HITCH…what around Thailand?

You can’t even imagine how many times this famous quote from my high school (can’t really translate it properly but it’s something like „even though it’ll take longer, the journey will be very bad“)  crossed my mind during those 36 hours I spent travelling around places that not only did I not know, I wasn’t even able to pronounce them properly.

Even though Mario was a little bit limited by time as he had to get his ass back to Bangkok the next day to pick up his Indian visa and even though the only thing I managed to Google about hitchhiking in Thailand was that Thai language doesn’t even have a word for hitchhiking, we decided to do it anyway and left Koh Lanta for Trang (which is about an hour away) very early in the morning in the most packed minivan ever. We were brought into Thai reality once again, when we forgot to multiply the given time information by three so we were glad that we got dropped off at the Trang bus station at noon. We’d been on da road for four hours only but even walking from one end of the town to the other in the 40 degrees heat with backpacks heavier than what we were physically able to carry was a real challenge for us.

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Luckily, we became Trang’s biggest attraction and a random driver stopped and offered us a ride for a few miles. We found the cleanest restaurant we’d both seen in this part of the world, quickly ate a 1 dollar lunch because we weren’t sure when (and if) this opportunity comes again and started walking towards what looked like the highway to the north. We found the perfect hitching spot after only a few minutes so we dropped our backpacks on the ground, raised our thumbs and after about an hour of waiting while hundreds of passing cars were honking at us, waving at us or taking pictures of us, a guy from a shop nearby approached us and offered us a ride to the bus or train station.

„Oh thank you but we don’t wanna go to the station.“

„Taxi?“

„We don’t have a lot of money, we are trying to get a free ride.“

„I give you money, train from Trang to Bangkok?“

„Awww, thank you but we don’t want your money, we just want a free ride, we do this because we enjoy it. We’ll wait, someone will stop sooner or later, thank you.“

„Trang station? Bus? Train? Money for you!“

Oh fuck, this was gonna be harder than we‘d thought. After about half an hour of trying to explain what we were doing there and what we wanted, he came back with a very useful information that his cousin and nephew could take us for a bit with them as they were about to head to the north too. „For a bit“ is also very underrated in Thailand so after about 100 miles, when we got closer to a town we knew from the map, we asked him to just drop us off on the motorway as he was determined to take us to the train station which was somewhere we didn’t want to end up at.

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Awesome, the sign by the motorway said that it was only 100 miles to Surat Thani – a town where Mario was gonna take a train to Bangkok from. It was only quater past four and the sun was still out so no problemo at all. As soon as we said it though, it started to piss it down so heavily that we had to hide in a very random furniture shop. We were soaking wet but at least we were more motivated to make another move. We bought some food, water and cigarettes in the garage, wrote Surat Thani on a piece of paper, raised our thumbs and for the next half an hour posed for all the passing cars taking pictures of us like we were some monkeys in the zoo 🙂

We didn’t even notice that a massive truck stopped behind us. I started to run towards it when the driver shouted at me. After a few phone calls with his friend who could speak a bit better English and trying to show him on the map where we needed to get to, he agreed to take us as he was going the same way. Just when we thought that everything’s cool and we were really going to make it to Surat Thani before night time, the driver took advantage of a gap in the concrete blocks placed on the motorway between norhern and southern way, took a U-turn and we had no idea about what was going on. Mario and I didn’t say a word, we only exchanged a few where-the-fuck-are-we-going looks and hoped for the best. The highlight was when the driver found an „English for beginners“ book and tried to find the perfect phrase to break the ice while driving through the mountains on a very narrow road. While the driver was studying English very hard, he also managed to roll and smoke three cigarettes, drink two energy drinks, make two phone calls, play tetris on his phone and spread tiger balm all over his back to finally point to the sentence that was guaranteed to make a fluent conversation.

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„Is this your first visit in Thailand?“, I read out loud for him and Mario and I nodded. That was the end of it as it got dark and none of us was able to read that magical book anymore. We still weren’t quite sure where we were going to but luckily straight after we’d seen the sea (!!!), the gps on my phone woke up. Even though it wasn’t the plan (not that we had one anyway), we managed to get from the West coast (Koh Lanta) to the East coast in one day, yay! 🙂

The driver stopped at the petrol station after about three hours of driving and told us it wasn’t too far to Surat Thani but he was heading a different way. 70 fucking miles!!! That was the number we saw on the sign nearby! It was dark everywhere and there were hardly any cars around. The situation didn’t look great as we already knew how difficult it is to hitchhike in Thailand. I still can’t believe it but before we even stuck our thumbs up, a random car spotted our Surat Thani paper and we got offered (by almost fluent English) to be driven all the way up to Surat Thani!

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We got to Surat Thani train station in about an hour, thanked the driver and Mario went to check what time the train to Bangkok was leaving. I sat down on the pavement, lit up a cigarette, guarded our backpacks and patiently waited. I knew I didn’t wanna go to Bangkok just yet, my plan was to stay in the town for a night and hit the road early in the morning to hitchhike to Chumphon which was about 190 miles away. From there I wanted to get an overnight train to Bangkok. Simple plan, huh? 🙂

„The train is leaving in four minutes, Mon,“ said Mario when he got back and when I saw a piece of paper in his hand that really looked like a train ticked, I knew he wasn’t joking and I thought I was gonna cry. So this is how it ends after all the adventures we’ve been through together? Do you expect me to just say good bye and hope that one day we’ll meet again? I could barely say a word, I only hugged him, wished him good luck on his two month adventure in India and that was it. I was shocked. He really did take that train, he was gone and I was standing there with no clue where to go. I started to wander through the unknown streets, tried to ignore all the barking dogs that were following me and stopped at a building which promised at least a bed and shower. Queen hotel, that was the name of the place where I, at that point completely exhausted, put 250 Baht (7 dollars) on the reception desk, got a room key and tried not to faint while walking up to the third floor where I was supposed to spend the night. I didn’t even put my backpack down though and I knew I was definitely not going to stay in that filthy room. Even though I was wearing hiking boots, as soon as I walked into the room, all kinds of bugs started crawling up my legs and the floor was literally covered by cockroaches, ants, spiders and geckos. Completely frightened, I shut the door and walked back downstairs to ask for a different room or a refund. „No refunds and all other rooms are full.“ Bullshit! It doesn’t happen very often that I don’t win an argument but after a few minutes I realised that even though my reasons to argue were great, I’m not going to get anywhere with his shitty English anyway so I gave up and left the fucking queen hotel.

I had no idea where to go, all the streets were empty (apart from a bunch of barking dogs on every corner) and I hadn’t seen a white person since Mario left me so I decided to go back to the train station. I lied down on the floor with my head leaning on my backpack and just burst into tears. I had a bit of an emotional moment over there, I just had to let it go. I took a little nap but I was woken up when unknown liquid splashed all over my legs (I’d rather not know what it was). I needed to move somewhere. According to the map, I wasn’t far from the airport, judging by looking at the empty dark streets though it was impossible to get there by foot. With the tears still in my eyes, I managed to negotiate the price of a taxi to minimum and I was off to a much safer and comfortable place. Safety and comfort were the two things that the train station in Surat Thani was missing.

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To my even bigger shock than the filthy room, the fucking airport was shut. Until then, I didn’t know that airports ever get shut but Thailand proved me wrong once again. So now I’m properly fucked. My phone died, I didn’t know where to go and I also didn’t know how safe it was to wander around a shut airport so I grabbed my twenty kilo life and followed the road leading from the airport. The road was very narrow and surrounded by a jungle from both sides and yeah, I admit it, I was a bit scared. After a while I noticed a little light in the distance. I got closer to it and saw a hut full of guns. Soon I realised though that there was nothing to be scared of. The security guards spoke a little English, they let me charge my phone over there, fed me rice and curry and once they wrote Chumphon – the name of my destination in Thai on a big piece of paper, they walked me all the way up to the highway 🙂

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It only took like two minutes and a big truck totally packed with people stopped. They said they’d take me all the way up to Chumphon if I didn’t mind sitting in the trunk. I was so tired that I really didn’t give a shit about spending the next 200 miles stuffed between boxes full of god knows what. I tried to fall asleep but the strong wind wouldn’t let me and for the first time in this part of the world, I even had to dig deep into my backpack to pull out a jumper. When I finally started to feel a little comfortable, the truck suddenly stopped and I got the chance to get a very intimate contact with the content of the mystery boxes. Of course, I was unlucky enough to have the one with fish inside spilt all over me. All my clothes, including my backpack, were soaking wet and I was sitting there in a puddle of fishy water. I really didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry so I decided to just ignore the situation because there wasn’t much I could do once the truck hit 100mph again 🙂

The family dropped me off at the train station in Chumphon and I finally heard good news. The train for Bangkok leaves in 35 minutes! I sat down on a bench, patiently awaiting my train and trying not to think about what I smell or look like. I was really looking forward to getting some sleep on the train. I had no fucking idea what the hell was going on when the timetable suddenly showed a 6 hour delay for my train. When this information turned out to be right, I really thought I was gonna pass out. I managed to kill some time talking to a guy who’d been waiting for that train for three hours already. In the end, the overnight train turned itself into an overday one and after 9 hours of waiting at the station, I finally left Chumphon at 9.35am.

I got to Bangkok eleven hours later after travelling in the third class on the train full of Thai people leaning on each other, on the train where air con was a rude word and of course I sat down next to a window that wouldn’t open, on the train on which for the first time in my life I wished I was a boy so I could pee into an empty bottle and not come anywhere near to what was supposed to be a toilet and on the train where I realised that smoking really can kill when I almost fell under the train while standing behind two carriages 🙂

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KOH LANTA, paradise on Earth

Even though Mario and I travelled down south during the water festival (Songkran) which is the busiest period in Thailand, we were lucky enough to get a ticket for an overnight bus leaving the same day as we left the farm. The fourteen hours long journey wasn’t bad at all except when I woke up totally soaking wet at 3am.

„Oh my god, I pissed myself,“ was my first thought because I’d been trying to avoid using the bus toilet for as long as possible and I’d really drunk a lot of water so it wouldn’t surprise me at all (not that it happens to me all the time haha). „Luckily“, I was wrong because when I looked out from the window, I saw it was pissing it down and the hole in the roof explained everything 🙂 The steward moved me to another seat and gave me a dry blanket so I could keep dreaming about finally getting into our destination – Krabi.

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A few people told us about two beaches we should definitely check out – Railay and Ton Sai – so we decided to go there first. There is no road connection between Krabi and Railay but it only took us about 15 minutes to get there by long tail boat and another 15 minutes to figure out it’s way off our really low budget to stay there so we moved to Ton Sai straight away.

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The minute we got there, I started to regret that I’d left all my climbing gear back in the UK because it was a climbing paradise! We managed to get a really cheap bungalow but we knew we wouldn’t wanna stay for longer than one night because apart from climbing and getting high in a little jungle village, there was absolutely nothing to do.

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We had a few beers in the evening though, met a lot of travellers and played pool on a table that was as straight as me. First thing in the morning, we said hi to our changover and off to the most beautiful island Koh Lanta (that’s what they say) we went. And yep, it was exactly the place we were dreaming of. Beautiful white sandy beaches, almost no backpackers and a lot of pretty girls. After about an hour of searching for the perfect place to stay, we were almost at the point of giving up when we saw the most amazing resort ever.

„800 Baht (16 pounds) per night,“ told us this lovely Thai woman and we knew that if we get into the right negotiating mode, we’ll get there.

„600?“, we were trying.

„No, 800 Baht,“ she wouldn’t give up.

„500 with no air con?“, asked the smartest guy on the planet – Mario.

„Alright, deal,“ yeaaaah, we got it!!!

Yeah, we managed to get a really spacious bungalow with a nice clean bathroom, fridge, safe, terrace (and free coffee and water) for only 10pounds a night. And what’s more, it was only a 20 second walk to the most beautiful beach in Koh Lanta from there.

Of course we had to check out all the bars and bar girls on our first night. Pia (our fellow volunteer from the farm) was staying on Koh Lanta too so  she came down to see us and yep, as predicted, Mon got so drunk that she even decided to get high (I know, call me a retardo). Yeaaah, I knew the consequences but sitting there in a hammock in the rooftop bar overlooking the sea and stars so close to me I could almost touch them just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do something stupid. At least I had a chance to catch up with my blogging the next day which I spent all in the bed complaining about dying of changover 🙂

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The sunsets on Koh Lanta were absolutely stunning. I realised that I’d actually never watched the sun set over the sea until then and it felt just awesome. When the darkness covered the sky, the sea turned into something you can’t just describe by simple words. That night I spent good three hours just sitting on the shore watching the waves. Every single one of them left a trace of shining blue lining all over the beach when it brought thousands pieces of little plankton. Unfortunately, this perfect moment was ruined by a cat (yeah, again) choking on a live chicken that she’d eaten so I called it a night 😀

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It was about time to overcome my fear of motorbikes too so Mario and I rented two of them and went off to explore the beautiful island. Believe it or not, I didn’t even scratch it 🙂 We drove down to the most southern point of Koh Lanta – into its national park. Mario, the much more experienced and excited photographer, was blown away by the first lighthouse he’d ever seen, however I managed to convince him (he only lives once) to go for a 2km long hike through the jungle with me which I soon regreted.

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We were going about half a metre tall stairs up a very steep hill, met a few monkeys that tried to get hold of anything that wasn’t tied to us and thanks to Mario’s fear of snakes, I (as a proper adventurer) offered to go first when he saw one casually crossing his path and because of that I had the chance to see a fucking dragon! Yeah, I was one of the lucky people to have seen a very rare flying lizard so from now on I only expect you to call me Khaleesi 🙂

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Before we left Koh Lanta (after having spent 6 days there), I managed to rip both of my feet open because walking bare foot became my favourite activity (Thai way) and it is also much better to hit the road like that 🙂 I’m quite glad Mario realises he only lives once so he decided to join me for  what appeared to be the most epic road trip ever – hitchhiking in Thailand 🙂

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i MON da farm, part two

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Seven days on da farm flew by so quickly that I almost didn’t notice the high level of blood in my alcohol. The hangover from my leaving party in England was almost gone so it was about time to hit the booze again. And after such a long time, it was expected to be big and full of amazing memories!

Andy from England and Seb (his real name is Laurent actually but Sebastien seems to fit him more) from France had decided to leave our farmily and hit the road again so it was a great reason to have „a few drinks“. I’m not sure if it was because of the heat and tiredness of all of us after such an „exhausting“ day at work or because of the six-and-half-percent golden beverage but somehow our little party turned into a massive piss up. I’m not surprised that Arnon chickened out and sent his brother and nephew to drink with us instead 🙂

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When I beat everyone at this cool card game Yuniv, we started to play different games. Drinking games, yaaay! 9pm, the thermometer still stuck at number 30, millions of mosquitos trying to suck up the last traces of blood left in our alcohol system, seven people sitting around a table with an endless number of empty beer bottles. That was the atmosphere which led us up to „never have I ever“. Everyone knows that after a few rounds, this game always turns into something crazy and dirty. But Arnon’s nephew literally killed it.

„Never have I ever shot anyone in their back and killed them,“ said with a poker face and took a sip of his drink. We were really having a lot of fun, people were dancing, singing and laughing but the moment he said it, everyone went completely quiet. When he told us that he did it because someone had stolen a bottle of water from his shop, we considered to be best to just go to our bamboo huts and pretend we’re not there. Everyone wished they had a gun on them just like Andy who’d found one casually chilling in the corner of his room.

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When we found out the same person was going to drive us to Myanmar border to see a refugee camp, we became a bit worried. Actually, it wouldn’t have been that bad if Arnon hadn’t told us that they cut each other’s throats on almost daily basis but „we don’t have to be afraid because they have a lot of guns“. When our truck took a right turn from the main road on to something that looked like the road of death, the looks on our faces were priceless. No one said a single word and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

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 It looked very lively in the camp though! Most of the people were refugees from Korea who didn’t speak any Thai (damn, just when I just learnt my first Thai words) and the way of their life was very simple. Little bamboo huts, no hygiene whatsoever, they used the water from the river nearby and the closest source of electricity was miles away. It was really sad to see something like that but it made me think about (and maybe change a bit) the way I live. In the end, I’m actually happy for this experience and if it wasn’t for Arnon, I’d have never get an opportunity to go to a place like this.

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And there’s more just-because-of-da-farm stories. I don’t think there’s many people lucky enough to have spent the celebration of the Thai New year (Songkran) with a Thai family in a rural area. We drove the truck to one of the cleanest lakes (still very dirty though) in the village and stole hundreds litres of water that we carried back in literally everything we found on the farm that was holeless (and if it wasn’t, tissues or auntie Sellotape fixed it). We kept on splashing the water for hours not only on the farmily but mostly on cars going past the farm on the road nearby. We finished the day in style when we drove „to see Arnon’s friend living just down the road“ and after two hours of driving (!!!) while being completely soaking wet, we got to this little river on Myanmar border to find out that Arnon’s friend probably doesn’t exist because he was nowhere to be seen and Arnon never mentioned him again 🙂 At least we got a chance to build a sand castle in the most malaria area in Thailand without having a mosquito spray on us (and being bitten like thousands of times). Also, like a proper retard, I managed to accidentally drink quite a lot of that dirty water that was being splashed literally everywhere and had to spend the next 24 hours near the toilet 😀

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I was really not feeling great at all, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. Two volunteers had moved to my room the day before though and unfortunately there was probably something very special about cat-allergic Maggie when a pregnant cat decided to successfully keep breaking into our room until 3am because obviously it was the coolest place on the farm to give birth. It turned out that Mario was the most responsible and caring of all of us though. Uncle Google turned him into a proper vet in just a few hours. However, around 5 am he decided to take a break from cat-gyneocology and sleep for a few minutes before the first rooster starts singing the lovely song. As predicted, in the morning, we found the exhausted cat lying next to her four kittens nextdoor. Arnon was very happy about it as it’s meant to bring luck to the farm because they were born on New Year’s 🙂

I really don’t understand where all ten days on the farm had gone but it was time to say good bye. Mario and I had a lot in common so we decided to travel to the south together, saying good bye to Arnon became very emotional, little Pao even had tears in his eyes and Maggie left the farm like a proper American cowgirl when she found out it’s not the best idea to stand between two fighting horses because there is no other escape from there than taking an unvoluntary and fast two metres long flight with a very hard landing. Luckily, nothing serious happened to her apart from having a few rainbowy bruises on her freckly legs 🙂 Good bye, farmily!!!

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i MON da farm, part one

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I realised that I’m on a farm very shortly after my arrival when I got mistaken by the cuteness of a little pony whose eyes were literally begging me for a stroke. Yep, I got bitten and still have a big blue bruise that reminds me of this great welcome. I experienced another nice way to say „hello“ a few minutes later when I finally got to lie down on a very unfriendly frog bigger than the palm of my hand casually chilling in my „bed“. Obviously, she took it very personally and decided to tell about it all the frogs and lizards around who, for the rest of my stay, terrorised not only my bungallow but also my stinky shoes because apparently that’s the coolest place to squat 🙂

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Apart from that, everything seemed to be fucking perfect though. I joined a group of seven people from all over the world and they were amazing. On my first night, we all went camping on top of a mountain in the jungle just to watch the full moon and sunrise after that. We built a DIY bamboo tent, made a campfire, shared our travel stories and for the first time in years, I felt like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. The atmosphere was even so cheesy-perfect that I decided to quit smoking (which lasted exactly 4 days – the time I needed to count how cheap cigarettes in Thailand are).

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When I got used to being covered in all-kind-of-animals shit all the time, the work on the farm became really easy and fun. Especially showering the sheep was completely epic. I’d never say I’d have to catch about twenty sheep with obviously no hygienic tendency one by one, anchor them between my legs, shower them, brush out everything they’ve been rolling in for the last three days while trying not to scream everytime they stood on my bare feet and not to drink the water that was dirtier than the coffee I haven’t had for over two weeks 🙂 But believe me or not, this became my favourite activity in the 40-degrees heat because apart from two swimming pool visits (which was probably filled up just because of us, volunteers, in the middle of a building site because „Arnon has a friend there“), I had absolutely no chance to cool down my completely sunburnt body.

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Unfortunately, I reached the end of my rope again when I agreed (I mean, I only live once, right?) to try a lesson of Thai box on a day when my body was brighter red than a lipstick of an average 12yo Essex girl. I was actually really excited about it until I saw the little 15 years old girl Nang kicking the shit out of about five years older guy with a sixpack nicer than the one I was looking forward to seeing in my fridge after every shift back in England. I was really trying to keep up during the first hour, the second one was much tougher though and I was constantly blaming myself for being such an idiot that says yes to every stupid thing that comes along. And basically, I spent the third one just embarassingly chilling in the corner of a room where air moves about as quickly as I on my way to the dentist, trying to figure out what the secret is behind not passing out but jumping without a break like Chuck Norris on extasy.

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I gave it a go but nope, thanks. I’ll rather rely on my pepper spray. I also discovered I should stick to chefing instead of getting new experience in a building field. Yep, I helped to build the first wall in my life. Dunno what I was thinking about while doing so, maybe I just wanted the poor pigs to have more space but the result is that I managed to built a wall as straight as me. Arnon must have thought I was capable of anything when I successfully built a chicken nursery the day before 🙂

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 I’d never imagined I would actually write about a chicken on my blog unless I’ve eaten a very tasty one but Chip was really special. Yeah, this little chicken was only a few days old but he was smart enough to figure out that being best friend with little 7 years old boy Pao was the way to go. Chip followed him everywhere, they shared a bed together, they ate together, they played together, it was an amazing relationship between a human being and a chicken. This really weird thought of becoming a vegetarian even crossed my mind for a second, luckily Arnon’s mum saved me by cooking another of her amazing Thai (non-vegetarian) meals 🙂

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WHEN I ALMOST LOST IT…

Even though I’d been told there is no other way to get to Victory Monument where I was supposed to catch a minivan to the farm from, I decided to give it a go and after a short five minute walk from my hostel I was standing at a bus stop and with my mouth wide open stared at the amount of buses with Thai writings and hoping to see the magical number 509 which uncle Google had  recommended me to get my arse to point B. Ufff, here it is. But-what-the-fuck? The bus was absolutely overpacked and I really thought it was a joke when the bus-woman told me to get in because I’m making the bus late. We exchanged a few „are you fucking kidding me?“, „oh come on, hurry up“ and „have you fucking noticed the 20kg massive thing resting on my shoulders?“ looks and I don’t even know how but the door behind me really did close and I could enjoy the amazing view of dozens of sweaty armpits right above my head.

The instructions how to find the right minivan looked way too easy to be that easy. I really did have tears in my eyes after wandering around the place for about 45 minutes. It was boiling hot, my back hurt, sweat was literally going down my whole body and not only no one there looked at least a bit non-Thai, it was that bad that everyone pretended they didn’t know a word in English. So I got to this bridge, lit up a cigarette, got very mad and really madly kicked into my backpack and tried to beat the thoughts in my head that said: „Throw your damn backpack down, fuck everything and let’s get drunk.“

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Obviously, I found the minivan I’d been looking for about 7 minutes after it’d departed. Standard. So I had another two hours in my hand to wait for the next one one that nearly cost me 2000 Baht for smoking at the bus station which is – and everyone around me pointed that out very loud – something very prohibited.

The ride to Chat Pa Wai was absolutely unbelievable. And yes, I mean it exactly as it sounds with that ironic touch you applied a few seconds ago. Our almost empty minivan stopped after 15 minutes of driving to pick up another few passengers and even though at least five seats at the back were still free, the driver told the mum with two kids to make themselves comfortable on the two seats straight next to me. That meant that not only did I have to stuff my giraffe legs very deep into the seat in front of me, I even had to put my 85 litre life on top of them. Even though I put the nicest smile on my face and asked by the cutest voice possible to be moved somewhere else, the only thing I got was 9 ignorant looks from my minivan mates so the next three hours were filled by sticky and sweaty kids touching everything on the left side of my body, endless kicks into my already dead legs and constantly closing my eyes when our driver decided that overtaking cars in a turn is way more exciting than where it is actually safe.

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When we got to the final destination and my legs finally got back to life, I bought some water and I was very surprised (no, actually I wasn’t because I’m a retard) that roaming on my phone didn’t work so I couldn’t call anyone from the farm to come and pick me up. Luckily, Mr. Arnon is a Chat Pa Wai celebrity and apparently Mon with her amazing British tan as well so this lovely Thai guy I met on the street arranged everything for me. Arnon got there in about 10 Thai (times three) minutes, said only „Hi Mon, nice to meet you, I’m very hungover“ and we were going on his motorbike (that nearly lost its wheel straight when we got to the farm) towards my new ten-day home 🙂