Thailand off the beaten path
I never wanted to go to Thailand. It’s just such a typical tourist destination crowded with foreigners getting wasted at full moon parties or sex tourists abusing young girls.
So, not my kind of country. I thought so at least. But when I ended up in Thailand on my way to India, I quickly realized that it’s not everywhere like that and there are some great places to get off the beaten path.
The best way to get off the path and see some not so common places is with hitchhiking. You just end up in a random village in the middle of nowhere and run into some really kind-hearted locals.
How to get around in Thailand?
Hitchhiking in Thailand is really easy and you won’t have to wait long until a car will stop for you. But as it happened to me, as a man you might have to watch out for some guys who tell you how handsome you are and if you don’t want to share a hotel room with them. I declined kindly. 😉
I came into Thailand from the border at Vientiane in Laos and was hitchhiking to Bangkok when one of these truck buses stopped for me and took me through the small city I was going through. He then asked me why I don’t take the train to Bangkok. So I told him because I have no money. Then he replied, but the train is for free. And I went, what!? For free!? He said, yes. Just take the train at 10:00 pm and it’s for free.
So I went to the train station, walked to the counter and told the guy there, I want a ticket for the train at ten and I want it for free. He smiled at me before he told me, that there is a free ticket for these 3rd class trains, but he can’t ‘sell’ it to me because it’s only for locals.
I told him that I got sent here for a reason and there must be a way that I can get on this train to Bangkok. But he answered no, he can’t give me a ticket. Then I decided to just get on the train and negotiate with the conductor. It was really a 3rd class train, crowded with quite uncomfortable benches. Anyway, the conductor came took the tickets from the people holding it towards him and completely ignored me. Satisfied with my success I had a good sleep leaning against the window and arrived well-rested in Bangkok.
Where to stay in Bangkok?
In Bangkok I went straight to Khao San Road, the backpacker area well-known for cheap hostels. And after finding out that every hostel in that area was booked out, I tried it in another district and went to a nice looking hostel called Bed Station. They also told me that they were booked out. But the nice lady at the reception said they have a partner hostel just across the street and they should have a bed for me. So I went there and had to find out that it’s expensive and the staff is unfriendly. So I went back again and told the nice lady at the Bed Station that, the woman at the reception over there is just not as nice as her and if she could check again if there might be a chance that I can stay the night. After five minutes waiting she told me, well if it’s just for one night I can sleep in the lobby on one of the bean bags for free and she gave me a towel for showering and a blanket for the night. So nice! The next morning they gave me breakfast from the buffet and let me use their Wi-Fi. The next few days I stayed at a nice CouchSurfer and I went regularly back to the Bed Station to have a beer there and a chat with the guests and the employees. 🙂
What else to do in Bangkok except partying at Khao San road?
Climb a skyscraper and get a tattoo!
When I heard about this abandoned skyscraper in Bangkok I said, let’s do some urban exploration and another crazy guy from the Bed Station joined me on the adventure.
I read about some dogs you have to outrun and guards you have to bribe. We were lucky and arrived at the right time when no one was there.
So we climbed the 49 windowless floors stepping through debris of decaying staircases, hallways and bathrooms. On the roof it was a little climbing necessary, but we made it to the top and enjoyed the amazing view over Bangkok.
Update: It’s not possible to go up anymore, since they’ve build a 5m high wall around the skyscraper.
In Bangkok I also decided to get my first tattoo. I mean everyone is getting tattooed in Bangkok, but this was something different. I always wanted a tattoo, but not just a random tattoo without any meaning.
So I was getting a Sak Yant, ancient warrior symbols which should bestow mystical powers, protection and good luck tattooed by a Buddhist monk.
At Wat Bang Phra, a Buddhist temple 50km west from Bangkok the monks mastered this ancient tradition of tattooing with a long metal rod.
The costs for the tattoo are 75 Baht (about 2$) for a donation set consisting of a flower, a candle, incense sticks and a pack of cigarettes for the monk. So you buy the donation set, go into the main hall of the temple, place your donation set in a bowl and wait until it’s your turn.
When the monk was waving me over, I took my shirt off and kneeled down in front of him. Two guys were holding me down and the monk started tattooing me while smoking a cigarette. After 15 minutes which felt like someone was working with a sewing machine on my back it was finished and I had to fold my hand for the prayer while he was blessing me.
So, now I’m blessed by a monk. But together with all the magic there are some rules you should follow. Rules which don’t really make any sense, like you’re not allowed to insult anybody’s mother. So if the woman isn’t a mother it’s okay to insult her?
But yeah, I’m totally fine with following some random rules for having superpowers! 😉
After Bangkok I went out to see the nature. I wanted to explore the rainforest of the Khao Sok national park a little north of Phuket. I read on the internet that you can only explore it by tour. Challenge accepted!
How to explore the Khao Sok National Park without a tour?
Together with Tomas, a great guy from the Netherlands I set off to Surat Thani where I equipped myself with a hammock for sleeping in the jungle. From Sura Thani we took the bus to the Khao Sok National Park and right when we went off the bus we found a scooter rental.
So we rented some scooters and stayed the first night in a small hut we booked for 100 Baht each.
During a little night walk we spotted a big cat, which luckily wasn’t in the mood for eating backpackers and some huge flying foxes hanging around on a tree. When we pointed our torch on the tree loads of flying foxes with a wingspan of two meters chased over our heads.
The next day we started our trip into the jungle. We bought some food for camping, drove with the scooters to the beginning of the rainforest and started walking. We hiked through the jungle along a wet and narrow path. Surrounded by towering trees we were fighting us through the vegetation following loads of elephant poop. A few times I nearly ran into a hand-sized spider hanging across the path.
We hiked until darkness fell and we put our hammocks up between the giant bamboo. A little camp fire warmed our food and after that great day hiking in the jungle we went to sleep in our hammocks. Well, actually I closed my eyes and listened.
Sleeping in the jungle is an incredible experience. At night all the jungle comes alive, apes are screaming from the trees and other wild animals are crawling through the bushes while you just lay there and try to imagine what you are hearing.
The next day we reached our destination and were rewarded with a cooling bath in a beautiful lake in the middle of the rainforest.
And after that we found tons of leeches on our feet, but I’m fine with a little blood donation! 🙂
What to do when the immigration police won’t let you leave the country?
After some awesome days camping in the jungle Tomas and I said goodbye and I hitchhiked towards the border of Myanmar at Ranong. On the way to Ranong I got invited by some lovely locals to party with them and after lots of beer and vodka, I slept tight in the bed room of the disco (the disco was also the home of a lovely woman).
The next day I hitchhiked to Ranong and found out that the immigration police won’t let me leave Thailand because I lost my departure card. They wanted a 200 Baht fine, which I refused to pay. They made me go to the police and get some report. But since the police was closed already I had to stay the night in Ranong.
In Ranong there were only ‘expensive’ Hotels for 450 Baht (~12$) so I went to explore the city and find a place to stay for the night.
I walked around a bit and found an abandoned building which was great to overnight. So I walked through the ruins up the three floors up, climbed a ladder to get to the roof of the building and found a perfect place to pitch my hammock. I prepared everything for the night and went off to grab some food somewhere.
While roaming through the streets a beautiful girl approached me and we started chatting. A little later she invited me for dinner with her family in front of their sea food store. I was having a feast on sea food and enjoying the evening when one of their employers offered me to go partying. I said yeah, sure! I haven’t been partying for ages! It’s at least one day ago! 😀 So we went off and he invited me for a second dinner and bought a bottle of Whisky which we emptied together with some of his friends. And after a fun night out I slept in a small wooden container, the sea food sellers had for their employers to live and sleep in. 😉
The next morning I had a delicious breakfast with prawns and oysters. After that I got the report from the police and managed to leave Thailand on a small longboat heading over to Myanmar.