Sara left us and flew to Berlin, and Chloe and I went on with our journey towards north. Since it took us nearly 6oo km of hitchhiking to our next stop (Hua Hin), where we had found a CS host, we were pretty sure that we would end up in a small unknown village somewhere half way to our destination, unless we were extremely lucky and found ourselves in a cold bed the very same night (no one wants to be in a warm bed when the temperature is +45°C); especially since we started hitchhiking at noon. Don’t ever try this, especially if you’re in hot Thailand.
We used the public transportation to get from Krabi to the first gas station where we bought a car map of Thailand, a bottle of water and a blue marker. We found a piece of cardboard in the garbage and used it to write the name of a town on the way to Hua Hin on it – it was for the people so they knew where we were headed. We said our hitchhiking prayers and raised our thumbs.
The first person who pulled over gave us a ride for some 60 kilometres. Even though they offered us a ride to Phuket, we refused it. The second ride was for some 100 kilometres, plus an extra 20 kilometres because the driver wanted to make it easier for us to carry on with our journey. As far as it concerns our third ride, we didn’t even ask them where they were headed: we simply hopped onto the back part of the pick-up. The wind was too strong, and we tried to make ourselves comfortable, but we didn’t succeed. Luckily, they pulled over very shortly at a rest point, so we managed to rearrange the things in the back part of the truck settling ourselves and relining our backs on the part of the truck that was connected to the driver’s cabin.
After that, the driver made us very happy when he announced that he was heading all the way to Bangkok which meant that the very same night we were going to arrive to Hua Hin where we would have a roof above our head. All we had to do was hang on through that windy ride. Finally, after nine hours and three different drivers we were in Hua Hin. We didn’t know anything about it, just like about any of our four destinations in Thailand. However, what we did know was Jon’s cell phone number. He was supposed to pick us up in the centre of the town and take us home. So, we called him, he picked us up, took us to a supermarket, filled our carts to the top, insisted on paying the bill, put us in a tuk-tuk, and took us to the suburbs of the town where his big mansion with a pool was situated.
Jon is a middle-aged Norwegian who had decided to spend two months in Thailand, and that is the reason why he had rented a villa with a pool. According to his standard, the villa was practically free. However, he did feel a bit bored so he decided to host CSers who were passing by, just like Chloe and I. The villa was enormous: it had two floors, four bedrooms each of which had a private bathroom and, more importantly, an air conditioner. Although we didn’t have anything to do there we stayed for a few days, simply to enjoy a cool room, clean sheets, refreshing pool, and a full fridge. And, of course, each other.
We weren’t the only CSers in the house – when we got there, there was already a Russian girl, and a couple of days later two Spanish came carrying bags on wheels. That sight always makes me laugh, I just can’t help myself. We didn’t see much of Hua Hin which is known as a place where the royal family summer house is. One night, Jon showed us around the town’s market which is full of stands with Thai food, souvenirs and other things tourist might find interesting. We bought a postcard. Also, we spotted a lot of Thailand girls standing in front of the bars and clubs, watching us pass by with their big eyes wide open.
Jon explained to us what it was all about – a middle-aged well-off Europeans come to Thailand looking for love, and the poor Thailand girls welcome them, all caring and affectionate, carrying huge pretty smiles on their faces. There are two ways of getting together between the two, and one of these is the following – the girls are chilling out in front of the bars, the guys get inside, buy them a drink, pull a move on them, they get to know each other, and then the both sides decide if they’re compatible to spend a night/week/month/life together. And it functions: one side gets what he can’t get in Europe – a beautiful, young and caring companion, while the other side gets what she can’t get in Thailand – an easier life which promises a happier future. Jon’s brother met his companion in the same way, and both of them are happy. At least that’s what Jon says. We neither check it, nor judged it. However, I’ve got to admit that it does get funny when it’s virtually impossible to see a middle-aged white man without a Thai girl with him.
It had been over ten days since I started my vegetarian adventure. I felt good since I didn’t feel any desire for meat, and as I had the opportunity to watch a few documentaries about this type of diet, just to see the medical perspective. Despite the fact I don’t like extremes and being limited I have to admit it did make sense, especially when I considered all new facts I learnt. One of them was about the harm dairy products can cause to your health…who would’ve thought.
The whole situation reminded me of the period I started leading my current way of. It all happened during my first years in Uni: one day I woke up and told to myself that I would do away with all my former attitudes, forget all the things I’d been taught at home, school, in church, what I heard through media, and I decided to start all over again. A new start included questioning everything, not taking anything for granted, ready to change all my attitudes that had been firmly grounded in me for all those years. Not having any prejudices. Not having an opinion of my own. Learning. Listening. And I realized it was eye-opening. Moreover, I realized that I had been wrong about so many things. I began to understand that the society had formed me and turned me into a person who I was. Croatia is the best country in the whole world. All religions besides ours are simply wrong. Eat meat, you cannot live without it. Believe what is being said on the television and what is being written in the newspapers. Listen to your teachers and do not doubt the facts that are written in your school books.
Bullshit. It’s so stunning how many people know, without really knowing. They heard of it somewhere, they don’t know anyone who does it differently, and so it must be the right way. Vegetarianism is only one of many examples. I was, practically, raised on meat. The only day we didn’t eat meat was Friday. And also two or three days a year when you can’t wait for midnight to stuff yourself with all the food you were forbidden to eat the previous day. In 2009, Chloe was at our place for a Sunday lunch. When I told my parents that Chloe was a vegetarian, my dad said with a smile on his face – She can eat grass from our back yard; because that’s the only thing we have for vegetarians. Funny guy, my dad is.
But, honestly, how much do we know? How many discussions do we lead just to convince someone our argument is the right one? How many times do we fall out with someone just because we fail to agree that we disagree? How many times do we focus our attention on the differences that exist between people, instead of the similarities? Too many.
So, these are the reasons why I travel. I’d decided that I know nothing. I’d decided to start from the beginning, discovering all aspects, not just one. I wanted to listen, and not speak; get to know places, people, customs I knew about only what I had been told by others. And you know what? They’d lied to me in order to conceal their lack of knowledge, to protect their own ass, to form me in a way convenient for them. Whoever they are, they are doing a great job.
When I was leaving Croatia I’d been told to watch out in Serbia. In the same way, when I was leaving Serbia I’d been told to watch out in Bulgaria. Then, to watch out in Turkey. In Turkey they tried to scared me with the Kurds; the Kurds with the Iranians; the Iranians with the Pakistani and so on and on. Do you know where I had problems? Absolutely nowhere. Actually, in the past four years the only problem I had was in Zagreb, on the bus station when I was attacked by the supporters of one football club just because they thought I supported another football club. In the meanwhile, I’ve been in thirty countries, hitchhiked, slept by the street, in the homes of unknown people, passed through some dangerous countries, fallen ill while I was in the dirties parts of the world, ate in the restaurants which wouldn’t satisfy the basic sanitary controls in the western countries.
And here I am, safe and sound. Happy. Sometimes sad. Lonely, every now and then. However, I was FREE; free to do what I wanted, to follow my dreams, no matter how meaningless and pointless they may seem to someone. I don’t care if someone thinks that I’m wasting my life, not having a normal job, not having an apartment and a mortgage to pay for the next thirty years. I don’t care where you’re from, what you look like and in which god you believe. I learnt all these things form my journeys. All the kilometres, countries, buildings, natural beauties, everything, would be in vain if I didn’t learn this lesson.
It’s not about the journeys. There are so many ways for one to grow up, so many ways to be happier, to be what you’ve always dreamt to be. Journeys are my way of achieving it, not better nor worse than anyone else’s. Here you go.
I got a bit carried away.
The last day in Hua Hin. We said goodbye to Jon and with the Spanish couple headed for Bangkok. Since they had never hitchhiked we showed them the procedure, and let them stand some fifty meters ahead of us, so someone can pick them up sooner. That happened, only five minutes after we wished them a safe trip. However, while they were getting in, Chloe and I exchanged looks, ran towards them, and after the driver gave us a signal we hopped into the truck. All the way to Bangkok.
Once in Bangkok, we looked for Jordan, a CSer who decided to host us at least for a few days even though he was moving to Chiang Mai. He said that he didn’t host anyone during those days, but he was fascinated by our request. Jordan’s apartment was a total chaos. Five people in one room, beer bottles all over the floor, you couldn’t tell where anyone sleeps, whose things were on the floor and whose on the chairs – the guys told us they hadn’t slept for two days and we believed them. Adjustment: after five days of sheer luxury, five days of student life. We could do this.
It is hot as hell in Bangkok in April so we spent most of the time in the apartment, but there were many interesting things to do in the apartment. Every evening we would prepare already known Thai specialties. The best thing was the happy green curry – we were all somehow thrilled after we ate it. I believe it was because of a special ingredient which was quite usual in Jordan’s apartment – an awfully strange green-coloured butter. I’d been told you couldn’t get one of those in the supermarkets.
I even celebrated my birthday in Jordan’s apartment. It was a day like any other. Chloe gave mu a ukulele as a gift, a happy birthday card from my parents and relatives over Skype, and that was it. The birthdays are way overrated. I care much less about them since I’ve read The Mutant Message from Down Under, a book from which I learnt a lot. Basically, the novel deals with an Aborigine tribe whose members live in the middle of a desert and who don’t see any point in celebrating birthdays – they only celebrate the days when they feel they’ve become a better person. Well, that did make sense. You should read the book – it’s totally worth it.
In Bangkok we met Lisa and Trevor, Chloe’s friends from Berlin. We hosted them at Jordan’s place, after he had moved to Chiang Mai and left us with his room. The couchsurfers are really cool. Jordan’s roommate is also a CSer, and we discovered that fact in a rather interesting way – Chloe and I were in the room, when a guy walked in, said hello and introduced himself – his name was Chris. This is Chloe, I’m Thomas (I gave up introducing myself using my full name a long long time ago).
– Chloe and Thomas? Did you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur recently and travel through Thailand with Sara?
Chloe and I were perplexed only to find out that Chris had just come back from Kuala Lumpur where he surfed at our friend Vina’s place. Moreover, he met Sara, Henry and Patrick just like the rest of our KL family, who had apparently told him something about us since he’d recognized us by our names. How ridiculously small the world is.
We decided to postpone sightseeing in Bangkok for a near future, during our way back to Malaysia from where we would be flying to Australia. However, we did buy a couple of postcards to send to people back home so they see something we saw/didn’t see. Anyway, he images on the postcards are more beautiful than the reality.