The train jerked to a stop, and you watched sleepily as the carriage emptied. Your watch indicated that it was only 4:30am and a full hour before your train was due to reach its destination, but the cleaners had boarded and begun mopping down the floors.
“Nong Khai?” You ask one of them.
The lady nodded. You hop out onto the platform and straight into the arms of the tuk-tuk drivers.
“Thai-Lao Friendship bridge, ka.”
The driver shared a nonplussed look with his colleagues, which should have tipped you off to your grave error had you not already been in transit a full 30 hours and suffering from severe sleep deprivation.
“Laos, okay.” He says, with the look of a man who has no idea what he is doing but has decided to figure it out as he goes.
The drive takes you past things you hadn’t seen before: that shopping centre definitely wasn’t there the last time you visited- and is that a Makro? Your head feels full of cottonwool and oh, for goodness sake, you’re stopping outside a bus station.
“Friendship bridge!” You insist.
“55 kilometres, tuk-tuk too expensive!”
“Ha sip ha kilometres?” You confirm in a small voice.
He nods, flashes five fingers twice, and then makes a throwing gesture to further illustrate how far away it is.
“Bus Laos here, 9 o’clock.”
“No bus before then?”
“Gone already. You wait here, is safe.”
You pay the tuk-tuk driver and buy a 15 baht paper-cup of coffee from a sniggering Burmese woman (who had overheard the entire interaction) to aid you in your decision making. It’s just a little past 5am, and still dark. Immigration opens in one hour. The Consulate opens in 3.5 hours.
Screw it, you’ll try and hitchhike; worst comes to the worst you can always catch the bus.
Thirty minutes later you’re sitting in the passenger seat of a car heading to Nong Khai.
“Why you walk? So dark, no good.” The woman asks.
“I missed the bus.”
“Ohah, no good. Strong smell, sorry. You want to go 7-11 for food? Hungry?”
“Mai, ka. Mai hiew.”
There was a dirty Styrofoam box sitting on the backseat, and the odour emanating from it was like something from one of the lower levels of Buddhist hell. You’d encountered critically infected motorbike wounds on the cusp of gangrene and half-decayed animals that were less of an affront to the nose. Fortunately, you have a very strong stomach.
“What is it?”
“You have a restaurant?”
“No, I cook for family.”
It is not outside the realm of possibility that this woman’s family actually comprises two baby seals.
After a bit of broken conversation, you find out she has two primary-aged children in Nong Khai living with her husband. She spends most of her time working in Udon Thani managing a construction company.
She dropped you off at immigration.
“Be careful you, little girl, I worry you!”
“I will! Thank you ka!”
This sounds like one of those situations where remembering the experience is a lot more fun than actually going through it! At least you had the twin baby seals’ mother to help you out!
Oh indeed. If I could somehow turn the feeling of relief once I arrived into a drug, I’d probably make enough to fund my travels and then some.
Aw, I found this a bit sweet (once you had a ride, anyway). I too have had to hitchhike after getting off at the wrong place and have met some delightfully caring women along the way! Glad you made it. 🙂
Thailand is amazing for this. People have frequently stopped as I have walked along the street asking if I am okay and need a ride. I’ve never waited longer than about forty minutes while hitchiking in Thailand (which isn’t just because I am a lone female- other male travellers have reported the same!). Compare that to a 2 hour average in the UK..
Oh you are far braver than I would ever be – making good travel tales.
I don’t know, there’s a very fine line between youthful stupidity and actual courage.
I miss you!!!!
Hello hello! Where are you? Still in London?
Confidentially, I rather miss that city. Definitely not going to take all the free lectures/black box theatre/music/art shows/museums for granted when I get back.
Really really like the new look of your blog by the way 🙂
Yay and thank you… When do you get back? Yep, London for the long term at the moment.
Next September (2016) I think.. what are you doing in London?
Wow! What a story!!
Sometimes I wonder what life is like when you aren’t an idiot all the time. Most of my mishaps are pretty mundane, but it’s inconvenient when it happens constantly and multiple times a day.. *sigh*
Reblogged this on La Prensa del Estado de México.
Captivating story. I love your writing style and your confidence! I’m still too cautious to travel alone for more than a couple of days at a time. Can’t wait to read more of your posts!
It’s funny how often you look back fondly on what was probably a pretty crappy experience at the time. Also, how safe and easy is hitchhiking? Sure you need to trust your instincts if something’s a bit dodgy, but people are generally awesome and helpful. Good read 🙂
Hitchhiking is actually really easy in Thailand. Not so easy in Laos though.. and it’s not particularly easy in Europe either (since a lot of people are very wary of letting strangers into their car!)
After reading your experience, I would definitely say you are really very brave Lana. It would have been really difficult for you to handle such situations but still you have managed to handle it very well. Reading it was really fun and facing that would have been really hectic for you but you are never gonna forget this for sure.
Teehee.. I think so too! Though it’s a bit embarrassing telling the story since I like to pretend to everyone that I know what I’m doing/I’m not an idiot..
I love the language referred to in the posr. Do you have a translation?
A translation of my terrible Thai-
‘Ha-sip ha’ = 55
‘Mai ka, mai hiew’ = No thanks, I’m not hungry
‘Blaa’ = fish