“Where’s your sticker? How they know you go to Koh Lipe together?” our perplexed hotel manager asked. We told her we were going to Koh Lipe, but we didn’t have a yellow sticker. She looked at us like we got scammed and wished us luck. Stickers, ribbons, notes on your hand, and little slips of paper are how you get around SEA. Without them you don’t get on the boat/bus. Luckily, in this case we arrived at the travel agent and stickers were distributed. We got stickers, we got on the boat.
One of the more interesting incidents was our journey to and from Khao Sok Forest. We got on this mini-bus like we’ve gotten on many buses this trip – wait in the lobby and a driver will arrive an announce your destination. You show him your slip of paper and hope that it gets you to the right spot. We drove around town picking up other travelers from their hostels and then we were dropped off at a bus depot.
As we got off the bus a guy stuck stickers on us that said “Sok” and gave no further instruction. He pulled away and we were left at a crowded bus depot with other confused looking travelers. We wait there, but the bus is late. Everyone’s stickers said something different, so we walked around and found other people with stickers that said “Sok.” Our new mission was to stay with them.
We watch the process unfold. A guy in a Hawaiian shirt is the only one that knows what’s going on. Buses pull up and he yells a destination. It’s pretty hectic and loud, so not everyone hears him. He walks around and reads everyone’s stickers to extract the travelers that didn’t hear the announcement. He points at them and then points to a bus. Everything seems to work out.
On our way out of Khao Sok we may have gotten on the wrong mini-bus at the start. We had a slip of paper and the driver took it, but when he dropped everyone at the pier, we told him (again) that we needed to go to the train station. He dropped us at a local bus depot where we waited, trusting that it would work out. The bus drove clear across town (~45 min ride). We didn’t have a sticker or a slip anymore. We crossed our fingers it would work out. And then it did! We arrived at the train station and bought an overnight train ticket.
So far we’ve magically gotten everywhere we needed to go and trusted that it would work out. Trust is always part of traveling, no matter how far away you are. You trust the pilot to make a safe landing. You trust other drivers on the road to stay in their lane. You’ve just gotta trust that everything will work out. Traveling in SEA just requires a little bit more.