Hop to it! Die drives deep into night
The Jingjo Hotel was still open when I arrived at about 11pm. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
ONE rule of thumb for the trip is to avoid driving at night. Though this isn't Central America, where highway robberies are a real threat to bikers, there are a number of other reasons that getting off the road ahead of dusk is a good idea: road conditions are more difficult to assess at night, there are more drunk drivers on the road and quiet simply you're more likely to end up hugging the pavement once the sun goes down.
There is also the issue of not being able to get the lay of the land when you arrive in town – most importantly, where to sleep. Roll into some medium sized, rural town in Thailand past 10pm and your options are limited, at best.
The easiest thing to do is get off the road while there is still plenty of sunshine in the air – dice willing.
Of course, when the die chooses a long-distance destination, and your not properly suited up and in the saddle until 5:30pm, well, that's just the two left feet god gave you to dance with.
Like nearly every morning since Dice Travels started, it's been a slow start to the day. Carefully, I pack everything, readjust the windshield that's been impacting my turning radius due to the handle bars bumping into it and finish up a blog post.
A message from Bertie pops up about grabbing lunch. A bowl of thick coconut green curry is already in front of me; I suggest green shakes on my way to the ferry.
“Ya! I think a green shake could be a good replacement for the Jager Bomb I owe you,” she types back.
“Haha, or we could role [sic fml] a die and let it chose... could be fun,” I suggest.
I start questioning the die's judgment after it determines that Bertie and I should pass on healthy green shakes, instead voting for the afternoon Jager Bomb.
The die is a dangerous thing in Bertie's hands.
No a far walk from her new place at Lamai Muay Thai Camp, we find a bar that has both Jager and Redbull.
A little miscommunication leads to us drinking Redbull and Jager over ice – a surprisingly refreshing drink.
“So where you going?” she asks.
I give a cavalier shrug. The die said I was traveling by destination today, but despite being suited up and ready to go, I have no plans past catching a ferry from Koh Samui back to Don Sak.
When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd be sleeping in Phuket tonight. I thought I'd have the bitter-sweet pleasure of having Julia in my arms, knowing I'd have to leave her again. This last week would end up being framed as a practice run while I got my license plate translated.
I had already imagined, with a certain amount of glee, sheepishly returning to Phuket for a few days. I don't mind playing the fool, especially if it means I get to see friends who I dearly love.
However, I woke to an email from Kay at Big Bike Tours, a company specializing in organizing tours in Thailand, Loas, Myanmar, Cambodia and China (Tibet). Kay cleared up the misunderstanding. The A4 registration translation that she originally told me I needed was still the only thing I needed with regards to my license plate.
My heart sunk. It's cliché to say so, but there was the physical feeling of my heart shifting in and down, away from the world.
The dice roll on.
At the bar, Bertie and I pull out the map of Southeast Asia and look over a few tiny squares that represents the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula.
Nothing seems far away on a map. Chumphon Town especially doesn't seem too far away, just a few hours drive.
There are only a handful of names on the map that seem like reasonable options; as a magician I should have been aware that appearances are often misleading.
I jot down Lang Suan and Ao Sawi, just past Surat Thani, as options in my notebook. Bertie throws in a long shot: Bang Saphen. Chumphon Town gets added; it's an easy option because it's so legible on the map.
I scan beyond Bang Saphen, but Bertie reins me in. Phato is off the coast, but looks interesting enough, so it makes the list.
After the fifth option is written down, things are looking pretty thin. We're left in silence. Finally, I choose Pathiu, about an hour beyond Chumphon City, somewhere to just round out the options.
Pathiu says the die.
No big deal, I think.
Bertie checks here phone: Pathui is 6 hours away. If I catch the 3pm ferry, I'll make it by about 9.
I miss the 3pm ferry.
I make the 4pm ferry, arriving on the mainland by about 5:30pm.
According to Google Maps, Pathiu is still about six hours away.
The rain that I left on the mainland was hot on my heels as I skipped out of Koh Samui an hour and half ago. The dark clouds and heavy winds were whipping the island as I the ferry departed. Now, back in Don Sak, a light drizzle from the stratus clouds overhead forces me into rain gear.
The entire ferry ride over my mind was preoccupied with excuses for not following through on the die roll – the options given were clearly poor ones.
“Just because Pathiu is my next destination doesn't mean I have to get there tonight,” I reasoned. But it was clear when the die was cast that the roll was for where I would go today.
Cornered by the situation, my mind continues to squirm for the better part of a couple hours, watching the sky eventually go black overhead and the thick trunks of the oil palms press in against the north-bound lanes of the highway.
Eventually, I resign myself to the situation. I relax on the bike, allowing the pack strapped across the panniers to work as a back rest, firmly pressing against my spinal protection plate.
I imagine that I'll need music, more Redbull and Snickers bars to keep me going. However, with my superhero buff pulled up over my mouth, keeping my warm breath against my face as the night's chill takes hold of the world, I'm feeling alert.
It's just me and large lorries on the four-lane, split highway. The truck drivers are surprisingly methodical, signaling as they make a controlled pass in the right lane, then signaling again before returning to the left lane.
I'm averaging just over 100km an hour, feeling like a ninja with my mask on as I thoughtfully zipping past the semi trucks.
I stop for dinner at a gas station canteen, where piles of pre-cooked Thai food sit in stainless steal trays. Casting the die is more work than just pointing at a few dishes that look palatable.
Back on the road, the nearly unnoticeable smell of the countryside is occasionally punctuated by the pungent, putrid-sweet aroma of a palm oil processing plants hidden somewhere just off the highway.
There isn't much to look at besides for the red taillights and reflectors on the trucks. I follow the signs toward Chumpon, which I'll skirt around the edge of as I head for Pathiu.
With disappointment I pass road signs for caves, beaches and temples, even Khao Sex Viewpoint (or atpleast that's what I think it said). The number of spontaneous, well-deserved detours pop up every dozen or so kilometers, but any attempt to explore them would require a level of daftness, that even I don't possess.
This is the other downside of traveling at night: you miss everything between point A and point B.
Google Maps lags in updating; I miss the turn to Pathiu. A quick U-turn, and I'm off the highway.
I have the road to myself. An aromatic cloud of white wood smoke drifts across a section of the road. The darkness of the oil palm plantations on each side of the well-paved road is broken by the occasional florescent outdoor light of a house or a closed business.
On a blue sign designating a rest area, gas station and 7-Eleven, there is a sign for the Jingjo Hotel, which translates to Kangaroo hotel.
The three-story building is freshly built behind a gas station, eatery and 7-Eleven complex. There is an enormous statue of a kangaroo with a joey's head awkwardly thrusting directly from it's abdomen instead of popping up from the roo's pouch. Outside of the perplexing name and addition of a 10 meter kangroo, the hotel itself is relatively generic.
It is a very clean, very sterile 3-start hotel with tile floors and big suicide windows. The standard room is 650 baht, which is a bit steep for me, but I'm not about to hop onto the bike and drive out of the large, mostly empty parking lot into the completely empty roads to find an alternative.