The Importance of a Navigator – Siam Summer

There is a saying in Minnesota that they only have three seasons: Winter, Spring, and Construction. It makes sense that with the harsh weather that this part of the world experiences, they would need a couple of months a year to rebuild the roads that get destroyed. I would like to say that this is the case for many of the places in the world. They take those months of nice weather to make sure that they fix the roads. In Thailand that is basically all year. It doesn’t matter if it is the dry season or the monsoon season, it is always construction season.

This is important to recognize when going on a road trip in Thailand because you will run into road construction somewhere along the way. In the United States, this will just cause a little delay as the cars line up and wait their turn to make it through the construction. But it Thailand, it could mean the complete rerouting of the road, and if you do not pay close attention you could be taken off of your path and onto a windy mountain road.

This happened yesterday. We were directed off to another path that took us on a loop that added another hour onto the drive. The reason for this was because the right turn was completely blocked off and we were only allowed to turn left. As soon as we did this, Google Maps instantly redirected us to take this loop to get us back on track when all we need to do was take a U-turn to get back on the path that we were supposed to go on. It is a common occurrence to have to take a U-turn while driving in Thailand. I have to take two of them when I go to work every morning, but if you are not aware of this fact, it could cause some serious problems and get you lost.

It wasn’t until we were driving by the same big mountain for the second time that we recognized this problem or we might still be on the road right now looking for the right direction. All I’m trying to say is that if you come to Thailand and think that the best way to get around will be driving, make sure that you have someone keeping an eye on exactly where you want to go. Technology is great, but it does not hold the intuitive reasoning of humans that are needed to get around in Thailand. It is just looking for the quickest path to get you where it thinks you want to go, and it is getting faster at doing it. This is where your problems may arise.

Despite the fact that we got turned around for an hour, it was still a beautiful drive, and though it is not for the weak of stomach because of all of the winding, it was fun to see this rare part of the country. Luckily, it is more of a straight shot today, and I should not have to encounter the same problem that we did yesterday.

The Last Leg – Siam Summer

I was not able to snap many pictures today. It was my job to drive the final three hours to Phuket and our hotel there, and they kind of frown upon a person who is busy taking pictures while driving a car. I know I had a lot of free time to run around and take pictures after we had arrived, but the rains arrived and I was stuck in my hotel room for much of the afternoon. It is a shame too because the last three hours of this drive highlight a beautiful part of Thailand. There are palm tree hills all over the place that I was forced to weave through in order to make my way to our final destination. The clouds coming in from the ocean clung to the tops of these mountains and just added to the overall experience. Add in a huge golden Buddha sitting on top of a few of these hills and it was one of the better drives that I have experienced in a long time. This is something that I would have missed out on if I had flown down to Phuket instead of driving so I am glad that I did it this way instead. I will tell you that if you are considering doing the same thing, it is not an easy drive. The roads are just as windy as you can find in the mountains of Colorado, and the drivers do not improve just because you have found your way out of the big cities of Thailand. It is tempting to look at the view along the way, but you really need to pay attention to the road because you never know what the person next to you will do. Add in a rainy deluge and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. I took it slow and made it safely, but there were a couple of time where I was worried about the situation around me.

I am happy to be in Phuket, and the weather can’t stay bad the whole two weeks I am in this part of the world. I will make it out of the hotel and share the beauty of this place soon. I promise you will not regret seeing it.

Road Trip – Siam Summer

For those of you that get to talk to me from time to time, you have probably heard me complain about the troubles I have been having trying to purchase a car in Thailand. There is a lot of paperwork, and they seem to change the rules every time I reach that point where I can actually obtain the paperwork that they needed a week earlier. But I have finally caught up with the rules, and have now purchased a slightly used Ford Focus. I know it is not the most luxurious car, but it works for what I need it for, getting back and forth to work, and the occasional trip out of Bangkok. Considering I paid for it on Friday, and I don’t have to be back at work until August 10th, there is only one thing left to do, road trip.

I got up early this morning to take to the highways of Thailand and make my way down south to visit the fabled city of Phuket (pronounced Poo Ket (yes, I made the joke as well the first time I saw the name of this city)). I know that when you look at a map, Thailand does not look that big, but it stretches a lot further than you would imagine. A drive from Bangkok to Phuket, takes over twelve hours, and even though I could make it in one day, I decided to break the trip up into two.

As soon as I made it out of Bangkok, I noticed that the stress of driving in Thailand reduced dramatically, and it has been fun being out on the open road again. It is one of the things I miss the most about America. The ability to get into the car and drive aimlessly into the long stretches of road allows for endless tales to be told and adventures to be had. There is something romantic about seeing the landscape change from the typical things you see on a normal day to experiencing new climates, people, and places. The only problem with it is that the first day on the road does not have the great stories to tell that you would hope for on a road trip. It usually takes until you stay at various places that the stories start to unwind.

The typical parking lot found at rest stops in Thailand

I did visit many roadside rest stops. They are all over the place in Thailand, and it does not matter which one you stop at, they are all the same. You will find a 7-11, an Amazon coffee shop, and some type of American fast food chain, usually a KFC even though I have seen the occasional Subway. The fill-up is quick and they send you back on the road. They do have a building set off in the back corner dedicated to bathrooms, and it threw me off the first time I had to pee in stalls that were installed outside in the back of that building. But I got used to it, and it is a good use of space, plus it helps with the smell that they tend to generate.

The mustache lets me know that this bathroom is for me

They do try to distinguish the various stops with different statues you will find decorating the big slabs of concrete. Most of the time it is comic versions of children holding up signs, but every once in awhile, you come across something a little more creative. I enjoyed to Japanese cats outside the bathrooms the best. The one with the pink bow on the head indicated the women’s bathroom, and the one with the mustache was for the men.

It wasn’t the most exciting day being stuck in a car with the biggest form of entertainment being the rest stops I found along the way, but it is possibility for adventure that kept me excited and looking forward to the ticking kilometers I saw on my speedometer. I know that there will be exciting moments to share with you over the next couple of days, so I hope you join me as I share what the Phuket region of Thailand has to offer somebody with a car and hopefully you can get something out of the posts as well.

Until tomorrow.

A Little Road Trip – Siam Summer

Locals enjoying some fishing on a small beach in Pattaya, Thailand.

Summer has always been a time to travel a little and see friends, family and a little bit more of the world. Things are a little different this summer. People are stuck in their part of the world and because of that, the world has once again grown. We are not able to be the same small world community that we used to be by hopping on a plane and traveling to the various points in the world. We are now forced to explore the little corners of the world in which we live. Luckily, I have found myself in Thailand. First off, I have not explored much of this country and I am excited to see what it has to offer. Secondly, they have done a pretty good job of getting the Corona Virus situation under control and things are starting to open up again. The bars are still closed and the national parks start opening on the first of July, but the rest of the country has returned to back to a semblance of normal. Yes, there are more people wearing masks than normal, but it is a country that is trying hard to keep things under control so they can be prepared during the height of their tourist season and not let the economy slip anymore than it needs to.

The view from my hotel room at the Birds and Bees in Pattaya, Bangkok.

Considering it is summer and I have not traveled outside of Bangkok since the pandemic gridlocked the world, I thought this would be the perfect time to see more of this country I have found myself living in. There was only one thing that an American facing this situation can think of, road trip. There are many towns, islands and cities within driving range of the big city, and the roads are not hard to travel on as soon as you get out of the city center. Even though I do own a car, I thought it best to travel by hiring a driver this time out, and we made our way to the first city on our list, Pattaya.

The small beach on the edge of the Birds and Bees in Pattaya, Thailand

This city is one of the bigger tourist destinations because it is close to Bangkok, boasts some nice beaches, and has different levels of experiences depending on what you are looking for. We went thinking this would be a great place to meet up with other people we are traveling with, and get in some beach living before we make it to our final destination on this trip, Koh Samet. It would have been the first place we went to, but this island is a national park, and we had to wait until the first of next month before we could enjoy this spot.

The view of the Birds and Bees from the beach

Despite this, we were able to find a nice resort on the quiet side of town, Birds and Bees. It is a great hotel with comfortable villas looking out over a small beach with a pool and great restaurant attached to it. Our plans have not been anything more than hanging out at the pool while we are here, and enjoying some good food before moving on to our next destination, but it is nice to get out of the city and travel again. It reminds me why we made the jump overseas in the first place, and even though the first day was a little overcast, I have been able to unwind a bit and enjoy this summer. It just shows me that travel has changed for now, and if we are going to participate in this rewarding activity we need to think about learning more about our local terrain instead of exploring the various parts of the world. I’m sure that no matter where you are, there are those little corners that you have always meant to explore. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of it.