Solo Travel in Thailand: Out of My Comfort Zone, Part I
A couple of weeks ago I insisted on proving to myself that I could survive an adventure away from the comfort zone I had created in Bangkok. Apparently I was still not convinced after relocating to the Eastern Hemisphere three months prior. Once I secured a job, found an apartment and had finally settled into my new life, human nature’s restlessness crept in.
Pretty soon the familiar work grind consumed every waking hour and I was starting to lose my sense of adventure and urgency to continue traveling. I felt landlocked by the city and smothered by my current situation. I wanted to temporarily escape the chaos and stress of this new routine, and so I went on my first solo vacation abroad.
I decided on a quick midweek four-day retreat in the south of Thailand. The planning and organization for this excursion both began and ended after booking my round-trip flight. I was overwhelmed with all the island options available and had decided it best to just go with the proverbial flow. Without an itinerary or even a clue, I prepared for my independent outing with only a backpack strapped over my shoulder and a tacky tourism book in hand.
The adventure began the very moment I walked out of my condo as my first feat was getting myself to the airport in a timely manner. I had an early flight and needed to be at the departure gate by 8 a.m. Naively overlooking that Bangkok’s daily traffic is comparable to New York City’s on the day of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, I failed to give myself enough time to casually commute to the airport. After sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for thirty minutes, occasionally creeping a few inches forward, I realized I had to do something more proactive than complain to my friends about my perpetual tardiness using Line. I motioned “moto” to my cab driver after my audible impatient sighs went either unnoticed or ignored. He pulled over and let me off on the side of the highway as I hopped on the back of a motorcycle that sped meticulously through traffic with abandon.
I pulled up to the airport just in time to get overcharged by my daredevil motorcyclist chauffeur and maniacally ran into the terminal. There was no time for debate over the almighty Baht. I also could not be bothered to read through tactfully placed instructions and procedures as I was on a mission to position myself in my assigned airplane seat or be stranded. I ran around panic-stricken, asking the Thai staff questions in hurried, unintelligible English. Although being ignored by many, the most empathetic of the aviary professionals pointed me in the right direction presumably out of pity for my stupidity of arriving mere minutes before final call.
I dashed through airport security only stopping briefly to throw my junk-stuffed backpack and passport onto the conveyor belt. Out of breath and lacking will to continue on this caffeine-free morning literal rush hour, I waddled from the weight of my bags through the airport halls trying to locate my gate. By the time I reached the counter, I was heavily panting with wild, windblown motorcycle hair and glistening with sweat. I provided my ticket and hopped on the airport shuttle relieved after my unnerving morning shuffle. I was a calamitous sight, of which my victorious grin was met with several dozen disapproving looks of disdain from waiting passengers.
After a brief incident-free flight, I landed in Krabi and wandered through the airport looking for some form of transportation to get me to Ao Nang. I blindly followed some other travelers on a bus who seemed like they were slightly more prepared in their journey than I was, both on their trip and in life. We set off through the beautiful countryside where mountains, modest homes and lush green replaced my usual surroundings of heavily trafficked highways and endless infrastructure.
The bus would periodically stop for other passengers at random locations throughout the quaint little town. I kept my eye on the two guys I was essentially stalking at this point and waited for their departure to follow suit. Eventually only myself and my stalking victims were left as the bus rolled up to a scenic oceanside drop-off zone. They scampered off the bus and I followed them to a ticket booth where they bought a pass for a boat ride to Railay Beach. Naturally, I did too.
I sat on the ocean front steps admiring nature before getting directed towards a songthaew transporting myself and others to the docks. Since there was not enough room for everybody in the back of the vehicle some passengers sat on the roof, of course. We arrived at the dock and were ushered onto our luxury liner, also known as a long tail. We uneasily stepped onto the rocking boat and sat down, me next to my mates who were probably nervously wondering how they were going to get rid of me once on the secluded beach. The longtail crashed through the choppy waves and soon we were surrounded by the vast ocean and clear skies overlooking stunning towering limestone cliffs.
The longtail unexpectedly stopped several meters from the shoreline so as not to get stuck on the sand. The captain looked at the confused tourists signaling to us that this was our cue to get out of his boat and get ourselves to shore. We had no other choice but to climb up and over, jump in and walk through waste-deep water with our belongings held high over our heads until we reached dry land. After a long morning of commuting via cab, motorcycle, plane, bus, songthaew and longtail ride, I had finally reached my destination. I paused and stood on the beautiful beach to revel in the incredible view. Meanwhile my buddies had wandered off and I had to go find shelter, food and a change of clothes. I would soon discover that this journey was just beginning.