27 April

At 10 a.m. we boarded our super-duper-luxury-bus bound for Jakarta. The trip, although reasonably comfortable, was thoroughly unpleasant as the bus was crowded with chainsmoking Indonesians and contained an as yet an imagined horror of Asian travel: the non-stop karaoke video.¹

Sumatran Bus Station.

I passed most of the journey plugged into my Walkman and imagined what lay in the impenetrable blackness of the jungle.

¹Imagine this. It is night. You have just re-boarded the bus after a late dinner at some wayside joint in a jungle clearing. Every passenger, except you and your hapless companion, lights up a cigarette the moment they are seated…no notion of smoking outside while the bus was stationary. Now begins several hours of little Indonesian men screeching along to karaoke songs with the treble turned up to full. Your favourite horror is Winds of Change by the Scorpions, re-recorded by some local pop star who sings “winna-chain” instead of “winds of change.” 

But now the karaoke is replaced by some garish kung fu movie, with the colours all askew and the volume (and treble) up at full. Eventually, the movie ends. But the driver, more asleep than awake, leaves the video player running. The speakers emit a steady screech of static and white noise. No one else notices…they all fell asleep halfway through the movie.

You sit there, lost in a dark world of rage and hatred. Your girlfriend is asleep as well. Is this one of the circles of Hell? You rise, walk down the length of the bus and say to the driver, as politely as you can: TURN THAT FUCKING THING OFF!!

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