The problem, and perhaps a feature of spending time in a fishing village like Sam Roi Yod is its remoteness. On some days you are glad to be in an environment free from the distractions of alcohol, parties and the ridiculous number of Australians in Thailand. Whilst days like I had recently both astonish and frustrate me. This, is the story of my first hitchhiking experience.
Whilst meals are provided at the gym, there seems to be a growing need to head into town for food or, more commonly – pharmacy runs to deal with the growing number of ailments facing the trainees. In the first week here at the gym myself and Eddie, one of the other Australians decided to head to Tesco to pick up some anti inflammatories and food. As the gym is so remote there is no public bus service to take us and any trip must be organized in the morning with one of mini-bus services in the area. The gym manager organized all this for us and assured us that the same bus returns every hour for the same, reasonable price of 80 baht. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
20 minutes after leaving the gym the mini-bus stops at the shopping center and before departing we make sure that we can catch the bus from the same spot on the way back. The driver nods, smiles and says a very re-assuring ‘yes’ and we are on our way. Being my first time inside a Tesco, I was a little excited to see what was inside but it’s basically just a Woolworth’s/Big W with a food court and some other random stalls and shops scattered in the building. The food court was the strangest experience and didn’t make sense to me because to get a 15 baht drink I had to line up once to buy a ‘cash card’ and then line up at the drink stall to order and pay for it with the card. We spent a bit of time walking the isles getting some juice which, interestingly was Australian made and owned yet a brand I’d never seen back home. The other major thing on the list for the trip was a chess board, or at least something to help pass the time during 7 or so hours we have free during the middle of the day. Surprisingly, the games section had no chess board or in fact no board games of any kind. We asked four different staff (even waiting 5 minutes while they found the best English speaker for us) and none seemed to have any idea what the game was, leaving me to assume that board games simply aren’t a big market here. Luckily, on our way out of the center we spotted a games shop which had video games, toys, BB guns and two tiny chess boards hidden away in the corner which we were fortunate enough to spot, and also teach the owner the word ‘chess’.
Shopping bags in hand we walked out into the searing midday Thai south coast heat and walked back towards the place where we were dropped off. On arrival, the Thai lady there firstly ignored our existence for a few minutes and then proceeded to tell us that her bus company, the same one we used to get to Tesco doesn’t go to the Sam Roi Yod beach. She then pointed to another mini-bus company a few doors down and said that they will probably go there and went back to ignoring us. At the shop a few doors down the group of mid 40 Thai men smugly offered us a ride for no less than 500 baht/person. Eddie, the very loud and uncensored Aussie bloke that he is just starting laughing in hysterics at the idea, considering a ride to Bangkok (with the same company) costs 300 baht for the 3hr drive. The Thai’s just laughed back at us knowing we were screwed because there are no car meter taxi ‘s in the area and we would have to use moto-taxi’s (which wasn’t an option with Eddie’s obvious limp/injury). We turned around and walked out, Eddie cussing the company, the drivers and even their mothers in his growing frustration at how often westerners are ripped off in Thailand. Something that after spending well over a month in the country I have come to realize quite well. Sadly, it makes it really hard to think fondly of the people when so, so many of the ones that interact with tourists want to rip you off or harass you.
Venturing back out into the sun we are met, as if they knew we were coming, by two moto-taxi drivers who follow us around for a while, also knowing that our options are limited. We tried to tell them that motorbikes weren’t even an option for us but they wouldn’t give up until we walked to the highway and stuck our thumbs out trying to hitch a ride. These two Australians were not in the mood to get ripped off and wouldn’t go back to the mini-bus on principal. After about 10 minutes, soaked in sweat from the sun and carrying shopping bags full of juice we decide to split up, one of us on each side of the highway and to call the other to meet up when we get a ride. This seemed like a good idea, right up until after another 10 minutes had passed an I managed to get a bus to pull over who was willing to take us to the beach the gym was on. Excellent! I thought, the only problem however was that for some reason my phone wouldn’t call out to Eddie and the error message was in Thai. I reluctantly had no choice but to say goodbye to the bus and then head over and rejoin Eddie for another grueling 10 minutes in the sun until one mini-bus driver pulled over, (the mini-bus was from the same company as the first bus we took into Tesco I might add) and offered us a lift for 100/baht to the beach for the two of us. The driver was very friendly and seemed to be a really nice guy, until he stopped in a town about 15km’s in the wrong direction at a moto-taxi rank telling us to get a motorbike from here. I couldn’t help but feel that there was something scheming against us a this point as we even called the Thai speaking gym manager and put him on the phone with the driver to give directions, which the driver agreed with. Yet here we were, further away from our destination and the driver is hassling us for money. Eddie straight up refused and I think the driver knew we weren’t as easy to get money out of as the normal tourists as he put up little resistance and left.
Growing more and more agitated as the new set of moto-taxi drivers hassled us we crossed the road and once again stuck our thumbs out and hoped for a stroke of luck. Luck came within about 5 minutes as a nice Thai restaurant owner came out and talked to us for a bit and within a few more minutes a woman and her young children pulled over in a brand new ute and offered us a lift. For 300 baht/each. I’m not really sure what the go was as she clearly didn’t need the money but never the less we said no and once again stuck our thumbs out. About 5 minutes later she returned, I’m convinced it’s because her kids asked her to and said she would take us most of the distance at no charge as she was going that way anyway. Grateful, and also hesitant at our change in luck we hopped in the tray of the ute and hoped we would at least end up closer to the gym this time.
Fortunately, the woman did take us in the right direction and she stopped about 10km’s out from the gym, pointed us to where we needed to go and took off again. We’d missed the start of the afternoon session by this stage so I figured a 10km walk would at least be some good cardio for the afternoon but within minutes a nice Thai guy on his day off pulled over and offered to take us directly to the gym! Exhausted, frustrated and sun-burnt we made it back to the gym (4 hours after we left) in time for an intense pads and sparring session.
So that’s the story of my first ever hitchhiking experience. At the time it was pretty miserable, but in hindsight it was a good experience and I think in the future I’ll definitely be more sympathetic to anyone I see hitching in an Australian summer.