Back to Thailand, Up to the Retreat

Fresh, well slept, and stuff full of food from the Europe trip, I get into the Bangkok airport at about ten in the morning. Now is the start of the real journey.

I rearrange my stuff in my bags, put on my money belt, and am ready to set off. I planned on doing the whole thing out of my backpack, but I don’t have anywhere to fasten the tent without damaging the backpack straps. Those are just a little important. So, I have the tent and a few other things for cushion in a small red duffel bag. Thanks to the advice from a good friend and my living-on-the-road mentor, Aaron, I have a money belt for the majority of my valuable stuff. It’s going right around my waist, next to my groin. I plan to only have it off for short periods to shower, otherwise it won’t move from that spot. I’m sure it’ll smell very nice by the end of the trip.

I ride the metro from the airport all the way to the northern tip of the city. I also make sure to use the metro cashiers to break down all the rest of my Bhat bills. I’m headed to a small town to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat and don’t want to get stuck paying for my 10 Bhat handful of rice with a 1,000 Bhat bill. The person would probably just laugh and then pull out a weapon and tell me to back away slowly. 

Off the metro, I ask people how to get to the main road that takes me straight up the middle of the country. It goes through some major towns and then connects into Laos, right at the Capital, Vientiane. I figure they’re will be plenty of diverse traffic to use for my hitchhiking plans. I’m especially not worried because I also have about two and a half days to travel what an eight-hour bus trip should take.
It’s now two in the afternoon and I’m getting slightly worried about getting out of the city to find somewhere to set up my tent and sleep. I’ve asked all kinds of people from street vendors, to taxi drivers, and to students and I get the same directions to get to the bus station instead of the road I want. 

I go to the bus station anyway to see if maybe I can get to one of the first few towns along the road. I describe the road to the woman behind the ticket desk and ask for names of the first few towns along that road. She responds by asking me where I’m going and without thinking I blurt out Khon Kaen (which is my final d detonation. She tells me to pay 250 Bhat for the ticket and it leaves at three. I laugh and then tell her “wait, wait, that’s not where I’m going NOW.” She gives me a blank look. This trip is having a bit of a harder start than I expected. I repeat the question and she crinkles her eye brows, in a slightly impatient look, and then asks me where I want to go. I laugh again, but this time just I’m just releasing steam from my frustration. I can tell she picked up on that, so I just take a deep breath, try again in a different way to ask the same thing. Let’s say what her response was together … “Where do you want to go?” If you’ve seen the movie True Lies, then you know that scene where Arnold punches that guy in the car, but it ends up being a daydream. Yup, I just did the same thing.
Totally fresh out of the one lousy idea I had, I just give in and tell her to give me the damn bus ticket, I mean the lovely bus ticket. This could of all been avoided if I knew the word for hitchhiking in Lao, but the way my luck is going that would probably be the one the Thai people can’t understand.

The bus is leaving at three and she tells me it takes 6 hours. Kind of pushing it, but not too bad to still figure out my t my plan. On the ride I try my absolute best to keep myself awake, so I have some chance of sleeping in a tent, on the side of the road, for the first time. As we approach sunset, I’m fully awake now spotting potential camping spots far away enough from the road.

For some reason unknown to me, I ride all the way to the station and we don’t get in until 11. Okay, I’m all for adventure, but finding my first camping spot at night and jets aged seems like a recipe for trouble. Instead, I get a taxi to the nearest hotel. I’m doing well with my rules on this adventure, aren’t I?

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