We’re leaving Singapore this morning. Taking a bus into Malacca, Malaysia, taking a coach rather. Taking a luxury massage coach to be exact. The only way to travel, apparently.
To be honest I have no idea what to expect, no-one in my party does. I mean, a massage coach?
“Yes, very comfortable,” nods the generously proportioned agent the steaming night before as we try to choose from a mini mall of coach operators. She has a gleam in her eye, a wicked sense of humor. Right then we’re not sure whether it’s working for or against us but the night is hot and too intimate and our clothes are slipping off us, or trying to.
“Be here tomorrow, 11am. My sister will be here. She looks just like me.” Another smile, another almost wink. Is there a sister? Is there a coach, a luxury massage coach?
The next morning it’s there, resplendent. On the back in big Vegas-type lettering: First Class Massage Coach. We throw our baggage in the open belly below and climb the steps into the lofty interior. We are instantly assailed by the décor, most prominently its upholstery. It appears to have taken its cue from the psychedelic mayhem of cruise ship carpets.
The loud upholstery matters because it’s spread about quite a bit; the seats are weirdly wide and opulently deluxe, if there is such a thing. Once we’re over the shock of the Type A color scheme we settle into the vast chairs. They are clean and comfortable. We can do this, in fact, why aren’t all coaches like this? So mean are they normally, so mean and understated in dimension and color. The air conditioner transports us to arctic climes and we’re off.
Out the large windows, past the frippery of drapes, Singapore folds seamlessly into Malaysia and I, forehead against the pane, fall in love. Good, a coach is so much of a better thing than a plane. So much more to do with your eyes.
We try the massage feature and feel instantly nauseous. Nope, mobile massages are disconcerting, especially if you’re a short person and the neck and shoulders part of the program does suggestive things to the crown of your head.
Outside green goes past. Green of all kinds, such fanciful trees; some emerge from the ground like bouquets, some like rattan fans. Palm trees, slim, languid, shimmering green against green, layers of it.
Apparently we are not like the normal passengers. The normal ones find the trip boring. Screens drop down from the ceiling and the virtual land of Pandora in all its frondy exuberance bursts forth. Everyone is sucked into Avatar’s green world with blue people. I put my headphones on to shut out the blare of the soundtrack and stare fixedly out the window trying, and succeeding, to keep my jungles separate.
Hours later the bus pulls up at the central station in Malacca. The movie continues. Nobody moves. How sweet, how strange, apparently no-one wants to miss the end of the movie. This is Malaysia-time. Apparently the driver will wait for the passengers to see what happens in the end.
We decide not to get up and ruin the atmosphere for everyone.
Too slowly it dawns on us. All the other passengers are going on to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone is waiting patiently for us to collect our things and get off the bus.