Hitchhike to India leg 63: Ranong to Bangkok

Thursday 05 January

Alright, so I’ve not written one of these in a while, which is what I seem to be doing of late – nothing at all. I shall remedy this in due course, as there are things to tell. Stories to regale you with. The usual utter filth and debauchery you have come to expect from this classy publication. But first, let me take you back to a time at the beginning of the year, on a cold, wet, rainy January day in Thailand. Cold – maybe not. Wet – you have NO idea.

We’d been holed up in a cheap but comfortable guest house in Rangong while my back heals. If you’ll remember in the last installment of “how much can Stu fuck things up?” I had slipped a disk trying surfing for the first time. Honestly, a new-found respect for surfers. So I was bedridden for a couple of days, going through heat patches like they were going out of fashion, occasionally lumbering to the toilet. Round about this time, the heavens decided to open.

And what a deluge it was to be. Keeping one eye on the news, we discovered that it was one of the worst rainy seasons on record in Thailand, causing a number of deaths in the country – particularly in the south. We were lucky to be on the cusp of coming out of it – or so we thought.

Trying to wait for a gap in the wall of water was proving something of an impossibility. At one point, it must have been raining solidly for 48 hours. And I mean solidly. Not just a light shower – it sounded like gods fists were smashing down on rooftops. And time wasn’t on our side (as it usually is when I’m hitchhiking solo) as Alex needed to get back to Bangkok for a potentially life-changing job fair. It wasn’t looking good.

So with some reluctance and we decided to take a mini-bus to Chumpon, a city I had passed through a month or so ago on my way to island shenanigans. I had come full circle, but unfortunately, I’d fallen at the final hurdle, forced to take paid transport. It’s not the first time dear readers, and it won’t be the last – but more of that anon.

We had a reasonable plan. If we just get over the pass and a little further north, we’d surely leave the weather behind. Yeah right. A couple of short hours later and we’re still in the downpour, trudging through Chumpon’s soaking streets trying to locate a bus all the way back to Bangkok. By this time we’d totally given up hope of any kind of hitch, which would be a fool’s errand. Walking anywhere in this and you’re soaked to the bone within a minute. But we’re not in the UK now, and finding transport back to the capital city proves harder than it should really be. The next bus isn’t until 8.30 pm. It was 2 in the afternoon.

Wet through and knocking heads, arguing all the way through crowded markets and people huddling from the rain, we stagger into a hotel and find a receptionist that doesn’t speak much English but does manage to get us a taxi to a bus which is leaving at ten past. It’s ten minutes away so there’s no margin for error, and we yell at the poor guy to step on it. Kudos to him as he gets us there on time – but the bus is full. I’m starting to lose my cool. No, that’s a lie – I’d lost it when I woke up. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever had it.

In a huge stroke of luck, our taxi driver speaks decent English and can take us to the ACTUAL bus station. Which – thank Jesus and the saints and all the angels – is a proper bus station. They got busses there. Actual busses. They’re supposed to be going to Bangkok every hour – which is what you would expect from a traffic link between two of the countries biggest cities. However, we learn that the reason for all the madness is because of the horrific conditions down south. Transports have been stranded, mudslides and flooding have caused impassable roadblocks, and as mentioned earlier – people have lost their lives. In the grand scheme of things, we were doing alright.

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The downpour continues. Looking out from the bus station.

We manage to get a place on a bus in a couple of hours, and settle in the open concourse to read books, shelter from the weather and try to calm down. I stuff my mouth with pork scratchings to cheer myself up. The rain is still coming down hard as we bundle on a coach some time later and finally get underway. At least we were going to make Bangkok at a decent time.

Holed up. Shelter from the storm.

Holed up. Shelter from the storm.

Which of course we don’t. We make several stops which are far too long while trying to get sustenance from packets of microwaved sausages from a 7/11. Around 2 am we’re dejectedly still trying to find the hostel because Alex forgot to add the location on her phone when she booked it. Wearily wandering through deserted, dark streets by a railway station in Bangkok is not my idea of fun. There’s a cardboard city set up too, with hundreds of homeless huddled together and I’m feeling more than a little uncomfortable. Still – at least we have a home to go to.

The rain wasn't coming down - it was coming up.

The rain wasn’t coming down – it was coming up.

Which we eventually find, no thanks to a hotel receptionist who refuses to allow us to use his wi-fi to find the place. Shocking hospitality. Two shattered travelers trying to find their beds for the night and he didn’t even let us use his reception computer. Arsehole. Down another shady dark street, we locate home base, and another arsehole greets us. The night-shift worker is sleeping in the corner, and – would you believe it?! he’s got to do his job and put through two late check-ins! But he doesn’t like it one bit, and it was to be the first in a long line of abuse we would receive from the staff at this appalling excuse for a hostel. Still – it was right around the corner from the job fair. Gotta take the rough with the smooth.

Days don’t come much more trying than this, and we go to bed in all but silence. Traveling with someone has always been difficult for me – especially someone close to me – and this was proving to be no exception. But I generally think that’s because I’m the one being the arsehole. Tomorrow is another day.

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The wildlife of Koh Phayam.

Saturday 24 December

It starts off well enough. Chilling by the beach, playing board games, going out for meals. Sexy time. Then things start to take a turn for the worse – most notably with the lack of wifi. No, I’m kidding. Maybe. No, honestly I am – I don’t need to check facebook 20 times a day for goodness sake! Who do you think I am? Some 17-year-old princess? I just sit on it for 24 hours at a time, silly!

Not bad on the surface.

Not bad on the surface.

Koh Phayam is a lesser-known Thai island off the west coast of the mainland, nestled in the Andaman Sea with a few other neighbouring landforms. It’s a far cry from the Thai Gulf shit-shows of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and is most notable for the fact that there are still no cars on the island. Koh Phayam is what Thailand’s islands used to be 10 years ago – but in spite of the imminent threat of a heavier influx of tourism (places like this don’t stay secret for very long), the locals are adamant that it won’t turn into the mess that the rest of the country has become. I’ll believe it when I see it – they’re already expanding roads and ploughing new ones through the jungle – building new resorts and bars – ready to cater for the inevitable onslaught of Germans. (There are loads of them here). The relative quiet island paradise will be no more. It’s only a matter of time.

Regardless – I still don’t like it. I don’t like it now – and I won’t like it then.

I’ve been here before. Not specifically to this island, but to similar, and in this kind of environment. It isn’t long before my clear dislike for island life and its people begins to take a toll on my relationship with Alex, as more often than not we’re niggling each other and I’m pissing her off. We spend a lot of time apart, and the only time I feel truly content is when I’m drinking. The story of my life.

Ok so it wasn't all bad...

Ok so it wasn’t all bad…

I just don’t like the people I meet here or have met before in beach areas, islands, and such like. Dreadlocked, hippy dippy, multi-tattooed, damn-the-man, living off the grid, henna-ed up, ankle-braceleted, tree hugging, weed smoking, fake/pseudo-spiritual types. And the reggae. Don’t get me started on reggae. FUCK REGGAE. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mean to tarnish everyone with the same brush – there are plenty of people that fall into that sweeping generalisation that I know and love – but just as an overarching, all-encompassing term – I feel a deep sense of loathing towards them. Blah, blah, blah each to their own, live and let live etc, etc etc. Yes I get it. I really do. But some people just don’t wash with me. And some people don’t wash at all. Remember I’m a misanthrope.

These things are alright.

These things are alright.

These things not so much.

These things not so much.

Compounded by this, is my ongoing battle with Mother Nature. I’m something of a scaredy-cat when it comes to jungle life. The ominous, dark, leafy chaparral puts the fear of god into me. This is especially true at night when it really comes alive with alien sounds and hidden, unknown dangers. We’re glamping as well. Living in a large, posh tent thing, but we still have to constantly be on our guard for things getting in, always stooping low to zip up securely. Of course with the bathroom outside, this makes things difficult for me as it means a run to the crapper in the dark if you need a wee in the middle of the night. This must explain why, after one particularly heavy session, I decide to piss in the corner of the tent.

Understandably, Alex wasn’t happy.

Kill it! Kill it with fire! If you think I'm putting my hand next to this for scale you've got another thing coming.

Kill it! Kill it with fire! If you think I’m putting my hand next to this for scale you’ve got another thing coming.

Round about the same time, we receive a visitor in the toilet/shower cubicle. A large, hairy spider. This can just fuck right off. Can you honestly blame me for wanting to do my business inside?! Surely you would do the same?! And it doesn’t leave! I’m hiding under the bed sheets, screaming at Alex to take the bastard broom to the thing, which – bless her – she’s trying to do without killing it. I could never kill it – it’s not the right thing to do. But for the love of all things holy get it tae fuck! Try as she might, it won’t budge, simply shifting from one position to another, sometimes hiding behind a wooden slat. Then Alex drops a bombshell.

“I think it’s living under the stones in the shower.”

Well, that’s just it. I’m done. I don’t shower for days – and when I do – I’m half standing out the door, washing my bits and pits and that’s the lot. I don’t care who sees.  In, out, shake it all about. Job done. And I certainly don’t shit in there. Not on your life. I’ve seen Arachnophobia. I head down to larger, better-lit toilet by the beach. Luckily living in there is only a very large gecko, motionless, high on the wall, watching you poo. He can stay. I like him.

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Perverted toilet gecko.

Around day three I begin to feel a strange itch all over my back. I reach round and feel a couple of bumps. A short time later, there are more of them. They seem to be spreading. I peel off my shirt in terror to discover this:

Diseased.

Diseased.

Sand flies. At first, I thought mosquitos – and while annoying they’ve never really bother me that much. But these little bastards went to town and it’s agonising. For the rest of the trip Alex plays Florence Nightingale, liberally bathing me in tiger balm and coconut oil to take the itch away – but I’m miserable. I’m not having the “holiday” I desired. Woe is me. Boo hoo fucking hoo.

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Surfs up. These had better stay on.

To cheer ourselves up, we try surfing for the first time. Neither of us has ever done it before, and since there is only a gentle swell of waves, it’s the perfect opportunity for two total beginners to give it a go. When I manage to stand (extremely briefly) for the first time, I fall off and slip a disk. You couldn’t make this shit up.

Jesus, I’m getting old. After about a day I can barely move, and with the constant bending down to open and shut our tent – I’m over it. Totally over it. To cap it all, there’s the sheer terror I experience while riding on the back of a scooter. Regular readers will know how much I loathe those things, but we hire one on the last day to do a little more exploring and as a cheaper option to taxi our own bags back to the pier. Alex is more than competent – being a motorcycle enthusiast back home – but I’m a terrible passenger, and it’s one of the most unnerving experiences of my life. I’m wearing flip-flops, and being low to the ground, half expecting a stone to rip my toes off. Consequently, I’m squeezed up on the back of this thing using every muscle in my body not to fall off and to keep hands and feet inside at all times. I can barely move when I dismount, with all the grace of a pissed-up gazelle.

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These guys were all over the place too. Scuttling about. Threatening your toes…

The sand flies, the mosquitos, the spider in the toilet, the slipped disk, the constant bending to open and shut the tent, the hippy island people, the lack of wifi, the terrifying scooter rides, the sand flies, the mosquitos, the spider in the toilet, the slipped disk, the consta…

It’s just not for me dearest readers. It’s just not for me.

New Years Eve.

New Years Eve.

Of course, there are exceptions – as there always are – and we do meet some lovely people. There’s some really wonderful food and drink, some good live music (apart from reggae) and Christmas and New Year pass pleasantly. But all in all, you can keep island life. At least tropical island life; I could do this easily in say – Croatia – but not in this climate. It’s been an interesting experience, but I honestly think I will never return to a tropical beach as long as I live. I’ve had enough practice by now to know that I fucking hate it – and it fucking hates me. The definition of madness is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I have spent my last ever night on a tropical island “paradise.”

 Oh – and if you’re reading this Mr shower spider – you’re a fucking cunt.

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Hitchhike to India leg 62: Khao Sok to Ranong

Friday 23 December

The second hitchhike with the American begins a little shakily, and it’s the first test of our ability to travel together. This is why I prefer (and generally do) hitchhike solo. We’ve been waiting a good while at the end of the village road – which should usually be a great spot – but with nothing doing we begin to knock heads. Then finally at my suggestion, we walk a few hundred yards away from the junction, up the hill and round the bend – which is exactly where Alex was driving me.

Flogging dead horses.

Flogging dead horses.

And sure enough, experience pays off. Hitchhiking in a built up or busy area might seem like a good idea with a steady flow of traffic, but you’ll be hard pressed to get a ride. Once you’re out in the sticks, at least appearing to be in the middle of nowhere, you’re pretty much guaranteed that anyone who passes you (and has room) will pull over. There’s something about the desperation of it. A human being in peril and needing help, miles from civilisation. I always remember a scene in Superman II, when a newly powerless Clark Kent is trying to get back to his home in the Arctic in a bid to return to becoming Superman, and he’s wandering down a lengthy stretch of ice road in a blizzard. He’s freezing cold and can barely see his hands in front of his face when a big rig truck appears behind him and he turns to thumb a ride. It doesn’t stop, even as he desperately waves at the driver to pull over and give him a lift, it still thunders heartlessly past. In the scene, it solidifies how alone he has become. In reality – that would just never happen. In that situation, possibly life or death in arctic wastes, ANYONE who drove by would stop and give you a ride. Otherwise, you’re simply not human.

No rides mean plenty of photo opportunities.

No rides mean plenty of photo opportunities.

This isn’t the arctic wastes, but it is the jungle, and sure enough my instinct is right. We’re not really in the middle of nowhere (only having just left the village junction found the corner) but you can trick people into thinking you are, and as we struggle up the hill with our packs on in the heat, pretty much the first vehicle that passes slows down to pick us up. I bet my bottom dollar they wouldn’t have stopped if we were still by the village. We jump in the back, thankful for the first ride of the day, with me smiling like a smug bastard. I can never get enough of saying “I told you so.”

The view from the pickup.

The view from the pickup.

Riding in the back of a pickup with a partner is a lot of fun though. Usually, I do this alone, with only my thoughts and observations to keep me company, so it’s really nice to have someone to talk to and bounce off of. This is especially good if the scenery is awesome – which it really is. If you come to Thailand there is simply one thing you must do – get out of the cities.

We wanna go that way please.

We wanna go that way, please.

It’s a short ride before we’re dropped on the main highway again, and then it’s easy pickings. From here there isn’t much of a tale to tell. We’re waiting no more than five minutes before our next ride can take us up to Kurabure, and following a quick coffee/toilet break, we’re in the back of our next ride all the way to our destination.

I look retarded.

I look retarded.

From there it’s easy to book passage to the islands, but not before we meet some douche American traveler who up until that point believed that he was the best thing since sliced bread. But after seeing us jump out the back of a truck, he’s clearly dismayed that he hasn’t thought about or BEEN SEEN to be hitchhiking.

“Are you hitchhiking?” He asks with a disappointed tone, before scoffing; “Yeah I think my stuff is too heavy to hitchhike with.”

Bollocks mate. Total bollocks. He’s laboriously showing off that he’s camping, going “off the beaten track” and traveling with one of those all green army surplus back packs – as opposed to the more traditional (and colourful) ones that everyone else has. “My stuff is too heavy to hitchhike with.” Ahhahahaha. Fuuuuck offfff! You couldn’t LIFT my bag you absolute twat.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Did I mention that I hate people?

Ferry time.

Ferry time.

Thankfully we’re going in opposite directions, and me and the bird pile onto a speed boat to take us across the water, and into a hurricane. Well not exactly – but we certainly hit some rough weather as we enter under a storm cloud. For someone who is fearless at getting into the back of motors with strangers, I do tend to shit myself in situations like this. I’m doing my best to show this is all completely fine as the boat rockets through and over the waves like a rollercoaster, beaming a fake smile and hiding behind my clip-on sunglasses. Water lashes from the heavens and from the sea and my gut is churning.  I’m generally not a big fan of speed, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

YOU'RE HEADING INTO THE EYE OF THE MONSTER!!

YOU’RE HEADING INTO THE EYE OF THE MONSTER!!

A little damp, we break out into sunshine on the other side and set foot on Koh Phayam – our island home for the Christmas holidays. A beautiful, relaxing, tropical paradise…

…or so I thought.

The next tale is a belter...

The next story is a belter…

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Khao Sok National Park

Thursday 22 December

What the hell am I doing here?  Speeding across a vast, deep, dammed lake with 15 other randoms, sat low in a motor-canoe type thing, all the while on the way to a trek into dense Thai jungle, to then go potholing through a daylight-void cave of inky blackness. Oh I know – it’s because Alex wants to do it.  And what Alex wants, Alex gets.  And actually – I didn’t find it all that bad either.

Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Our day starts with an hour long (and not very comfortable) juggle around in the back of a taxi-truck vehicle.  I really do wish to know what these are called, as it’s not a taxi, it’s not a tuk-tuk, and it’s not a truck.  It’s kind of a combination of all three.  You’re crammed in, sitting facing each other, knees up to the chin, and at the mercy of the elements, while the vehicle’s distinct lack of any notable suspension becomes achingly apparent. It’s fun for about 5 minutes.

Sardined. Not happy.

Sardined. Not happy.

Fellow random tourists.

Fellow random tourists.

From one crazy transport to another, we’re shuffled into one of those boats that always look like they come from Vietnam.  You know the kind – the really long thin ones that have an outboard motor ten feet behind the stern, and that can go from naught to sixty before you shit your pants. No, it’s not racist!  I always think they look like they come from Vietnam! Anyway, we’re bundled onto one of those and all given a lifejacket, even though the rest of the crew are clearly too hard and too cool for school to wear one. And then off we go, us and another gazillion boats, scattered across the lake, all clearly visible from the high-res tourists on board.

"I'm goin' up the country...up where you wanna go..."

“I’m goin’ up the country…up where you wanna go…”

Cheow Lan Lake sits in an area of rainforest older than its Amazon counterpart, and is entirely man-made, with an ambitious dam project being completed in 1982.  And it’s pretty damn beautiful; as I’m sure you can tell from some of the snaps I managed to take.  The area is home to some wonderfully diverse flora and fauna, some of which we were hoping to see, others we can do without.

Another boat makes its way across the waters.

Another boat makes its way across the waters.

Navigating the seas.

Navigating the seas.

The stunning landscape unfolds.

The stunning landscape unfolds.

We’re taken to a floating hotel thing and I thank god that we’re not staying in it.  It’s not that it isn’t nice – it’s perfectly pleasant – but on the edge of the jungle and with this abundance of water, you’ve no idea how many flying or crawling things are going to come and visit.  This is especially true during a visit to the bathroom, where Alex chances on a monkey raiding a litter bin.  This isn’t too bad really, but the cobwebs in the little boy’s room are a different matter entirely, forcing me to bung up – and I decide I’ll poo later.  I do so love how my body works sometimes.  Very similar to attending music festivals when I was younger – my system (not wanting to visit those ghastly chemical toilets full of pebble-dashed-post-drug-binge-defecation) would simply shut down.  I went four days at V97 without so much as a turtle’s head.  The same applies when entering a jungle commode potentially filled with eight legged freaks. I’ll wait for a fully enclosed stall thank you.  I don’t want anything crawling up my anus.

Lake side hotel. Full of things.

Lake side hotel. Full of things.

I’m sorry I got carried away there.  Where was I? Oh yes – the beauty of nature! God’s gorgeous creations! The delightful content of the jungle.  The first of which we discover as we set sail for a trek deep into the undergrowth – a large, brightly coloured arachnid just hanging from a tree – deliberately waiting for someone like me to just walk into it. Selfish bastard.  Either that or the tour staff have just hung it there five minutes prior to our arrival.  Either way – so long as I know where they are I’m ok.

Urgh! Just stay where you are.

Urgh! Just stay where you are.

As it’s been raining – obviously – the trekking path is a mud pool.  We’re covered in filth within moments, and it becomes a struggle to stand up in places.  We’re also wading through deep sections of water – which once again I’m apprehensive about, as I don’t know what is attempting to swim up my penis. But in spite all of this outside of comfort zone shit, I actually begin to enjoy it.

THIS IS MY...CAMERA...THERE ARE MANY MORE LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE...!"

THIS IS MY…CAMERA…THERE ARE MANY MORE LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE…!”

Once I’ve settled into the fear of the things that are out there – I can feel myself becoming used to it. I don’t shit myself every time I duck under a twisted vine, or I’m forced to wade through muddy waters.  This is something I’ve always admired about the locals – who of course take all of this in their stride.  It doesn’t faze them one bit what could be lurking in the shadows – because they’ve lived with it all their lives. Ahhh but imagine their fear if they saw a highland cow! They’d run a country mile.

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Indiana Jones I am not.

Loads of bamboo. Managed to take some home as a souvenir.

Loads of bamboo. Managed to take some home as a souvenir.

Eat your heart out Tarzan.

Eat your heart out Tarzan.

It's actually very beautiful.

It’s actually very beautiful.

About 2.5 kilometres in, we reach the cave, and with headlamps and flashlights ready, we file inside.  It’s pitch dark without the aid the lamps, and this time we’re armpit deep in water.  It reminds me of the time I went ghyll-scrambling as part of a school team building weekend when I was about 13.  Except that trip didn’t have tarantulas. On the way back from scaling a waterfall (really cool by the way) there he is.  Finally, I spot my nemesis.  He’s a good distance above us (thank Christ) but the unmistakable horror of a black tarantula lumbers off into the darkness, hiding from the intrusion of flashlight. I fucking hate you, you giant hairy bastard!

They're in there. They're all in there.

They’re in there. They’re all in there.

It was pretty cool to see one though. The closest I’ve ever come before was when it scuttled across the road as we drove an Ambulance on a charity rally through Mexico.  We were just not close enough to hit it.

What fresh hell is this?

What fresh hell is this?

The Lady of the Lake.

The Lady of the Lake.

There's a boat Jack...

There’s a boat Jack…

As far as I had controlled aspects of my fear – I was still very relieved when we return to the boat and finally to the ride home. Jungles aren’t exactly my thing – as much as I actually love snakes, being the complete opposite of Indiana Jones – this habitat is generally one I’m happy to see only in movies.  It’s just unfortunate that I’m stuck with them for the next 6 countries.

Please enjoy a selection of the photographs I wasn’t too afraid to take, dear readers. From the comfort of your spider-free living room. Let me in. Please let me in.

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Hitchhike to India leg 61: Phuket to Khao Sok National Park

Wednesday 21 December

If it had been up to me, I’d probably have been sleeping in a bar in Phuket town instead of writing this somewhere close to completing a round trip from Bangkok to Singapore.  Currently, I’m not wearing the trousers.  Alex has a bee in her bonnet about a day visit to the Khao Sok National park – which is along our way (and a little to the right) to where we’re actually meant to be spending Christmas and New Year.  Who am I to argue?  My hitchhike has been hitchjacked.

Alex makes her first ever hitchhike sign.

Alex makes her first ever hitchhike sign.

So off we set at a moderate pace to try our luck at getting out of Phuket town without the need to take public transport to the city limits.  Hitchwiki and other sites of information are careful about confirming that this is a good idea – as there have been some horror stories of hitchers getting into what they think is a free ride only to be robbed blind by a taxi driver under threat of being taken to the police.  Still, odds were in favour of us attracting the sort of ride we need, and during our march towards a decent spot on the highway, our gamble pays off.

Cars are not supposed to stop on the red and white lines, apparently.

Cars are not supposed to stop on the red and white lines, apparently.

The first ride of the day is a lovely young lady who can’t take us far, but certainly out of the city build up and well on the road.  Once there it should be easy pickings, but not before being told a couple of times that we need to move away from the red and white painted curb – as it is illegal for vehicles to stop there and police will come down heavy.  That being said, our next ride takes the risk and can give us a lift almost to the airport.  We’re there by 11 am and we saved 8 bucks for our trouble.

Alex tries her luck.

Alex tries her luck.

We’re waiting only seconds before our third hitch swings in – and he’s an absolute hoot.  Addy was an engineer who used to build bridges.  He built the bridge across the Persian Gulf from Bahrain amongst others, but at around 55 years of age admits that he is slowing down in his quest to see the world.  A polyglot by nature of his travel and work, he’d lived in San Francisco for a long time as well as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and here he was giving us a ride before starting work at a local construction site. Certainly an entertaining character and one of my most interesting hitchhike drivers to date, Addy drops us just over the bridge outside Phuket on highway number 4.  Home straights already, cooking on gas.

Leave it to the pro...

Leave it to the pro…

About two minutes after we’re back by the side of the road following lunch at a nearby hawker stand, and we’re in the back of our fourth ride of the day.  And it looks like for the first time it’s the driver that hasn’t made the decision.  The young lady in the passenger seat is a business woman going to a meeting in Ranong (our destination in a couple of days’ time – it’s a shame she can’t pass by again) and has clearly told her driver to pick us up.  Not only that, but she commands him to drive us off the highway and at least 30 KM out of her way in order to get us to a good spot for our destination.  This is getting ridiculous – and Alex and I have not murdered each other as a result.

It’s a quieter road now as we’re off the main drag, deep into the jungle and into the national park.  There’s barely a whisper of traffic, and we’re also joined by a local woman who needs a ride to the next town.  Yet low and behold – round the bend comes one of those lovely 4x4s, and with the Thai lady in the cab and the two of us in the truck bed, we’re dropped right outside the entrance to the village.  It’s not even 4 pm.

Super.

Super.

Walking about a kilometer into the town we find comfortable dwellings amidst the backdrop of the jungle.  It’s here that the Raffelisia is to be found – the largest flower in the world.  It can grow up to three feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds.  Unfortunately, we’re a little too late to go off in search of it, as the national park is shutting its doors for the night, and hopefully shutting nasty things in.  Although I’m somewhat relieved, I’m less than a little excited about the amount of crawling and flying activity in and around our accommodation upon our return and wrap myself in the mosquito net just to be on the safe side.

5 rides, 5 hours, 176 KM.  It’s been an easy, leisurely hitch, taking our time and spending no more than a few moments actually on the side of the road with thumbs out.  Now to visit the beautiful Cheow Larn Lake, and take in a jungle trek with lots of things that can kill you.  I hope she’s happy.

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