THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 2 – DRIVING THAILAND
Driving Thailand is the second Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now complete. But before I publish it as my second FREE e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book. – The best way to see Thailand.
CENTRAL THAILAND (Part 1)
The drive to Bangkok
The drive from Phuket to Bangkok is peppered with a profusion of greenery and overabundance of tropical splendour. Take two days, break the journey and stay overnight at Hua Hin (550kms from Phuket). The first day is a long one, approximately ten hours driving including stops. You can sleep in a bit because from Hua Hin to Bangkok (150+kms) is about three hours depending on your destination and traffic.
Out of Phuket over the Sarasin Bridge you drive through the exotic province of Phangna with its dramatic limestone monoliths gazing down on you. You have a choice of two main routes; fork left before Phangna town and head along the west coast to Ranong or go right through the Town towards Surat Thani and then head north towards Chumporn where you will be joined to the west by the road from Ranong. Ranong is a well-kept border town which gets many visitors and expats who do border runs to Myanmar.
The journey from Phuket to Chumporn via Ranong takes longer (add one to two hours) but is well worth it as the scenery is spectacular; flat and coastal to Ranong and mountainous and jungly the rest of the way. The Chumporn to Hua Hin road transverses the sliver of land known as the Kra Isthmus which at its narrowest point is 44kms wide bordered by Myanmar to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east.K
I love Hua Hin. The King’s holiday retreat is now quite a big seaside town on the west side of the Gulf but, in part, still retains its old fishing port village atmosphere with narrow winding streets. Here you will find and eclectic assortment of upmarket international cuisine, waterside romantic fish restaurants and great value local Thai food. In the old waterside accommodation is mainly cheap and very cheap. Go back to the main part of town for international hotels and pay through the nose. The choice is yours.
After a restful night set off north towards Bangkok or stay a day longer in Hua Hin if you feel inclined. The main road is in much better condition from here onwards than it is south of Hua Hin. Bangkok is the hub of South East Asia and is home to, give or take, ten million souls. By any standards it is a big city but there is nowhere on earth like Bangkok. Try as I might to describe it I know someone else will have a totally different perspective. I will try and encapsulate how I feel about Bangkok rather than make an attempt at a tourist guide resume which you can get from ‘Lonely Plant’ or somewhere like that.
Apart from the splendid Grand Palace, the exotic, opulent temples of the Emerald Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, the Temple of Dawn and other historic shrines, you see images everywhere of ancient Oriental beauty and centuries of culture. The waterways, City parks, sky trains and international shopping malls and so on make Bangkok seem little different to most major cities of the world. But when you add in the night markets, day markets, street vendors, mobile shops, girlie bars and the uniqueness of seedy Patpong you realise you are somewhere very unusual. Every square metre of space is used for something and you find it inconceivable that you don’t get food poisoning from the street food vendors; but you don’t. And it’s so bloody hot that your nostrils are on fire and you are gasping for breath because the air has been de-oxygenated by carbon monoxide. And how did the motorcyclist driving on the pavement not kill anyone. And then here comes the biggest thunder storm you ever witnessed; people are wading knee deep in water outside your hotel and tuk-tuks are floating down the road. It takes you half an hour to cross Silom Road or you have been in a taxi for one hour and you still haven’t got to Starbucks which takes ten minutes to walk. Have you got the picture?
That is Bangkok. I don’t know how anyone could live there and survive the pollution, the mind-numbing 24/7 rumble of noise and the ultra-frenetic pace of everyday life. Now you must be thinking; he really detests Bangkok so passionately, but, I’m sorry to disappoint you; you are wrong and in saying that I disappoint myself too. Because I know it is absolutely, unquestionably, one of the unhealthiest places in the world but it is, paradoxically, the most powerfully magnetic place. The pull is unavoidably strong; a kind of seductive hypnosis that I find extremely annoying.