From Ratchaburi, we hitched the 100 km to Bangkok in two rides without much trouble. The first car that stopped for us typifies the Thai attitude.
A car drove past us on the highway at 90 odd km per hour and only realised what we were trying to do when it was too late. The pulled off at the next junction, drove back down the highway, pulled off at another junction so they could pick us up again. What can you say?
We hopped in the back, and raced down the highway in the wind towards Bangkok. The mother and son dropped us of at a petrol station where we told by someone selling food that there was no chance that anyone would stop for us there.
90 seconds later a beautiful mother and daughter stopped, the first female hitch we’d secured thus far.
We were dropped off at the notorious tourist spot, Khao San Road, which features in the famous book and film “The Beach,” where the lead character, Richard (played by Leonardo Di Caprio in the film), returns to the mainland to see a repugnant whirlwind of tourist sleaze.
We were swept with the current into the main street like a leaf into rapids. As we shuffled through the crowds we were accosted by suit sellers on our right and by tattoo parlours on our left, all competing for our attention, as if we were a big piece of bread in a pond full of hungry ducks.
After the serenity of south Thailand it was a real shock to the system to step into this bustling orgy of sights, sounds and smells that all seemed to be screaming for our attention
“Try a suit sir. Very good price”
“Hello sir where are you from? Right this way for tattoo sir”
To avoid eye contact with the hawkers, I cast my eyes upwards at a hovering swarm of luminous signboards. The smells are so thick in the air you can see them: pad thai, quail eggs, roti, falafel, hummus, sliced pineapple, vegetarian noodles and banana pancakes line the streets.
We were snapped out of our overwhelming sensory hypnosis and spun around by the beeping of a tuk-tuk driver as it squeezed through the crowds of dread-locked, tattooed, vest wearing tourists. Feeling exhausted, we managed to fight our way onto a side street where we tried to catch our breath.
“Hey that smells familiar!” panted Michael. “We must be near the fish market! Remember when we had to wade knee deep through putrid fish guts in Jakarta?!”
“It’s not the fish market Michael,” I said, quickening my step as I studied the map on my Kindle. “This is the Red Light District”