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