So what made me decide to do a hitchhiking adventure across to another country? Well sure, i’ll be more than happy to tell you how it all came about.
With tickets being expensive, funds running low, and visa about to run out it was starting to get into desperate times. I needed to devise a plan on how to travel to my new destination with using little money as possible.Hitchhiking quickly came to mind. My experience hitchhiking prior to this was hitching a 30 minute ride in high school from my friends house back to my house; as you can see I really wasn’t experienced at this at all. Nervousness crept into my body and thoughts of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money and starving to death flooded my mind.
I decided to go on one of my Facebook group for backpackers and write a post asking if anyone wanted to join me on my hitchhiking adventure – I definitely didn’t want to do this alone. Luckily the travel gods answered my prayers and someone replied to my post. His name was Mat and we decided to meet up the next morning after our brief conversation. We both figured it would take us (two first timers hitchhiking in SouthEast Asia) at least a couple of days or a week to reach Kuala Lumpur. Boy were we in for a surprise.
Next morning I woke up bright and early, got ready, and went off to go meet my new travel companion. After our greetings we decided to take the sky train to the farthest point out in Bangkok to start our trip. Once there, we made a sign for Surat Thani – a town half way to the border – as we figured that would be a good distance to reach by the end of the day.
We started walking on the main road heading out of town with sign in hand pointing out to the on coming cars hoping for a friendly Thai to pick us up. 10 minute later a burgundy pick-up truck pulled up next to us and the driver started speaking in Thai. We couldn’t understand him and pointed to our sign stating the destination. He told us to get in so we threw our bags on the bed of his truck, hopped in the cabin, and off we went to the start of our grand adventure!
Hitchhiking and the Police
He first took us to a small building in some alley and a Thai woman who spoke English walked out and asked us what we were trying to do. We quickly explained the scheme we concocted about trying to get into Malaysia without spending money on transportation. I even pulled out my iphone showing her a Thai translation of a letter I had google translate for me explaining our plan. You see hitchhiking is a concept that most Asians in SouthEast Asia never heard of. The fact that foreigners are broke and traveling with no money is just mind-boggling to them as they view westerners as someone with money and power.
After reading my message she quickly understood and talked to our driver. She turned back to us telling us that he was traveling a bit down south 45 minutes out of Bangkok and he could give us a ride there. We agreed, thanked them both, and off we were again heading further out of Bangkok and getting one step closer to our destination.
45 minutes later he dropped us off on the main road. We thanked him and began walking down holding out our sign. We ended up passing by a couple of Thai police doing a routing traffic control. They saw us with packs on our backs and sign in our hand pointing out to on coming cars. They quickly told us to stop while running towards us. Great I thought, just what we needed, getting into trouble with the local police. They asked us what we were doing and so we answered them; the facial expression they displayed was enough for us to know our answer was the craziest thing they’ve heard all day. They told us to sit down on a nearby bench and wait for them to return.
During that hour on the bench we saw the police stop a semi truck, go up to the driver talked to him, and then make his way back to us. He pointed as us saying “Surat Thani” then pointed right back at the driver saying “you go”. Did he just stop a semi truck going down south for us? Oh shit that’s fucking awesome! We thanked the cop and asked if he would take a picture with us which he agreed to. The travel gods were indeed looking down on us. We thanked the driver and introduced ourselves afterwards having a conversation to practice our Thai with him. Making it to Surat Thani on our first day came as a shock to us; we originally thought we would have made it there the next day. We were definitely doing good on time.
The Third Ride
After 3 hours of driving, the driver ends up pulling into a truck stop at around 5:30pm. He tells us that he was turning in for the day and won’t be able to make it to Surat Thani until tomorrow; he then tells us that we could ride with him tomorrow or continue the journey on our own today. We decided to keep going while lady luck was on our side and take full advantage of her. We thanked him and walked outside the exit ramp of the truck stop and posted on the grass holding our sign out. Our sign was able to stop one car and a Thai man with exceptional English agreed to take us with him as our destination was on his way home.
During the ride we chatted with the driver and we started to get to know each other. He had just left Bangkok where he works for a week and was heading back home which was somewhere far down south. He was glad to have picked us up as he now had company during his long 12 hour drive home. The driver told us the story about how he use to work as a bartender a couple years back in Koh Phi Phi in a bar that a majority of backpackers frequented; which enabled him to learn and speak English and was even able to get a western girlfriend.
You can tell by the way he told his story that he loved working there and loved being around backpackers, having fun with them as well as hearing about their crazy travel stories. He hopes to save enough money so that he can go out backpacking one day even though he is scared to go traveling out in the world on his own.
Curious about what plans we had for Surat Thani we told him that it was as far as we thought we would be able to make it on the first day of our trip, our real destination was to make it to Hat Yai so we can cross the border. He ended up laughing before telling us he lives just before Hat Yai and if we wanted he could take us there tonight. Luck strikes again! Of course we agreed.
First day of hitchhiking was going way better than expected, exceeding our original estimated time of arrival of a couple of days. We joked, laugh, and shared stories all the way down to Hat Yai where the driver was kind of enough to drop us off at a bus stop at around 4am; we decided to sleep on some benches for 3 hours before getting right back on the road again and start the process all over.