Hitchhike to India leg 60: Trang to Phuket
I sleep in. This is because I’m still exhausted from yesterday’s hitch, and I know that if I surely can make the remaining 287 km to Phuket with relative ease. But nothing ever comes that easy in the hitch world. Or does it?
It’s 11 am and bright with sunshine as I hand my key over at the reception desk and bid them farewell. It’s only a short walk to a road which will lead directly to my destination, and I have two signs made – both in English – one for Phuket and one for the closer town of Krabi. I find a decent spot for cars to pull in and stick out my thumb. This is going to be easy.
Except it isn’t. There’s far too much local traffic, many vehicles are rammed with passengers and – worst of all – people keep stopping to offer to take me to the bus station. Regular readers will understand this is one of my biggest pet peeves. As much as I understand how kind and hospitable they’re trying to be, when you’re constantly politely declining ten to fifteen offers it gets grating – especially when it takes up time from actually getting a real ride.
And it isn’t only the road traffic that stops. This is such a busy street and intersection, I’m getting a lot of unwanted attention from those bane-of-my-life scooters, who are all buzzing curiously around, barking suggestions and getting in the way of the vehicles I want. With a forced perma-grin etched on my tiring face, I continually attempt to explain what I’m trying to do and that I don’t need a bus or a taxi – eventually struggling to maintain my courtesy and patience. Nobody is doing anybody any favours.
About half an hour goes by (which is nothing in the grand hitch of things – but in places like Thailand it’s a lifetime), and so I opt to change my sign into Thai. This is perhaps something I should have done already but I went for the benefit of the doubt. Feeling like an artist at the Montmartre, several passers-by stop to peer over my shoulder at my handiwork.
“Ahhhhh KRABI!” Someone exclaims when I’m nearly done copying the lettering from a signpost – as if they really had no idea that’s what my sign in English was alluding to. This I find fascinating – but it works both ways – as I couldn’t even begin to guess what their beautiful (but squiggly) alphabet means just the same. Gold and missing teeth are shown in a couple of grins around me and a clamour of chatter crescendos. No sooner have I held up my new placard to a fresh torrent of traffic than one of those lovely pick-up trucks pulls over.
“KRABI! KRABI” WE GO KRABI!” exclaims the excited passenger as he exits the nearside and urges me into the truck bed. It says a lot for making your hitch signs in the local language.
And so I’m finally off. A little later than I thought or wanted to be – and didn’t imagine I’d run into that much (manageable) difficulty – but I’m off nonetheless. I’ve originally envisioned a two ride trip – one to Krabi and then one to my destination of Phuket. If you look at a map of that region of Thailand, you can see from my start point and home base of Trang, that Krabi is about half way to my goal. So the sensible option would be a ride there and then a ride to Phuket. Easy peasy once you’re on the road and ticking the boxes, inching closer to the final destination. I was unprepared for quite how easy this would be.
Keeping track of my little blue dot on my now indispensable GPS smart phone, and I follow my progress all the way to Krabi, where the guys turn off the highway and start making for the town centre. I tap on the cab roof to indicate I need to get off here, and as I jump out I explain to the passenger that I’m actually going to Phuket and I need to be back on the highway – thank you very much etc, etc.
“WE GO PHUKET!” He beams, nodding enthusiastically.
“YOU GO PHUKET?!” I stammer, holding out and pointing to my Phuket sign. This happens the obligatory average of seven times before we’re all in agreement that we’re all going to Phuket. I shriek for joy before frightening the life out of the laughing man by throwing my arms around him in a bear hug. Elated, I heave myself back into the pickup and settle in for the remainder of the journey.
I honestly can’t believe my luck. At first, I thought today was going to be tougher than anticipated, then the next thing I know I’m getting ONE RIDE all the way to my destination. Those guys turned off the highway to drop me in Krabi town too – so they were obviously going out of their way to get me where they thought I needed to be. This becomes more apparent when they stop just after crossing from the mainland into Phuket – ask where my hostel is – and then duly drop me right at the door of it. Unbelievable.
This time the driver exits the cab too, and with the three of us grinning ear to ear, I warmly shake their hands before waving them off and briskly stride towards check in. It’s taken me one ride and 5 hours to travel 287 KM – which on these winding roads is about the same time as estimated by google maps. Probably the fastest and easiest hitchhike so far, and now to await the imminent arrival of partner in crime and the emperor herself – Alexandra Mentele. I’d best cram a night of drinking in.