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The week that was in Thailand news: Don't call me Cheap Charlie! A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Thai Galaxy!


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The week that was in Thailand news: Don't call me Cheap Charlie! A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Thai Galaxy!

 
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There are some things that the great majority of Thais are never going to understand - unless they have been a distance abroad perhaps. 
 
One of them is hitchhiking. For many it is a leap into some kind of educational wilderness to grasp that people would want to do something - like holiday - on the cheap. This is propelled even deeper into the bowels of incredulity when being economical or frugal - as I prefer to term it - is practiced by those who actually have plenty of money.
 
Hence the almost complete lack of understanding by many Thais of westerners - these days called by the lovely term "beg-packers" - who just want to come to Thailand and spend their money on useful things like food and beer and the occasional roof over their heads. 
 
The negative reactions to a story featuring a few hitchhikers with a cardboard sign saying "Kanchanaburi" in Thai and English was predictable. Incredulous Thais moaned online while forum curmudgeons told the westerners to stay home if they didn't have the wherewithal to afford a holiday.
 
Bless ! It is at times like this when forums like Thaivisa reveal themselves as chockablock full of whinging pensioner expats who have forgotten what it is like to be young and carefree. Well, I may be approaching the age of handouts from Whitehall but Thailand has fortunately kept me with a young outlook - it is how I blend in with Thais of my acquaintance who have never grown up either.
 
Admittedly, when I came to Thailand in the 1980s it was hard, as it is now, to hitchhike in Thailand. The locals just didn't get it. I had had lots of experience getting memorable rides all over Europe but when I put up my thumb heading north in Thailand people stopped,wound down their windows helpfully and told me the bus stop was not there.....yuu thii noon, na khrap.
 
I did manage to get a great ride on a petrol tanker to Nakorn Sawan from Nakorn Pathom. We conversed in sign language and pidgin. For me it was not just about economics but meeting people. Several times I was invited to people's houses after lifts in Thailand. There I usually paid my way with life's universal currency.... alcoholic beverages!
 
My most memorable hitch was a very long one in Australia. Though I had saved about $1,000 Aussie bucks working for three months cutting steel at Tubemakers of Western Australia I left the money in my Westpac account putting just ten bucks in my pocket for the trip from Perth to Sydney. I arrived four days later still with six dollars for the train from Liverpool into the city center....
 
Just outside the old ghost mining town of Coolgardie a man in a "ute" stopped. He said he was "Snow" and the flowing white beard told me why. His battered vehicle only had a few thousand kilometers on the clock - but it had been round the clock once. 
 
Later, it reminded me of my first Thai wife's Soluna that had done over 900,000 kilometers. When I checked only the next month it had done just 600,000.....she said it had been in for a good Thai service.
 
Snow's ancient vehicle had traversed the Nullabor Plain on hundreds of occasions in the course of his work and after our "G'day" greetings were over and I settled back to lean on his clothes blocking the passenger door his conversation turned to his thankfulness that there was someone else to share the driving on the near 3,000 kilometer trip to Melbourne. 
 
Snow turned a bit frosty when I had to admit that I couldn't drive. Bloody, bludging, useless pommy bastards seemed to be etched on his crusty forehead though it was not vocalized. 
 
He was in the habit of tossing his tinnies and fag butts out the window as he drove which was a bit disconcerting because he carried all the fuel he needed in massive jerrycans on the back covered by a tatty, green tarpaulin. I was struck in the middle of the night by the fact that you could see oncoming headlights approaching half an hour before the vehicle passed you, so flat and featureless was this desert-like environment.
 
This phenomenon led Snow to believe that the lights glimmering at us from the rear were an approaching car. In reality the fuel soaked tarpaulin had caught fire from his discarded dog-ends and was now fully ablaze just inches from our heads. Realizing this he ditched the car by the side of the road and we piled out sharpish before utilizing some handy branches to beat out the flames before the jerrycans blew up and we were bush history.
 
As we surveyed the scene of our lucky escape in the nighttime dark, Snow said laconically: "Rooster, mate. If that ever happened to me again I'd bloody run!". We were friends in adversity at last.
 
I made it to Sydney in one piece after several other lifts though these days I think the potential explosion on the pick-up was the least of my worries. Hitchhikers were attacked and murdered with great regularity by a man called Ivan Milat who was serial killing in New South Wales around that time. 
 
These days I have my own vehicles but traveling about Thailand is still accomplished on a shoestring that annoys the current Mrs Rooster. Preferring to use my bike and the cheapest of roadside motels means I am usually waved off on my Scrabble tournament travels while she looks after the kids in the safety of Ratchayothin.....win-win!
 
In Korat recently I stayed in one such motel called Somjit that was 399 baht. I told the owner that in my opinion the beautifully cared for and well-run resort represented one of the best places I had ever stayed in the world and was fantastic value for money. I meant it. These days I couch-surf around the world living by the adage that "rent free sleep is the deepest" and you meet a better class of person away from hotels.
 
But no, my name is not Charlie. 
 
Hitchhiking aside, the week on the Thaivisa forum was its usual vibrant, interesting and bizarre self even if the Koh Tao alleged rape story continued to fester like a dead turtle on the beach. This time the saga continued in none other than The Times of London who managed to speak to the alleged victim who repeated her claims, but very little else. 
 
Her name is Isabel Victoria Baxter or Issy. Unfortunately she won't speak to me but seeing as the Times didn't name her I may as well. She might have reasons not to want to speak to the Thai media but I remain suspicious of her and her family's motives. 
 
Following stories in The Sun and The Mail I had high hopes that "The Thunderer", as it was known in my days as a cub reporter in London, would come up with some new revelations. They didn't. In fact ever since the famous old newspaper changed to tabloid it has gone inexorably downhill. 
 
Gone are the famous days when the broadsheet recalled its entire print run from the news stands because of the mother of all typos when they reported that Queen Victoria had traversed the Menai bridge: "The queen herself pissed graciously over the magnificent edifice".
 
Methinks such a typo in Thailand could result in jail time to this very day!
 
But further fuel was added to the Koh Tao fire when Big Joke Surachate Hakpan announced Friday that he would travel to London to talk to the teen. It remains to be seen if he can recover some of his reputation's lost ground after he visited the unholy island and found nothing but sand.
 
Meanwhile, I have my own beef with The Times. Late last year I exposed their weekend columnist Allan Simmons, a former UK Scrabble champion, as a grubby cheat. The story was broken on Thaivisa but though he got the sack and The Times featured the news with a half page spread they never credited the source.
 
I wasn't after money but the least they could have done is recognize Thaivisa.....oh, and given me the sacked man's job. 
 
The whole Khao Tao mess prompted a senior policeman to once again warn the Thai public that sharing fake news means jankers or even jail. So I had better not say anything untoward about DPM Prawit and his timepieces....sorry, his dead mate's timepieces.
 
His fugliness this week asked us all to believe that the crates of chronometers had been returned to their rightful owner who had now, perhaps thankfully for all but his relatives and friends, passed onto the next life where karma could dictate he set up a stall in Patpong selling dodgy Rolex.
 
Rooster, a forerunner to today's beg-packers, took several such fake Rolex in my underpants to London in the 1980s to sell in the UK and help pay my airfare. I bought the more expensive ones that had the better strap - about 650 baht at the time. It was a bit dicey; being a nervous flyer I had taken several Patpong purchased Valium and drunk a LOT of vodka on LOT (cheapo Polish Airways). Consequently after the airline lost one of my two bags I was wandering around the carousel at Heathrow in a daze looking more suspicious than an honest Thai policeman. 
 
A full customs search of my possessions ensued but failed to locate the watches in a money belt in my undies; maybe I could teach Prawit a bit about getting away with things.....
 
One woman who LOST her undies this week was a Sri Racha bar girl who had her room cleared out by another teen who worked in the same Japanese lounge in Soi Sony. It was one of several stories that Thaivisa printed that even The Sun would have refused as nonsense. 
 
Dozens wrote posts on the lost undies and the claims of designer clothing that had gone missing while a cacophony of comments and innuendo - In Your End-O as I like to say - greeted the tale of a man tugging on a pink motorcycle in the presence of a schoolgirl teen wet from a monsoon downpour in Chonburi. 
 
One wonders if all Thaivisa posters - and translators - actually have a first class degree in Viz Comic Studies.
 
When my news editor sent me a story of another Chonburi-ite who had had their "Red Cross Parcel" from a relative in Canada opened up I nearly despaired expecting allegations of "slow news day" to be hurled from all comers. 
 
Not a bit of it: "Who's been eating my Pop Tarts; Thai post office in the dock again" had six pages of comments. Gawd bless us in the modern media and all who click in her.
 
Not to belittle the importance of Pop Tarts, but a story of somewhat greater gravitas was yet another instance of a teacher whacking a young school student - in this case 28 times with a stick in public in front of a hundred other pupils. 
 
It says something about the brazen nature of such attacks when no attempt is made to hide them in a classroom or after the kids have gone home. As usual the teacher was back at his chalk-face within two days of the set up of a committee and the children were having to go to school in fear.
 
The banning of corporal punishment in schools in Thailand is well over a decade old and yet here we are still in the dark ages. Parents are still to blame by accepting that a few gentle hits are somehow okay. They help to perpetuate the environment of intimidation that some Thai teachers, unable to engage or discipline the children because they are hopeless at their jobs, create to subdue those they should nurture.
 
As a 30 year veteran of the class I am disgusted. While I still dislike the revengeful posts of foreign fathers who say what they would do to the teacher if it was their child, I do wonder what I would really do if faced with this personally. For I could not let it rest.
 
I could home-school of course, though that would be equally cruel on my daughters.
 
Showing that it is not just schools where the majority have yet to grow up was the couple filmed smashing up each other's cars in their compound because the hubby had been dabbling with a bit of extra spicy sauce on the side of his marital plate.
 
The husband in the white car started it, said the wife in the red, who backed up and charged as both vehicles were smashed beyond recognition. 
 
It got me thinking about matrimonial disputes in my past. From the earliest wedded days in Thailand all my friends were hitched to Thai women. I actually thought that the odd one who wasn't married to a Thai was precisely that.....odd. 
 
They appeared never to argue but all my friends with Thai spouses were just like me. Every couple of months there was a medium blow up. A few times a year there was a huge one. Over the years I spent so much time in the doghouse it was impossible to even contemplate getting a pet....there would have been no room to keep one.
 
My friends - mostly Brits, Canadians and Australians - agreed with me that all Thai farang relationships needed a clearing of the air from time to time. Maybe its true in other countries; I wouldn't know as the only long term relationship I have had in the UK is with Tottenham Hotspur. 
 
And so to a few Rooster awards. The "Better Not Come To Thailand Lest You Be Jailed" award goes to The Times editorial team for their headline on the Koh Tao story: "Stay Away From Rape Island, teenager warns backpackers". 
 
The "Better Late Than Never" prize goes to the Surin man who turned up alive and well after a funeral was held for him. He had been missing presumed dead for 19 years and a ceremony with an empty coffin had been held a couple of years ago. Mum's tears were understandable while the recriminations as to why he didn't send money home can come later....
 
The "Try Sleeping In Your Own Bed It's Usually Safer" award goes to the Bangkok man who, reclined his car seat and dozed off in the middle of Sunday traffic. "Jazz-man" - he was in a Honda Jazz - was found and filmed by one of the Poh Teck Tung staffers, employees who usually pick up dead bodies rather than try to wake living ones. Police, inevitably, were too late before the sleeper fled the scene to seek the land of nod elsewhere.
 
Finally some of the last legal hurdles to holding an election next year were removed this week enabling the country to get back on that much heralded "road map to democracy".
 
Call me skeptical but along with millions of others I believe the general election will be just what it says on the tin.....
 
The election of a General. 
 
Rooster
 
 
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-- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-09-15
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Many thanks for this week's tales, Mr. R!

 

When I was 17, I took off with my girlfriend of the time for 2-3 months of simple thumbin' down the road. We got underway on the east coast of North America with one goal in mind; we were going to go West. And, after we got West, we had a great swim in the ocean, turned around, and when the next kind soul stopped their car and said "where ya headed?" we answered "East".

 

There was the guy named Warren who just had enough of his pizza parlour in a small town and was going somewhere else, anywhere else. There was the beautiful blonde who slowed way down as she saw me on the side of the road, only to speed up again as my girlfriend came into view. There was...Earl(?) who spent hours popping in one shop after another trying to find a certain brand of noodles for his home-made chicken soup at a campsite. There were the folks who let us pitch our tent on their land, and out of the goodness of their hearts, allowed a shower in the morning. There was the guy with the creepiest eyes I have ever seen who offered me an orange; I politely declined and mentioned that we needed to get out RIGHT HERE. There were the people who worried about us (we were 17, remember) and put us up in their spare bedrooms after giving us a ride for several hours. There were the truck drivers (big rigs) who spoke eloquently of their belief in extra-terrestrials. I could go on; there were hundreds and hundreds more.

 

It has become a cliche, but the old Grateful Dead song lyric applied like no other, "What a long strange trip it's been..."

 

That was the early 80's, and the effects of those days are still being felt.

 

Three months ago I was on an island in my native country and needed to get to the other side. I could have waited on the bus, but decided instead to stick out my thumb. Within 5 minutes I was sitting in a car, swapping travelling stories with an woman roughly my age and providing restaurant recommendations for her trip to Hanoi.

 

It was fun. Fun as hell.

 

 

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Agree on most points. I used the app couchsurfing and let a few backpackers stay at my place and in return interviewed them about their adventures. The hitch hiking is more about the adventures than the economy and staying with people rather than hotels is getting a more intimate tour of their host city. I took em to all the things i love about Bangkok rather than what the fail list of “top 10 things to do in bkk” usually recommends 

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I have never hitchhiked in Thailand but used to go for 5 mile walks between two villages near Sangkhlaburi close to the Myanmar border. Never once was I ever allowed to complete my walks as the local Thais would always insist in giving me a lift on their motorbikes or pickups. I tried to explain to explain that I wanted to walk but this seemed ludicrous to them. The farthest I ever managed to walk was only two miles.

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You are very wrong about hitchhiking in Thailand :For a Farang, especially when he is with a bicycle, it is probably the easiest country in the world to hitch a ride. I have been doing it for over twenty years, and rarely wait longer than 10 to 20 minutes for somebody to pick me up, while the States and Europe had me waiting out in the cold for up to 7 hours many times.

But you have to be a Farang :I often asked those who pick me up, whether they would have stopped for   aThai man, and they usually say, no way, too risky. 

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I don't mind people who contribute. However, the ones who take advantage of my good nature annoy me.

I met a Czech couple, journalists, who were travelling in Australia. They said they were going to Chiang Mai, and I offered to show them around the Golden Triangle. They stayed at my GF's house for 4 days, and we drove up to Mae Sai, Doi Tung, Chiang Saen and down to Phayao.

Not once did they offer to pay for petrol or the food my GF provided. They may have been on a tight budget. However, that's just bad manners.

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21 hours ago, The manic said:

I have been picked up a few times by kind thais. I did not have my thumb out. 

Same here. During the floods some years back, trudging through knee deep water, I hitched a ride on the back of a pick-up; they offered, I didn't ask. Another instance that sticks in my mind was after I'd tied one on, and ended up penniless in the middle of nowhere. Some passing Thai girl on a motor cycle stopped, asked me a few questions, disappeared, next thing I know her boyfriend appears, picks me up and returns me to civilisation. Oh, and the guy who picked me up from the side of the road, covered in mud, after an altercation with some Thais. Well, the examples are endless ... .

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