Start Of The Thailand Adventure
A quick stop for breakfast and there I was, hopping out of his car, saying goodbye and walking up into Thailand. The border was easy, just a passport shown and a quick form to fill out. Immediately outside the office were a dozen guys on scooters who quickly started approaching me offering a ride into town. I turned down one, then another, then another as they kept thinking perhaps they'd have better luck than the next, or maybe most people aren't up for walking and I confused them a bit.
Walk I did, through the dust and soon into town, seeing the food carts and open stalls, smiling faces and finally Thailand. My current mission was to get north up to Phatthalung where a local CouchSurfer was able to host me for a couple nights.
I walked through the town taking in the sights and smells, and once it began to thin out a bit I walked backwards slowly showing my out stretched thumb to cars that passed. Another biker taxi came wanting money, so did a car taxi, but eventually a regular friendly guy on a scooter offered me a lift, I wasn't sure where or how far he was going and I'm sure that was mutual, but I hopped on the back and we started cruising. This would be my first experience on the back of a scooter with a heavy backpack that was more interested in appeasing gravity than anything else, at the expense of my back I held on for sweet life, the wind blowing and getting my first lift in Thailand were enough to keep me smiling.
At last we stopped near a house and a food stand of some sort where he seemed to know the people and let me off, some smiles and nods and I kept on walking, relieved to get off the bike for a minute.
Next a truck picked me up and I sat between a few guys up until the next town as we did a decent job of communicating with each other through gestures and maps. Once they dropped me off in town I instantly started walking down the wrong road, and figured as much, but couldn't think of a better road. A guy in an alley shouted and waved at me, he spoke English fairly well and I talked to him for a bit, he was just curious where I was coming from and where I was heading and so forth.
Despite his decent English, I wasn't able to get any directions worth much, so I kept walking until I hit the petrol station. I went inside and talked to a couple girls about my age, we had no verbal language in common, they smiled at each other and me as I futzed with a pen and a napkin trying to explain where I was heading. I still hadn't figured out how to properly pronounce Phatthalung worth a damn, and spelling it wasn't an option either, although I did try to replicate the Thai characters, that didn't work either.
Somehow though, they pointed me in a direction that felt right, backwards and to the right as it were, so I started off again. Although it felt good for a while, soon I felt like I was more in the village than along a main road. I saw a cop, or somebody official, sitting by his gun drinking something, I tried speaking with him and quickly moved to the napkin... no luck, just friendly smiles which was somehow enough.
I kept walking soon realizing I must be heading for a dead end into the woods. I turned around and right then a car stopped and a Thai guy speaking English asked where I was heading. He told me to hop in and said he could get me back on track. I was happy for that, he told me he was a minister and had just come from some waterfall.
I hopped out back on the main road and just out of town, on the right path again. Laughing and sweating I kept my thumb out until the next car stopped, a guy who drove me a ways up the road, he didn't give much effort to gesturing or trying to communicate, but I was happy to quietly cruise and nod out a bit.
He let me out in the middle of a much larger town, it took a good while to walk to the end of it while taxis and the like were the only ones to offer me a ride. At last I broke away from the town and was soon hopping into a big rig that had stopped for me. The driver and I were able to talk a bit about where I was from and going to and how long he'd been driving and so forth, I was enjoying how much we were able to communicate with so few common words between us.
After a while we fell somewhat quiet, then he began speaking with the girl he had in the truck with him. I have no idea what they were saying, but she began whining and sobbing and this went on and he didn't seem to pay her tears much mind.
There was a military checkpoint at the next junction, I'd already seen a couple of them during the day on the road. Sometimes waving people through, sometimes stopping to ask a question, just guys with big guns standing around mostly. This particular one was just before where the trucker and I were going separate ways, so he pulled just past the checkpoint and let me out.
I began walking, but very quickly I heard some shouting behind me, I looked back to the see the military guy wielding his machine gun running towards me. This seemed like a good enough reason to stop, so I did, he asked where I was going and signaled for me to come with him back towards the tents at the checkpoint.
I followed along and he sat me down at a table under one of the shade structures where I was surrounded by several of them and one guy who seemed to be in charge, who also seemed to be the only one who spoke any English, so he began asking me where I was going and so forth.
Another guy came with water, then they were giving me some sort of tasty and cold green juice, it had been a hot and sweaty day all together. Next they were giving me a fruit called mango seed to eat, halfway through the the second or third fruit I realized these guys were all just curious and I was basically just kicking it with them.
I spoke slowly and told a few stories and asked some questions while the main guy translated and answered, enjoying the fruits and juice. Eventually I figured I should keep going and said as much and started to stand up and go for my bag.
"Stop!", he said as I was getting up, he said something to someone else who vanished for a second and returned with two heaping bags of the mango seed fruit to give to me. Fair enough, I stuffed them in my bag best I could, thanked them all and strolled on up the road.
Another guy picked me up quickly and drove me further still, he had a bun filled with something tasty I couldn't identify that he gave to me to munch on along with some sort of orange drink that hit the spot ten times over.
I was dropped in another village and cruised alongside the road awaiting the next ride. Chickens were running around and cows were in the grassy median of the road, a tie going from the ground to their nostrils looking like the most uncomfortable leash I'd ever seen.
My thumb had Thailand smiling, the atmosphere seemed so open, it was like a small festival vibe where everyone knows each other even if they haven't met yet, friendly and buzzing.
I hopped out at the main road and thanked them again, then began walking into town, time to find Pad, my host there. More taxi attempts, me still without any Thai baht, and even when I'd be able to get some it would be minimal.
I got to an area of town that seemed like the general place Pad had said would be a good place to meet. The next thing was calling him, so I went into a hospital to see if I could use the phone. It took a little slow explaining and convincing, but soon the woman at the desk was letting me use the phone, giving me a worried look as if I was pulling of some international phone scam and she'd surely lose her job over it.
His home was amazing, it was up on stilts so that the main living area was all open on the ground, stairs lead up to the two bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen closed in on the ground floor. He had a big garden next to the house and there was rice as well.
I met his wife, dog and son as well. We had a big meal they made up - rice, fish, sausage, curry, pineapple, salad, pork, fried eggs, garlic and more veggies and fruits. We all ate together sitting with the food in the middle, this was the typical Thai style they told me. I shared my fruit stash from the military folks as well, full bellies all around.
I went out on my own, eyeballing up in the cliffs where I wanted to go and biking down roads that seemed to lead that way. I wound up in some farm land type areas, a couple dogs did a decent job chasing me and barking at one point, but I edged them out barely.
At last I found some sort of parking area at the base of a great looking building of worship, I figured if I couldn't find the trailhead I'd at least check this out. No one was around in this, just me, kind of light feeling actually as I looked a big golden Buddha statue. I chained up the bike and headed up the steps to the building, I wasn't even sure if this was a public place, hard to tell.
I kept climbing and it seemed like I might be on a trail again, every so often I'd find another statue looking out into the landscape. I kept on going and twisting up this makeshift trail and finally came out behind a building of some kind where it looked like someone was cooking, I kind of crept past and into the opening where there was a huge garden and a massive statue bigger than all the others.
I made my way back down and found where I'd left the bike, I headed into town and managed to find a place to turn my Malaysian currency into Thai currency, baht. I headed for the beach next, eyeing a pineapple stand on the way. I enjoyed sitting by the beach and then stopped at the pineapple stand on the way back and chatted with the girl there for a while. The pineapple chunks were covered in sugar and chili, really tasty, I was loving life.
I biked all around some more, trying some blue milk and donuts at one place, getting lost, getting directions, and finally finding my way back to Pad's house.
Thailand was already incredible, and this was just the beginning. The next day it would be off to Phuket, more to see, more spicy food, more good times.