Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi

Satun Thailand

I laid in bed under one sheet, freezing, while the AC blasted.  I rolled over and slightly opened my eyes after hearing the rustling of Trevor’s luggage.  My chest tightened and I held back my feelings of sadness and loneliness.  After 15 solid days of island life, climbing in Koh Yao Noi, Tonsai and Railay with my best friend, the idea of solo traveling again left a lump in my throat.  That vacation within a vacation marked the best climbing trip of my life!  Now I reverted back to solo hitchhiking, my destination Satun, Thailand!

Limestone rock rubbed up against the bottom of my feet while I dangled 300+ feet from the final anchor on a four pitch climb.  I looked out at the scenery surrounding me. Silhouettes of small islands looked off in the distance.  A cloudless, endless blue sky blended into the ocean like an artist painted a canvass of blues before my eyes.  Sweat filled every inch of my body.  All of that, the product of intense climbing.

Our days consisted of fear, and adrenaline both on the wall and off.  Holding onto the back of the motorbike with my fingertips as my abs tightened and huge backpack clanked over each bump I counted down the minutes to safety.  Thoughts of sliding out in the sand, hitting a ditch or spinning out in gravel raced through my mind every time we drove to Paradise Resort (every day we climbed).

Did we ever crash? Hell yes we did.  Quite a few times actually.  On a rest day we took out the bike to the other side of the island.  Just as Trevor reached the top of a hill past a slippery section of road the front tire swerved left.  We screeched to a sudden stop.  I saw my GoPro fly out of my hand in slow motion and hit the ground as I flipped off the back of the bike landing off the road in the woods.  I stood up. I brushed the dirt off my body.  Walked away with a few scrapes and bruises.  Nothing too serious, but two feet further over the cliff could have been deadly.  No hard feelings though.

The next day I crashed on the way to the climbing wall.  Traffic on this small dirt road is chaotic in the morning.  You drive wherever you can, which means sometimes the path takes you in the opposing lane of traffic so you must stay alert.  I turned the corner, heard a motorbike headed straight towards me, freaked out and in a panic shifted the bike left to get in the proper lane.  Smack! The sound of my face hitting the sand.  The back tire slid out from under us. My elbow gushed with blood and I stood up to a Thai man laughing at us.

He motioned to see if we were ok, but I didn’t take him seriously from the laughing. In retrospect, I laugh at the incident.  But just picture yourself putting along a narrow dirt road full of ditches, leaves, loose sand and gravel and only a small path to navigate.  Now add in two backpacks of gear, two people and a motorbike meant for a paved road.  It’s like riding a road bike down a gravel road.  With every turn the bike could slide right out from under you.

Our nights, clouds of smoke to mellow out the day and lead way to what felt like an endless supply of Thai food.  This left for an empty wallet and full stomach.  I miss the sweet taste of jackfruit and mango sticky rice from the corner mart in Koh Yao Noi.

The little meat stand in the center of the island where we stuffed our faces every night, but most of all, I miss Mama’s Chicken in Tonsai.  I ate most of their menu and despite the filth and dirty feel of Tonsai their menu rocked.  From lassie’s, and shakes, to fried rice, curry and cashew dishes I recommend closing your eyes and pointing…whatever you choose is spectacular.

Aside from the amazing climbing at Koh Yao Noi I also enjoyed the culture and people.  I’m not much into the hostel life and spent my nights nestled in a bivy and hammock, but Namtok Bungalow changed my view towards hostels.  This place was filled with the friendliest people from all over the world.  Although at times I felt smooshed in between a Swedish ghetto.

I did meet many faces I hope to see again on my future travels.  Shout outs to Marie, Ulrica, Hampus, Kenny, Karn, Sarah and Jason.  Maybe I’ll see you all someday when I’m in Sweden or the UK.  If you hit up a climbing destination I’d highly recommend staying at a climbing hostel.  Even if just for a few nights the people you meet might become friends for a lifetime.

Trevor left in the early hours of the morning. After a handshake and a short goodbye he trekked on his way to Bangkok by Krabi Airport.  I slept in until 10:30 AM and then continued my hitch hiking adventure from where it left off in Krabi.

I stood at the Shell gas station for the better part of four hours.  Dressed in black and navy blue long pants the sun scorched my body. Sweat dripped down my arms and face and people looked at me and just smiled.  I just stood there, smiled, my hair blowing in the wind, flying a sign that said, “Trang” in Thai.  A few stopped to help me pointing out the bus station. I kindly thanked them, but declined their offer.

An employee of the Shell drove me to the bus station.  I misunderstood him since many meanings come from the repeated phrase, “Trang, Trang..Trang” and ended up walking back to the same gas station where he worked.  After a few hours without any luck an older Thai gentleman walked by and tried helping me.  He spoke broken English, but understood I didn’t want his money, just a ride to Satun or Trang.  He kindly offered to take me to the bus station. At this point I gave in to the bus.  I stood outside in the same spot for hours flying a sign and didn’t eat at all.  So I thought it might be the only way out of here.

After sitting at the stop for a half hour and regaining my composure I thought of the time I spent hitch hiking in Fruita, Colorado.  A smile broke out on my face and I began to smirk.  Why do you ask?  Well, Marien and I spent two days clung to an on-ramp in Fruita trying to hitch through Utah.  We sat there patiently for a few days until getting a ride so four hours of waiting in Krabi, Thailand was nothing.

I asked the clerk the price to Satun from Krabi.  He typed 243 into the calculator and pointed at it.  I declined and I walked away, heading back towards the gas station.

After much patience a single mom of two, young kids pulled off and rolled down the window.  She motioned me into the vehicle as she was headed towards Trang.  I hopped in expecting to get dropped off in Trang, but after much chit chat she mentioned meeting up in Satun with her mother so I ended up staying along for the ride.

I almost regretted this ride.  Imagine five hours of driving with screaming, yelling, kicking, and crying in the back seat.  It wore me out, but after a few stops and playing with the kids I began to like them.  The little Thai girl would play the slap game where you try to hit the other person’s hands before they pull them away.  She also enjoyed putting clips in my hair and pulling on my curls.  The little Thai boy just sat there in the back seat with his eyes glued to a tablet playing video games. It reminded me of America.

Sirikorn, the mother of the two kids, invited me to dinner and offered a place for me to stay for the night.

We arrived in Satunright after the sunset in the mountains.  Much of the drive we meandered through the mountains.  I cast my eyes upon many shades of green, jungle scenery as we cruised through the back roads.  Palm oil trees, deciduous trees, coconut trees and other tropical plants interlaced throughout the mountainous lands.  I enjoyed hitching through this region.  I felt like I finally got off the beaten path of Route 4 and into something new, flavorful and full of color.

I stretched my legs and sat down again to indulge in dinner.  Plates full of Chinese and Thai dishes covered the table.  I can’t recall what we ate, but the spices made my eyes water and nose drip and despite the pain I could not put my utensils down.  I just kept eating until my stomach hurt.

The lot of us fit in the car with the addition of Sirikorn’s mom.  She took us all for dessert and I ended up eating a bowl of soy milk with gelatin in it.  The kids finally settled down, but once they polished off dessert the bickering and rough housing came back quickly.  At this point I didn’t mind.  Kids are kids whether American, Thai, Malay, Chinese, etc. I just looked forward to sleep.

As we approached her mom’s house we continued on past it and I became confused.  She told me her mother wanted a better place for me to stay that her home wasn’t suitable for my needs.  I didn’t care at this point. Despite it being dark I found many places to sleep in the past and this night wasn’t any different.

She continued driving and stopped at a hotel.  Now, by no means did I ask her to pay for it, but she did, out of the kindness of her heart.  I guess she felt bad for saying I could sleep at her mom’s and then changing plans…I’m not sure.

Regardless I ended up in a comfy bed with a warm shower and read myself to a peaceful slumber (A Life in Metal)

She shut the door behind her as she left and told me to be ready at 7:30 AM for Hat Yai and after accompanying her she would drive me back to Satun to catch the ferry for Langkawi.