Thailand Road Trip: Getting the Hell Out of Bangkok

Note: This was a relatively stupid idea that I got stuck in my head and pushed for until all hands were on deck. The plane to Phuket was about the same cost per person and takes just over an hour compared to our stunning 17 in a Honda Freed minivan. At least we have some stories.

Deciding that another night in Bangkok would most certainly lead to our deaths, we fled the scene and headed to the airport to fetch ourselves a rental car. We shopped around, compared prices, and picked Budget’s Honda Freed for room and automatic transmission. I was not about to try my sub-par shifting skills in Bangkok. I was already going to be dealing with driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car. 

As the car is getting ready I had the foresight to get us a road Atlas of Thailand. I did not have the foresight to figure out how to actually get out of the city and onto the proper highway. We get the call that the car is ready to go, scurry around the airport looking for an escalator that will actually go down, and hop in. Next comes luggage tetris, mirror adjustments, radio search, and oh… “How do we get to Phuket?”

There is road in Thailand that starts right outside Bangkok, runs along the western border (that’s Myanmar/Burma), and ends smack dab in the middle of the island we are trying to get to in the South. Perfect! Should be a straight forward drive, maybe we can even pop over the border and get the Burmese stamp in our passport!? Haha, apparently that’s a bad idea. I told our plan to the gentleman who opened the car from us and it was clear that fear is the same exact expression around the world. He managed enough English to tell us that it would be “very dangerous” and that you “need truck” to even attempt that road. That same gentleman then did us the huge favor of giving us turn by turn directions out of the airport, onto the proper highway, and nearly all the way to our final destination across the entire country. He even drew a map and included the latin alphabet (Thai is normally written in squiggles). 

And we’re off. Kyle as my navigator, I start forward on the journey. What’s the first turn? I’m going left… oh… shit. In an instant our directions were rendered useless, I had no hope of returning to the highway I just left, and we would have to find our own way. Still getting used to the opposite side of the road and a different perspective on lane spacing we start to wing it. Signs to Bangkok put is in the right direction for at least a few miles, but eventually we have to get around it to the other side. Oh, I forgot that we have been graced by the start of rush hour too.

I think it’s worth noting that Thai people are incredibly nice and courteous and even though Bangkok is the craziest city I have ever been to it’s driving environment is relatively tame (excluding our one taxi driver who intentionally swerved at a van and then did a boxing motion towards the driver… and the Tuk Tuks who drove through water). It was really no different than driving in Boston, just a lot less honking. I was mostly on the highway which keeps things more predictable, but I wouldn’t be afraid to drive there again where as Shanghai… no chance.

As we use the falling sun as our compass as we debate where it should and should not be in the sky relative to our windows, we start to get our bearings, get lost again, and then hook a U-ie and get onto a road that we believe to be Highway 35. Destination… squiggles. I think the scariest part about this entire journey is that you never really know for sure if you’re on the right road. We could very well travel for hours and see a sign for Cambodia, maybe even Vietnam if we’re being “ignant." 

At the second toll, I pull out our giant map, point to a road, and ask the man how to get there. Sure enough, he said just go straight. We were on our way out of Bangkok!