I was able to pick up my visa yesterday and fortunately I had a t-shirt with me because they wouldn’t let me pick it up in a sleeveless shirt, seriously. For women it seemed to be alright but for men it’s a definite no go and as I waited in line I watched two other guys get stopped and denied as well. Fortunately one of them had a t-shirt with him and the other was with his girlfriend who was able to step up to the counter and stand in line for him. I guess at the Thailand consulate in Penang they’re intimidated by man arms so remember to have some sleeves on hand if you plan on getting a visa there.
I see no problem with a man that just walked 30 minutes in the 34C/93F degree heat under the midday sun with a backpack arriving in a sleeveless shirt to pick up his passport. You gotta love culture and tradition, you know the values and customs people have despite much of them being completely illogical like in this case associating respect with sweating your ass off in shoes, pants, and a sleeved shirt and for many of the local women, and girls as young as 3, pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a towel/cloth around their head… even when they go swimming. Maybe if people started dressing appropriately for the tropics they wouldn’t have to burn so much coal and waste so much energy to cool their homes and offices moreover they wouldn’t have to drive or take taxis as much because with proper attire and a decent umbrella walking 30 minutes in the heat isn’t too bad.
Since I couldn’t catch the train or the last direct bus to the Thai border it was suggested I take a minibus. I told the hotel clerk there was no way I was getting in a minibus if I could avoid it. He then told me about the time he took a minibus in Phuket and how he had told the driver to slow down only to have him speed up. He said he just let go and put his life into the hands of some Hindu god. I was thinking I’m not putting my life into the hands of any gods so despite the speed and convenience I had to pass on the minibus because the roads are just too dangerous here in Southeast Asia where although many people are now wealthy enough to own cars most still don’t know how to drive them. In fact as I walked to the consulate to pick up my passport a car rear-ended another one right in front of me and as I took the bus home I passed a freshly flipped car in the ditch, not an uncommon sight here.
Luckily I found a way back to the border by transferring to the last local bus in another city which I literally caught as it was pulling out of the station because I incurred a delay on the way there. If not for my wild animal like senses and reflexes I could’ve walked right into a hole. Below are the before and after pictures of the hole which I did my best to mark before I emailed the tourism authority informing them of the issue. Eventually I made it to the border at night and on foot and after clearing Malaysian immigration I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle through no man’s land to the Thai side. After a night in the Thai border town of Padang Besar and a morning trip to the local market for some fresh fruit I took a local bus to Hat Yai and then another one back home. When I finally got back I went swimming to wash away all the unwanted but unavoidable travel.
Life, enjoy it for as long as nature, smart choices, science, and luck allow you to while avoiding any holes and helping others do the same.