ON THE ROAD AGAIN

“Fuck,” I said aloud as the first of the rain drops hit me.

On the one hand, maybe someone will take pity on me and stop. On the other, who wants to pick up a wet hitch-hiker?

It had been 3-hours since I was dropped off by my host Nina. The only movement I had done was from where I disembarked to where I now stood – exactly 5 steps.

Watching the grey, almost black clouds coming in fast from the east I was hoping they’d just miss. Hope vanished like gummy bears in a kid’s hand as large drops hit the earth with a thud. I grabbed my packs and guitar and ran for cover under the entrance to the gas station shop (in Thailand the gas stations are – literally – gas. The majority of the vehicles run on LPG).

As the rain subsided to a drizzle I headed back to my corner, contemplating calling Nina and asking to stay another night. I’ll head out in the morning, I figured. It’d be easier to walk into the delivery company next to her place and ask who’s heading where.

Then, among the 23 taxis that stopped and almost caused a pile-up, a car with a young couple pulled up.

“Where you go, Mister?”

“Surat Thani,” I smiled. “Where you going?”

“Oh. OK, I take you to bus stop,” he offered.

I managed to explain the point of my travel methods. “Oh,” he said, “this place no good. I take you to gas station. Better for you.”

Finally, going somewhere. I stuffed my gear into the small car and off we drove. They took me about 20 K’s down the road and dropped me off at another seemingly desolate gas station. The turn-off for the U-turn bridge was behind them but in Asia, there are no road rules and he simply threw the car in reverse and managed to reach the ramp without taking anyone out.

Crazy motherfu –

“Where you go, Mister?”

I turned around to the young woman sticking her head out of her car, her husband behind the wheel.

“Surat Thani,” I smiled. “Where you going?”

“Oh. OK, I take you to bus stop,” she offered.

I shook my head and tried to explain the point of my travel methods. Her English was very broken. His was non-existent.

“Oh. OK, I take you to bus stop,” she repeated.

“No, really, I don’t have money for the bus,” I smiled as the rain started to intensify.

“Oh, OK.” She looked at me with such a strong willingness to want to help me.

“Maybe you can take me further down?” I suggested. “Next gas station?”.

“OK,” she moved her seat forward as I opened the door of the back seat. Most of the car windows in Thailand are tinted dark to reflect the glaring sunlight; hence I was surprised to find a 6-year-old boy huddled under a blanket, hiding from the air conditioned air.

I squeezed in my 75 litre pack, my 40 litre day pack and guitar without harming the child and away we went.

“You go Samat Sakhon?” I asked.

“Yes!” the girl answered excitedly.

“Awesome,” I reflected. “Is it OK I come with you to Samat Sakhon?”

“OK,” she grinned and I laid back.

Finally, I’d be outside of Bangkok. The rain started to subside as my luck started to pick up. I figured I’d ask if they might be heading to Phetchaburi.

“Oh no,” she said with a hint of sadness. “Go other way.”

I was dropped off at a bus station. “You take bus to Phetchaburi. 180 Baht,” she informed.

I hopped out of the car and thanked her for the ride, again trying to explain the logic behind hitch-hiking. As I walked past the bus drivers the young family couldn’t understand where I was going. They followed me in the car as I held out my sign by the highway, hoping to reach a gas station.

“Mister, take this. Take bus,” the woman reached out of the car window with 200 Baht in her hand.

I was taken aback by her generosity. I shook my head, politely declining and again tried to explain the point of my travel methods. It almost turned into an argument as her persistence started to become forceful.

Although, my Thai being as good as her English, I could imagine that she was saying, “Take the damn money and get your ass on that bus!”

I managed to shake them off and continued plodding in the rain. There was no sign of a gas station or a break in the clouds. The smell of a biblical storm was all around. It was just a matter of when it would hit.

“Where you go, Mister?”

I turned to look at the guy on the scooter who had pulled up beside me.

“Surat Thani,” I smiled. “Where you going?”

“Oh. OK, I take you to bus stop,” he offered.

Thinking he just wanted a bit of conversation I tried to explain the point of my travel methods. “I don’t have money for the bus,” I smiled back thinking this guy was entertaining himself with the notion of carrying me on the back of his scooter with all my gear. I continued walking as he chugged along beside me.

“Mister,” he began in English more broken than a smashed China vase, “I go home.” Then, using the Google translator on his phone he showed me that he would, ‘Take me forward.’

“On the scooter?” I stopped.

He nodded eagerly. I shrugged. What the hell? I rode on the back of El’s scooter in Alor with my surfboard and the rest of my gear. I handed him my day pack and sat on the back, my 75 litre pack sitting on the tail-end while I balanced my guitar on my left thigh.

“OK,” I tapped him on the shoulder and away we scooted, doing about 40 K’s on the highway. A half-hour later we stopped by a market.

“I buy DVD,” he said as he ran off and came back a few minutes later with a box of re-writable DVDs. “I go home here,” he pointed to the other side of the road.

I collected my gear, thanked him and, after he added me on Facebook, began hiking up the road.

“Where you go, Mister?”

Walking with my sign held out, a car had pulled up next to me. A woman held an infant in her lap and spoke a little bit of English, her husband behind the wheel.

“Surat Thani,” I smiled. “Where you going?”

“Oh. OK, I take you to bus stop,” she offered.

I shook my head and tried to explain the point of my travel methods. Her English was very broken. His was non-existant. I managed to understand her offer to take me to a gas station further up the road. I stuffed my gear in their car and sat back just as the heavens opened up and the torrential rain pounded the land of a thousand smiles.

The woman handed me her phone. “Talk,” she motioned to it.

I took it. “Hello?”

She had called a friend who spoke English and I managed to explain my method of travel, where I needed to go and why I needed to be let out at a gas station-slash-truck stop. I handed the phone back to the woman who listened to her friend and did a lot of ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing.’

She explained to her husband and then she tried to tell me that she’ll take me to a police station as they could arrange a truck heading south to take me and it would be safer.

“Sure, that’d be great.”

We drove through the wall of water for almost half an hour until we pulled into a gas station. The woman hopped out, popped into the 7-11 and came back, handing me a packet of custard-filled bread and a small bottle of water.

“Wow, kharp-un-krap!” I thanked her.

15 minutes later we pulled into a truck weighing station. The woman jumped out, talked with the policeman there and it was here that I was let out.

The policeman helped carry my guitar and small pack, offered me coffee (which I gladly accepted) and a pack of 2-minute noodles. I sat down to eat and munch on some fruit I had brought – langosan, the lychee-styled fruit which had become a favourite of mine. I offered the fruit to the officer and his partner as I finished up and washed the bowl and cup.

The rain hadn’t stopped but had become a trickle. I asked for permission and stood at the end of the weigh station with my sign as the trucks rolled in. 10 trucks rolled through until number 11 offered to take me to, “Phetchaburi.”

The officer spoke with the driver just as another truck pulled up. The driver grinned from ear-to-ear and pointed at my sign. “Sura Thani,” he read and pointed to himself.

I lit up. “You go Sura Thani?”

He nodded.

“I come with you?”

He nodded.

I shook hands with the first truck driver that had pulled over and thanked him for stopping (he looked like he needed a break anyway) and stuffed my gear, with the help of the police officer, onto the bunk of my new ride, a 48-ton gas powered Nissan carrying tarp-covered cargo.

I shook hands with the police officer, thanking him kindly. He tried to convince me to take the rest of the 2-minute noodle packets but I declined politely.

My driver, Tont (pronounced, ‘taunt’) had absolutely no English in his repertoire and using the Google translator on his phone, asked me to let him know when and if I needed a toilet break. We hit the highway and no sooner had he shifted up to the second gear when the rain’s coffee break was over and it resumed its torrential state – for the next 10-hours straight.

I dozed off every couple of hours. During the periods I was awake I could see that Tont was connected to his phone as if it were an IV. He was texting, calling, talking and surfing the web, all while navigating his truck on the wet highway.

Yet, I felt safe in his hands.

As darkness fell, we pulled into a truck stop for a toilet break and dinner. Tont shouted me a chicken-based rice dish. We continued on with a few more pit stops. At about 01:30, when we were an hour away from Sura Thani, he began to weave across the road. Just as I was about to suggest we pull over for a power-nap, he tapped into his phone and handed it over.

The Google translator read, ‘Half hour sleep.’

“Perfect,” I grinned as he pulled over just before a set of lights. He set the alarm and we dozed off.

At 03:30 we woke up and, with the rain having stopped and the sky clearing up, I stuck my head out of the window as we hit the road and saw the starry Thai sky. I was glad we had overslept as he dropped me off outside a gas station on the outskirts of Sura Thani at 04:30. I thanked him, shook hands and headed into the dining area. A bus  had pulled in as I sat down.

Three men approached me and sat down to talk, practicing their English. I told them my story as they told me theirs. During our conversation they bought me a coffee just as a young girl of about 12 sat beside meת grinning. She touched me on the arm to grab my attention. I turned towards her and she waved at me. I waved back with a smile and continued to converse with the men. She touched me on the arm again and said, “Phone number.”

“You want my phone number?” I clarified.

She nodded and pointed at the table behind the men. Three women were sat staring at me, whispering between them. One of them was undressing me with her eyes and signaled that she had sent her daughter to ask for my number. She was an attractive woman and I smiled back, nodding in gratitude at the complement.

I played it dumb and continued to converse with the men while the girl kept asking me for my number. An hour later, the group headed off just as the sun rose and I took up my position on the road with my sign.

10 minutes later a woman had stopped for me. I saw that she had a Pincher in her lap as she pulled over and got out.

“Where are you going?” she asked in conversational level English.

“Sura Thani to get to the boat to Koh Samui,” I said. “Are you headed there?”

“I can take you to the road that goes to Koh Samui,” she offered.

Better than nothing. I stuffed my heavy gear in her boot and hopped in the front only to be confronted by two yapping Pinchers.

If there’s one breed of canine that I really cannot stand or figure out how the hell they’re classed as dogs and not oversized rats, it’s the Pincher. In a car with all the windows up, a Pincher’s yap turns to an ear-drum tearing level. Two Pincher’s yapping could lead a man to grab the wheel and drive the vehicle into oncoming traffic. But I fought the urge as she managed to settle them down.

Every time I looked at them they would yap so I avoided eye-contact.

A half hour later, I was dropped off at a gas station. I stood by the road and waited for the ringing in my ears to subside, brushing off the dog hairs as I held up my new sign to Koh Samui.

A huge oil tanker had pulled into the station. As the driver fueled up, he was watching me. I guess he took pity on me as he yelled out to me that he could take me half way. Grateful, I clambered up to his truck, piled on my gear and away we headed.

His truck horn, which he blasted every time anything overtook us or pulled into the traffic, seemed to be facing into the cabin as it only added to the Pincher produced ear-ringing.

An hour later he dropped me off at the intersection that lead from the 401 to the 4142 (Don Sak District) and eventually to the ferry to Koh Samui. Thanking him, I walked down the road until I found a spot just over the bridge, opposite the Pak Phraek post office.

I held up my sign and soon enough a coach had pulled over.

“Where you go, Mister?” the driver’s assistant asked.

“Koh Samui,” I said, hoping that perhaps all the windows would open like at the end of Dumb & Dumber and a Swedish bikini team would stick out their heads (and a little bit more).

“Come,” he gestured.

“No money,” I gestured back.

“Is OK,” he said and I climbed aboard only to be greeted by a very solemn looking bunch of what I presumed to be Thai workers heading towards the islands for a job that they hated. It was the first time I had encountered a group of Thai people and not one of them smiled.

I sat upfront and dozed off. Half an hour later we pulled into the ferry terminal. I thanked the driver and his assistant, and with fifteen minutes to spare, I boarded the slow boat to Koh Samui.

At 09:00 we chugged off for the two-hour crossing. We passed islands that I had only ever seen in travel magazines and grinned to myself as I reflected on the beginning of my hitching, where I had just about given up, and here I was, sitting in the ferry about to disembark on the sandy beaches of Koh Samui.

Reaching the island by 11:30, after declining taxi drivers that wanted 600 Baht to take me to the other side where the Vikasa Yoga Retreat stood perched on the cliffs and my week long yoga session was too begin. After declining the offer of a scooter taxi, I finally hopped on a red bus – which was a pick-up truck with a converted tray for sitting and a rooftop for shade.

I explained to the driver and showed him on the map on my phone where Vikasa was as it didn’t appear anywhere on the maps and not a single driver had heard of it, let alone knew where it was. We started driving and as I followed the blue dot on the Google GPS, I noticed he had missed the turn. The driver stopped outside of a resort.

“Here,” he said.

“No, I told you Vikasa Yoga,” I said slowly. “Near the Samui Beverly Hills resort.” I pointed to the map. “You understand?”

He nodded but did not look happy. He asked a passing red bus for directions, but he too had no idea. I was tired and just wanted to arrive. I called him over.

“Let me sit up front with you, I show you the way.”

He agreed and we U-turned, passing the left turn that I pointed out for him to take.

“No, no,” he said. “Only motorbike go there.” He pulled over. I again pointed out the location on the map.

“We are here,” I indicated to the blue dot. “We need to go here,” I pointed to the red drop pin.

“No. That 400 Baht,” he demanded.

“What?” The terms had already been agreed upon. “I showed you on the map. You said, ‘OK’ for 100 Baht.”

He shook his head.

“Fine,” I got out. “You get nothing.” I grabbed my gear and started to walk down the road. A taxi pulled over. I explained my situation. “I only have 100 Baht on me.”

He immediately declined and drove off.

A little ahead a woman had waved down a taxi. The driver asked where I was headed. Again, I explained my situation. “Look, no one wants to help me. I’m begging here. I honestly only have 100 Baht.” I emptied my pockets. “See? If I had more I would give you more.”

The driver looked at me and smiled. “OK,” and he took me and the woman (who was heading in the general direction) for 100 Baht a piece.

“You are a good man,” I said, shaking the driver’s hand after he dropped me off outside of Vikasa.

27 hours after I had started, I met my host, Betti, who shouted me a well-deserved coconut drink as we sat down and I relayed my story.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Hitch Hiking, Thailand | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “ON THE ROAD AGAIN

  1. Pingback: VIKASA YOGA RETREAT | The Nomadic Diaries

  2. Awsome! What an adventure! I wanna try to hitchike from Krabi to Bangkok…. Any tips? :)
    Thank you and, by the way, very nice article!

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