It’s finally time I start writing about my adventure traveling throughout Asia…
My travels began in Bangkok, which treated me poorly; see previous post. Upon waking up on my third day I encountered two people whom I had met the previous night. They were Chilean and had just arrived in Bangkok. I had met the brother in the morning. He was staying in the same dorm as myself. I, being an early riser, was walking about as he continually got up to go to the bathroom, which at some point resulted in a brief exchange of words. I’m confident he was wasted the night before. His sister I met the night before at around three in the morning. It was by no means a formal meeting; she waltzed in barefoot, her brother nowhere in sight, still dancing to whatever tune was in her head from the bar she had just left. We went upstairs at the same time and I, directly behind her, thought to myself that she was walking really funny. noticed she was walking funny. Assuming she was just drunk, I chuckled to myself and continued towards the men’s dorm as she continue hobbling up to the female floor. I later learned that she had pedal edema
(swelling of the foot) due to her recent work in a New Zealand fish factory, in which the typical shifts were twelve hours. For her job, she had to stand for those twelve hours. In any case, breakfast was free at the hostel. Naturally, sober, hungover, or still drunk, everybody convened. There, we formally introduced one another while eating scrambled eggs and toast.
The fact that I spoke decent Spanish allowed us all to connect pretty quick, which was nice. Being sick the entire day before, alone, I not only enjoyed the company but also the brother-sister relationship dynamic they shared; it reminded me of my own siblings. We warmed up to each other. My knowledge of (Mexican) Spanish was very arduously tested through their Chilean Spanish, which was filled with slang and words that meant something else than what I previously thought they meant. As we began to wrap up breakfast, the brother invited me to join them going up North. Not only was the South flooded at the time but I also, for whatever reason just didn’t feel like going to the South yet (and still don’t– I left Thailand without heading that way). Heading North felt right.
After breakfast, we walked outside and hailed a cab. We wanted to go to the bus/train station, telling him we were on our way to Khao Yao National Park before stopping in Lop Buri. Khao Yai was as beautiful as any national park: wildlife, although we only saw monkeys and the occasional bird. While writing this I actually learned that several parts of Danny Boyle’s film, The Beach, featuring a young Dicaprio, were shot here. Lop Buri, on the other hand, was small and known only their insanely brazen and numerous monkeys. They were known to walk all over you and known to pull passports, wallets, and whatever other things lived in traveler’s pockets. Admitting it was a slow day for him, he volunteered to drive us all the way to Khao Yai National Park, which was quite a distance. However, after calculating the cost and time of getting there by bus, we accepted. We were also limited by the sister’s feet, which were quite swollen and would remain so for at least a week. The price was about the same.
About two hours later, we arrived in Khao Yai. Almost as soon as we arrived, just after we had spent a few kilometers swerving through monkeys while altogether stopping the car and letting them cross at their leisurely pace in some points, it began raining. It was mostly a light rain but our poor cab driver’s car started having issues going up the long winding asphalt roads. We were either too heavy or his car too weak– or both. In any case, the brother and I continually hopped out to push the car up, allowing it to gain enough traction and speed to make it up hills. On the third or fourth time however, his car started smoking and he pulled over, clearly distraught. I don’t know shit about cars and the language barrier prevented me from understanding what was actually wrong with it; it’s likely he also didn’t know. However, he was very insistent on taking us to our destination and also clearly apologetic. We didn’t blame him and did the best we could to console him and let him know it was OK. Despite his still insisting on being able to take us, he conceded and helped us flag down a car, explaining to them the situation. They smiled at us and motioned for us to hop on the back.
Stuffing ourselves and our large packs among camping equipment and boxes, we sat our butts on the rainy floor of the pickup and began our two-day hitch-hiking excursion in and out of Khao Yai National Park.
The family who was transporting us were also clearly looking to camp. Together, we were turned down by two camps due to them having reached capacity. The campground that didn’t deny us entry was completely packed– tents setup in every direction. “Fuck,” one of us murmured. It was the weekend. We had no tents and relied on rentals, of which we quickly learned were already all taken. Of course, the rental people spoke absolutely no English and were clearly unsympathetic to the fact that we spoke no Thai; barely any eye contact was made on their behalf, which I took in stride and smiled regardless. A kind Thai man in front of us, who spoke English quite well, told us that if we waited there would likely be items returned which we could rent. We waited. Not long after, people returned some equipment and we managed to get a tent. ONE tent. I don’t know why we were trying to skimp on money at that point, it was our first week of traveling. However, we did, even though we could have gotten a bigger tent, or a second, small tent. Our single tent was only made to fit two, which was clearly stated everywhere. Big mistake.
As you can imagine, the night was rough– more for me than the siblings, who had each other to lean on. The brother and sister slept like rocks, quickly and easily. I was amazed. After sitting there, crammed against the side with a rock poking into my lumbar, bags at my feet and head, I gave up and decided I’d rather sleep outside; mosquitoes were not a huge issue from what I saw. Besides, I this cocoon-sheet-mummy thing, which would keep me protected from bugs. Upon walking outside to a suitable place, I find that the grassy floor was damp and out of the question. I had few options, of which the more
suitable was the top of a stone garden hedge whose surface was somewhat flat; at least it was consistent– no sharp protrusions. My other option was a cement bench but I found the rocks somewhat ergonomically geared to the contours of my body whereas the bench was just flat and hard. I would never have guessed that I’d be convincing myself about rock
ergonomics, embracing my newly-acquired backpacker lifestyle while knowing that–whatever the challenge– I could do it. Three hours later I wake up as damp as the grass around me, freezing. With no choice, I squeeze back into the tent where I nudge myself in the corner, closest to the zipper-entry, with my DSLR at my feet and using a shirt as my pillow. I suppose exhaustion overcame me. I managed to get some semblance of sleep, waking three hours later to sunlight and heat.
During the day, the brother and I trekked for some hours, moving through the jungle-like terrain that ran parallel to a river. Despite crocodile warning signs advising against swimming, we saw none. We also saw no elephants, which we had hoped to see. Still, the trekking was nice. By that time, my ability to understand and respond in Chilean Spanish was compromised and my travel partner noticed. We laughed about it and admitted how exhausting different languages can be when we are not wholly proficient in them– his English was worse than my Spanish. We spent the rest of the day hitch-hiking from different trekking and view points while his sister rested her foot at the camp. By three, we packed up camp, returned everything, and flagged a car to get us out of Khao Yai towards Pak Chong, where we planned on taking the train. A group of older ladies, who turned out to be teachers in the far North of Thailand, picked us up. We stopped, ate lunch together, and continued on our way. It was raining again, which made the ride in the pickup more of an experience and, somehow, more enjoyable. We arrived in Pak Chong and waited a few hours until the train left, drinking beers and using wifi to tell people back home we were not dead after all.
We purchased tickets for the commuter train, which was a local train. We had no idea what to expect. The train journey, however, will be left for a future post.
Spoiler: I had no seat for five hours…