getting a bad name – thanks to CNN the horse has bolted on that one. I myself prefer a terrifying name for these outbreaks – it’s very difficult to imagine terror haunting the streets in the name of H1N1 – i suggest a potentially explosive “Swine Syphilis,” now that’s the kind of name for a real pandemic!

I approached the Swine Syphilis heat scanners with some confidence, assured that i was in spankingly good health despite a scrumptious yet suspicious Cambodian cheese and ham sandwich the day before. I am pleased to report that i passed the scanners with flying colours although Julia’s sneezing attack in the queue did attract some concerned glances from our fellow passengers. After being declared Swine Syphilis free, i immediately asked an important looking airport official if he knew where the loo was. He demanded to see my passport and boarding pass and eyed me suspiciously. He then stamped my passport with raging delight and handed over my documents that now declared me to be yellow fever free. Without so much as a poke in my earhole with an ice cream stick, i was internationally stamped and recognised as one healthy piece of South African meat.


From Krabi we headed South to the seaside holiday village of Ao Nang. The contrast with Cambodia was immediately apparent. Everything was clean, orderly and incredibly smart. There wasn’t even a child beggar or hawker in sight. After a day of travelling and our close brush with Swine Syphilis, we collapsed into bed without dinner and were promptly devoured by sleep and a mosquito plague.

Waking up refreshed and itchy we set about booking a ferry to Ko Lanta, one of the most beautiful of Thailand’s islands. Our request was met with glum faces. The monsoon season has begun and all ferries to the islands have been discontinued. “But,” Said the helpful lady behind the desk, “You can take a Mini-wan.”

“A miniwan?” I replied, astonished that the Thais had invented a Minibus hovercraft.

“Two and a half hour.” She promised as she pocketed my money, “Bus leave 10:00.”

We hurriedly packed up our belongings and lugged our backpacks down the street to wait for the bus.

09:50 Two South Africans sit on the pavement waiting for the miniwan.

10:15 Two South Africans enter into a hotly contested game of “eye spy.”

10:30 The Miniwan approaches packed with morose looking Swedes and a Frenchman with a nagging sniff.

10:32 Miniwan sets off. I page through my guidebook and discover that it is a mere 120km by land to Ko Lanta, although there is still an unexplained stretch of blue on the map that looks suspiciously like the Indian Ocean.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Amitabh</a>
    May 14th, 2009 @01:34 #

    surely not the wine flu...

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    May 14th, 2009 @01:48 #

    I love it when John goes into Adrian Mole mode, that's when he's funniest. This reminds me of the Motorway Madness episode in one of the A.M. books.


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