Has anyone ever told you that you haven't done a Thailand Road Trip until you've tasted a blue-candyfloss pancake, sipped hot tea from a plastic bag, said prayers to a tree and slept alone in a sex motel? In any other country, a road trip always seems to be defined by travelling time. Welcome to the real Thailand.
The first question would be: How long did it take? And you'd probably reply - Nine hours and forty-five minutes from Lands End to John O' Groats or a similar result from New York to California. The second question would be something like this: Were there any speed cops, roadworks and bad drivers. And the list could go on and on.
But that's not the Thai way. No! No! No! The Thais do a very different type of road trip like nobody else in the world. I know this only too well and have been on a few road trips crisscrossing from one city to another. From one resort to another. From one border to another. A Thailand road trip isn't something that goes from A to B. It could easily take you from A to Z. You should give it a try. You never know where it could end up. Let the adventure begin right here.
A Thailand road trip is a fabulous voyage of discovery that starts the moment the key in the ignition is turned on. This I discovered during numerous trips across the kingdom accompanied by my Thai taxi driver friend, my various girlfriends and friends from home.
And then there was the road trip from Thailand to Cambodia and beyond that simply took my breath away. If you haven't got all your ducks in a row, driving across Thailand without a Thai driver or proper directions at any time of the day or night can be risky or sheer lunacy especially if you're planning a trip around the annual Songkran festival.
Songkran, if you haven't heard, is the Thai New Year and, although it falls on April 13 each year, festivities can run for a week either side. And that means a massive water fight in which people wielding buckets, huge spray guns and fire hoses douse each other. Even elephants join in the fun spraying everyone to their heart's content. It can be fun when you're in a party mode but a nightmare if you're hoping to get to your destination safely.
Motorcyclists lose control of their bikes, overexcited water throwers leap in front of vehicles and visibility is down to a metre or two. It's a driver's nightmare. What can you do but grin and bear it?
Okay! So now that I've got over the worst of it, let's get back to the big Thailand road trip. Any road trip you take in Thailand is going to take a lot longer than you can imagine as along any route you're bound to have to stop many times along the way. Just sit back and take in as many sights and smells you can. After all, this is Thailand.
In southern Thailand you can purchase a bag of pancakes from a roadside stall. Everybody knows that pancakes are a secret delight of the southern Thailand's highway system but only the experienced know which stall serves the best. You may have to pass a number of rickety stalls before you spot the one selling pancakes with a bag of blue candy floss. They are also available in lime green and yellow.
Now putting a pancake together with candyfloss while on your road trip can be difficult and trying to eat it without getting the vehicle covered in sticky sugar is virtually impossible, but you learn to live with it. While you may not do this at home, don't fret, you're in Thailand.
After eating, you're going to need something to drink so you pull up at the next roadside market and to your surprise, the hot drinks are not served in a cup and drunk at tables but rather served takeaway style in a plastic bag with a straw attached. Sipping steaming hot tea or coffee from a plastic bag is a real art for the novice. And certainly not recommended while speeding down a bumpy road. And before the days out, you'll be stopping every 100 kilometres or so to enjoy some treat or other.
Big branded supermarkets and western-style takeaway outlets line the highways but don't ever forget that this is a Thailand road trip so what better to see the kingdom than to do and see things you'd never do at home. Instead, head into the small towns and villages. Among the culinary gems on hand are chunks of barbecued chicken, massaman curry, mango and sticky rice, sliced dragon fruit and desserts made from odd combinations like coconut and beans. Of course, each purchase comes packed in that hardy carrier of all things, the plastic bag.
And along the way, there will always be at least one stop at a temple, a shrine or a tree to get some good karma for the trip. And what could be better for any traveller and especially handy when a roadside tree is put in service as a shrine. These trees are usually adorned with long strips of bright cloth or paper and as pretty as they are, Thai Buddhists take them pretty seriously.
After a long day of sightseeing and indulging in all the culinary delights, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get some shuteye at the end of your Thailand road trip. And while you may not find that elusive luxury hotel or get the chance to doss down on a sleeping mat or hammock because this is what foreigners do in a foreign land, you may just end up in sex motel even though the sign said - New Resort now open.
After checking out the room and discovering it came at a bargain price of just 350 Baht, you may fail to notice that the room does not have any windows. But you could also not help but notice your tired and naked body reflected in the mirrors surrounding the bed. Only in the morning might you have noticed that your neighbours were changing rather regularly.
That's when the penny might drop that this was not a regular hotel but rather one of those legendary short-time hotels where customers spend two or three hours in the throes of passion. The real giveaway at these hotels is that parking bays come with curtains, behind which you can hide your car from prying eyes.
If you ever found yourself in this situation you may wonder what the hotel staff made of the strange foreigner who spent so many hours in a room meant only as a passing passion place. This is just some of the things you can expect on a Thailand road trip. But whatever it might be, there will always be an interesting story to tell the family and friend back home.
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