24.02.2012 31 °C
As Charlie mentioned in the last blog; the road trip through Thailand has been one of the highlights of the trip so far. The independence and freedom to actually get off the 'beaten track' of our own accord has been really inspiring and we have seen parts of Thailand that we just would not have been able to get too by bus or train.
The final few days of our trip took us to both Trang and Hat Yai in Southern Thailand. Whilst neither city offered us any kind of cultural stimulation they have both been marginally interesting - in the sense that you get to see how these smaller transport cities operate on a daily basis. Trang was fairly quiet when we arrived and the hotel Thumrin, situated on the cross roads at the centre of town, could easily have been in any of the SE Asian cities we have visited to date. However, the one advantage Trang did have over other towns in the region was the Bank of Bangkok! Such trivial matters mean a lot when you have 200 pounds worth of Loatian Kip and Vietnamese Dong to exchange and nobody (except the Bank of Bangkok) will take your money. So, after some rather fraught negotiations with a non English speaking bank teller and an extra few baht in our back pockets, 2 million less Dong to contend with both Charlie and I were happy with our brief flirtation with money laundering.
The Journey onto Hat Yai from Trang was only 140km and the road south continued to wind through masses of palm trees and jungle laden scenery, truly stunning! Hay Yai itself is a major transport hub and most travellers, including ourselves, use this as a route to catch the train onto Butterworth, Malaysia. We did get to explore Hat Yai city centre in the evening before our train journey though and were amazed at not only how quiet the city was but also the massive Chinese influence that dominates. This did seem so odd to me though as the place really did feel like it was stuck in the cold war era, most of the building were grey and dull and clearly built in the 1950s/1960s. For some reason my own pre-conceived ideas of this part of the world were very different from the reality we got to see.
So our first road trip together concluded 1200km and seven days after it started. Charlie had never been on a road journey before and whilst I have had a couple of trips through Europe by car this one blew both of those out of the water. The control of your own journey gives you so much freedom, and whilst that is an obvious thing to say for any traveller, it really does count for a lot after you have endured a miserable twelve hour train journey or delayed bus ride through some god-awful out post. In fact the experience is akin to passing your driving test and getting into your own car for the first time.
Ross and Charlie