Triple Ride to Buddha
By Nisha Jha
“Are you sure you can take us there?” I asked, pointing to his 125 cc motorbike.
“Okay, okay”, those were the only words he could speak in English besides negotiating rates on a calculator.
“Are three persons allowed? Police?” I tried to keep the vocabulary to the minimum.
“Okay, Okay, no Problem”, said the motosai (motorbike taxi) driver.
Motorbike taxi drivers, in their bright orange or red vests, trying to woo customers is a common sight in most South East Asian countries.
Hesitantly we agreed, negotiated a price and adjusted ourselves behind him on the motorbike. No helmets for two of us but nothing to worry about. After all, we had seen as many as four locals riding a single motorbike.
We wanted to go to visit the Big Buddha. Every day of the past one week we would see Him sitting atop a hill, from our hotel room’s window and promise ourselves that we will visit it before we leave Phuket.
Unfortunately the normally ubiquitous Tuk-Tuks were conspicuous by their absence and that evening we just had enough time to go and return to our Hotel for the big New Year Party.
I had an inkling it was going to be fun, especially since we had earlier tried to rent a motorbike and we were categorically told that it would be near impossible for a 100 cc bike with 2 persons to reach the top of the hill!
I was sitting at the rear end, half hanging from the bike with a backpack on my back, doing its bit to pull me down further. First two kilometers were quite uneventful and then started our adventure ride up the hill.
The curvy road, cutting through the forest, was under repair at many stretches with only one lane operational. In other areas the road was just loose gravel. The motorbike was making a grunting sound on that slope and the driver was pushing us further back. He was a frail guy and I thought the motorbike would stand up anytime on its rear wheel if the slope was a bit steeper or if we gave him more space.
We wanted to go slow, stopping along the way to capture the essence of the forest. Sounds of monkeys yelling & jumping and chirping of different birds as they returned to their nests were too tempting not to stop.
We could also see elephants but all our efforts to get him to stop failed.
Every time there was a big oncoming vehicle, we would be forced to the edge. While not a sheer drop, but the sight was scary enough for me to close my eyes and cry “Oh Buddha, please save us to see you” !
We reached the top after about 30 minutes with me sweating profusely in the not so warm evening.
Phuket’s Big Buddha is one of the most important and revered landmarks. Sitting on a hill top, a 45 meter gigantic statue of Buddha made in marble invites people from far away places.
It was already dark by the time we finished enjoying the view of Chalong bay and its lights. Sight of Buddha had made us forget the frightful ride.
Before we commenced our descent, we requested him, “Drive very carefully, we are not in a hurry”.
“Okay, okay”, pat the reply. I sincerely think he understood the opposite.
Then our ordeal started again … in the dark as there were no road lights. The headlight of the moto was very weak. We could hardly see even a few meters ahead of us. The sounds of nocturnal insects and birds made the scene even more eerie.
We skidded more often on the gravel now and wobbled a couple of times. I was even contemplating walking the rest of the way.
To top it all, the moto driver got a call on his mobile phone. Instead of hanging up with a few pleasantries, he continued his conversation probably planning his own New Year party!
He was talking on the phone which was stuck in his helmet on one side over his ears. Obviously our yelling fell on deaf ears.
I now found myself screaming “Oh Buddha, oh Buddha!”.
The big draw was since we were going down the hill, the combined weight of the two of us was bearing him down. He was constantly trying to push us back, while maneuvering the sharp turns and hairpin bends, while avoiding the oncoming traffic and avoiding falling down in a ditch.
Once we reached the plains at the bottom he stopped for a minute re-adjusting all of us. That’s when I noticed the reason for him pushing us back and we laughed so hard. The bike did not have the usual gas-tank between the seat and the handle bars. The design was more like a scooter and the poor guy was occupying all of 3 inches available to him!
I guess part of the reason for me being happy was that we were safely back to enjoy our evening’s poison.
About the Author
Indian woman, global traveler, travel writer and blogger. That’s Nisha Jha. She has travelled to more than 20 countries but her idea of traveling is “counting the number of memories, not places”. Nothing excites her more than learning and relishing life’s simple little pleasures about new places, people and cultures. Her articles are published and featured in a number of travel sites and magazines including some in-flight magazines. Nisha calls her website “Le Monde – A Poetic Travail“, where she writes about her sweet and sour experiences around this globe. You can connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter: @cemonde