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.
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.“
„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.
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.
„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!
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂