The idea of hitchhiking to me has always been intriguing and a thing I really do want to cross off my bucket list.
Doing it solo though and as an Egyptian girl? I had second thoughts for sure.
I had to mention my nationality that is often overlooked when traveling and isn’t considered a constraint… Yet, to me, being an Egyptian woman, we are raised in a manner guarded by certain fears that may differ from other societies.
During my first workaway on an organic farm in Pak Chong I met a German couple who hitchhiked several times in southeast Asia and only have good stories. Hearing it straight from them and not only as a story on a blog, I was motivated to try it back to Bangkok; a 4-hour drive, but then I told myself better wait when I’m not on my own.
I thought that yet again, I’m letting the fear that is so carefully harnessed by my society keep me away from doing things even when I’m 7,000+ Km away and on another continent. I despised that feeling. I embarked this journey with the mission of completing as many ‘first times’ as I can and I should do my best.
I did cross off a first when I got to Chiang Rai, in Northern Thailand. I couchsurfed for the first time with a Thai girl, Halfcha. And I did get really lucky with her being my first host and I loved my stay with her, it was like we knew each other before in a different lifetime she didn’t feel as a stranger to me. Maybe that encouraged me to try hitchhiking as well, with my first couchsurf being a hit.
My next stop was going to be Pai, but she and her friends advised me to stop at Chiang Mai first since it’s closer.
The night before leaving Halfcha’s home, I started preparing my hitchhiking tools, for the fancy sign; Chiang Mai on one side and Pai on the other thinking to myself I might get extra lucky and find someone heading directly to Pai. Halfcha also helped me by translating a letter in Thai that is an introduction about myself, where I’m from, what I’m currently doing and asking where the driver could drop me if it’s not Chiang Mai/ Pai. This hitchhiking letter was recommended by a travel blogger (also on Hitchwiki) in case the driver doesn’t speak English.
Signs and alarm set
I got my sign, my letter and my alarm set at 7 AM to start early and avoid the heat because God knows how long my wait is going to last. Plan B is taking the bus so I checked the bus schedule at the station before rocking the hitchhiker pose on the side of the road.
At around 8.45 AM, raised my arm with the brown sign saying Chiang Mai and started watching those passing by faces, with all kinds of expressions that might have made me lower my arm at some points from the awkwardness I felt from their stares. But I had to remind myself, these are people I don’t know, they will never see me again nor will I see them again. This is an adventure that I chose. This is an adventure that I want.
After about 20 minutes, a car stopped I thought to myself, “Wow could it be that quick?”
The Thai family was heading to Chiang Rai city centre which is 30 Km from where I was standing, they thought I was also heading to Chiang Rai not Chiang Mai. I passed the offer and when they left I thought maybe I should’ve gone to the city center?
Some more time after that, a Thai guy on his bike stopped and asked,“You want to go to Chiang Mai? It’s better to walk 1 Km in that direction until you find a village where more people could be heading to Chiang Mai but near the university here the chances are low.”
I thanked him for the tip and moved my point. Little did I know how much this guy would influence the rest of my day.
After walking for a bit looking for a trace of any village along the vast green space of the highway and many pineapple stalls. More shops and buildings now, is this the village? How long is a kilometer? I stopped again and resumed my mission.
20 minutes later. Maybe more? I decided not to pay attention to the minutes passing…
Heard a “Hey!” coming from behind me, I looked and it was that Thai guy again on the motorbike, another guy was with him this time. He looked like he was in a hurry and spoke fast,“I got this for you!” Handing me a pack of Oreo and a cold juice, I was really surprised, thanked him and told him I’ve my snacks, he insisted and then handed me two pieces of paper, “I wrote you this” Showed me the first paper, “Also this one, I saw you want to go to pai as well.”
Both written in Thai, one said Chiang Mai and the other Pai. “Now i have to go to the airport, good luck!”
I kept thanking him for his kindness and how thoughtful he was! I really was surprised!
When he left, I was still smiling and thought that if I didn’t get successful with finding a ride, this gesture was worth the past two hours.
Back to the mission with my new Thai signs, felt a bit more energized now.
Another thirty minutes, or more?
A car started to stop so I walked towards it and asked the lady if she’s heading to Chiang Mai, she told me that she’s heading to Chiang Rai (again, the city center) so I figured crossing these few kilometers won’t be a bad thing so I got in with her.
She’s originally from Mynamar but moved to Thailand for better living conditions. A pleasant short ride with cool air from the blissful AC, she asked for a picture and we exchanged contact and then she dropped me off on the main road in the city.
Resumed my mission, some time passed. More time passed. And more.
Let’s focus on getting a ride and less on the stares. Just hold the sign, woman!
A pick-up truck was approaching and flashing its lights, when it got close I saw the man telling me to cross the street. Got closer, another Thai family, the wife was in the back seat with a little kid. They spoke no English so I pointed to my sign and asked, “Chiang Mai?” Both the man and his wife smiling and nodding. I got in, more blissful cool air, I handed the woman my Thai hitchhike letter. She wore her glasses, started reading and gave me a thumbs up when she was done. I started to feel extremely happy that this finally worked but then I paused for a moment thinking what if they drop me at the bus stop as well?
*Happiness on pause*
The man wore his big smile again and pointed to the bus station we were approaching, “Okay?”
I of course acted so thankful and got out of the car being more depressed than I was with my hitchhiking pose on the side of the road.
Kept walking around the bus station. Should I just take a bus then? Started thinking that this will get me no where with the people understanding almost no English and possibly not getting the idea of why I wouldn’t just take a bus? Why is this girl holding a sign saying Chiang Mai with a bus stop full of busses heading daily to Chiang Mai?
I asked again about the bus, still 3 more hours…
A man selling ice cream was a much needed break, got myself a coconut ice cream mixed with possibly jelly? a layer of sticky rice, some peanuts and condensed milk to top it all.
I gave myself some time to enjoy the ice cream…
That Thai guy’s kindness and effort in making me the signs shouldn’t go to waste, better give it some more time than just sit around here waiting three hours for the bus. The bus is at 2 PM, my deadline is 1 PM.
Started walking away from the station, still feeling a bit indecisive… The stares this time must be filled with more questions. A girl holding a sign to a destination just meters from the bus station? A couple of people on motorbikes did stop and I just repeated the phrase “No bus”. The less complicated the answer, the better.
A local blue bus heading to another city stopped, I quickly said thank you I’m not looking for a bus, but the bus conductor kept repeating the name of a certain place and told me free! free! So I got on thinking I got nothing to lose.
I sat on a seat behind her, the bus was crammed, it was the kind of bus traveling between towns away from the touristic spots, only locals. She got two thumbs up and in Thai asked me if I was hitchhiking, I answered yes that I’m giving it shot and for some reason she then explained it to the rest of the locals on the bus. She told me they’re heading to a city before Chiang Mai where I figured I’ll be dropped off.
After around 15 minutes, we came at an intersection where the bus will continue driving straight, she pointed at a road to the right where cars will be heading to Chiang Mai.
Marched on to a spot thinking that I’m not only uncertain about whether I’ll get a ride or not. Now I’m not even close to the bus stop…
Again I was offered to head back to the city centre or the bus station. So, now if things get really bad I have a chance of going back. More minutes passed at 12.30 something a silver pick up truck stopped, walked towards it and the guy asked Chiang Mai? A genuine smile on my face now, I opened the door and before getting in I asked him again while pointing to the sign,”Chiang Mai, right?”
كنت عايزة أقوله طب إستني أجيبلك المصحف تحلفلي عليه
He’s name is King, he was heading to Chiang Mai to visit his mother, didn’t speak much English but enjoyed singing along with Thai music playing on the radio.