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Name: Benjamin W Wild
Bio: Non-practicing athiest. Binge-thinker. Domesticated animist. Alien. Poet. Cynic. Hopeless romantic. Size 10 shoes.
Photos: Ben Jah Man's photo libraries
Some Thoughts on Travel ( 12th Nov, 2009 )
Pegasus ( 28th Sep, 2009 )
Passport ( 8th Jun, 2009 )
Road ( 8th Jun, 2009 )
IKEA People ( 13th Mar, 2009 )
It's Funny in a Ha-Ha Way. ( 27th Nov, 2008 )
Four Californian Haiku'isms ( 25th Nov, 2008 )
Corn Walls ( 25th Nov, 2008 )
Olave House ( 12th Aug, 2008 )
All the Beautiful Women ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Last Night ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Hanoi ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Drought’s Geography ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Two Lane Friday ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Trans-Canada Tree-Way ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
New York York ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
En Viñales ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
I Like This Place Old ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Valley in the Sky ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Ode to the AIrport Cleaners ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
Santiago ( 30th Jul, 2008 )
i think my greatest satisfaction of the last four months of South East Asian travel would have to be washing my face, washing my feet, and taking a shit after 1000km's of hitch hiking over 3-4 days.
i call it a 'Hitch Hikers Delight', a title somewhat akin to a cocktail.
the grime and dust, of mostly open air travel in the back of pickup trucks, caking the ceramic bathroom tiles to match the alluvial plains of some delta in the geography of transit, and the sigh's of relief in returning to some vestige of self, that can now enter most places of business without the looks of disdain that greeted our travel weary bodies upon entry, before we threw ourselves upon the menu, and cold beers, and later the pre-sleep showers.
a micro cosmic flood of relief, in cleansing from the body's exterior the unmentionable places that our feet had been, and the intermissions of standing on the roadside of Thailand with cardboard signage, and hopefully legible place names, scrawled in Thai with a slowly dying, black Sharpie.
the idea of hitch hiking is not a new one, nor is it's practice, however the option of hitch hiking is one that is totally left up to the traveller, and NEVER offered as an option or advice in the Lonely Person Guide Book, on tourist information desks, or anyone's lips as you inquire as to the best ways to tour a country on the cheap.
i had made a note on another Tour Of Beauty (2008), that "travelling alone is like having one testicle."
without someone else to have your back, or urge you on, or dare you to do it, or improvise an option you did not foresee, i have often just taken the road travelled, rather than the road hitched.
but this Tour (2009), i find myself in the company of a Canadian mate, and whilst in Pai, a township in far northern Thailand above Chiang Mai, we happened upon some old tree planting buddies from Canada who had been hitch hiking the area, and so arose the question- why don't we do that?
i had met my travel partner online in 2007 advertising a ride across Canada, halfway through my First Tour of Beauty from Chile to Burning Man, via South/Central/North America, and although 'rideshare' was not hitch hiking, i was prepared to do so if my ride fell through- which it almost did.
almost 3 years later we've met up again and have travelled together on and off for the last four months.
upon a revisit to Pai in as little as a month, we decided we should ride motorbikes through the some-680-switch-back mountains, and get ourselves prepared in Chiang Mai to hitch hike our way to Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor Wat, which i had visited the Tour before.
now there is not much planning involved in hitch hiking Thailand.
we bought a map of Thailand the day before, posted a box of excess weight back to Australia, got a little drunk the night before, ate breakfast and got high, and then set out for the southern city limits and the glint of adventure in our eyes.
i had gathered a few pieces of cardboard and procured a black sharpie with which we wrote the place names of towns and cities on a rough highway route that would hopefully deliver us to Siem Reap after 5 days and about 1000km's.
we were giving ourselves plenty of time, and had just enough hash to reach the border, without which we wondered just how much fun hitch hiking a foreign country can be... (it later proved to be just as exhilarating).
the beauty of hitch hiking whilst in foreign countries is that the experience of travel is greatly given over to the people's generosity, hospitality and humour- and this is moreso than usual, because one is at the mercy of the people, outside the bounds of tourist operators and the safety in numbers mentality, and one is also exposed to the elements.
also, one's success in hitch hiking is equally dependent upon a carefree attitude, friendliness, resourcefulness, and a generous budget of time and adventure.
for instance; photographing roadsigns that are written in both Thai and English, and using the zoom to copy roadsigns from is resourceful, offering the driver hash and alcohol is friendly, reaching the border before your visa expires is time management.
and there was no shortage of locals who were willing to direct us to bus stations or highways that would make our travels continual, and we were more than willing to explain and give examples of how to travel for free.
we even approached an off duty policeman whilst stuck 12km's inside the city and taken to the city limits for a small tip. (hitch hiking is not illegal in Thailand).
whilst hitch hiking there also dawned the realisation of just how invigorating and enjoyable travel is when you get off the buses, but stay on the road.
the Encyclopedia of Unmentionable Smells is no longer quarantined from your senses by the rattling glass windows of the stifling buses, but is pumped into the cortex at speeds of upto 140km's an hour, while the sun carves it's name into the back of your neck, and burns it's kisses upon your shoulders; the sound of time and space roar about your ears as you view them both passing away across the back of the pickup, and you celebrate the privelage of being an ambassador for your culture as you smile and wave and say "cheers" to practically every truck, and bus, and pick up that you pass, and so receive in return a bounty of smiles and shared laughter- not to mention the bond of brother/sisterhood that you concrete more each day with your fellow traveller/s.
we had taken our adventure for travel back from the operators, and out of the tourist circuit that had for a short time imprisoned us in the discomfort of buses and transit waiting rooms and early morning holding patterns, where everyone seems to mill about in a zombie-like version of cold turkey for mini bars and satellite television air conditioning.
the generosity of the Thai people knows no bounds, and given the economic strength of the country, we were not asked for money at any point. our very first ride even booked a room in a hostel for us at our arrival city some 4 hours away.
although hitch hiking is not common in Thailand, the people soon realised that we were out for adventure, and were always willing to go out of their way or to assist us in finding a good point of transfer.
the assortment of people who stopped for us ranged from toilet salesmen, to icon salesmen, to policemen, to an Australian, to farmers with pickup's full of produce and people, to couriers, to families, to farmers- most of which mind you drove at speeds well beyond what we thought likely or possible.
the border crossing into Cambodia however, soon made us realise just how 'affordable' hitch hiking is in Thailand, and the Cambodian people were quick to put their hand out for money in return for a ride- the 'por gratis' ideal of hitch hiking was lost here.
but we did do what we had set out to accomplish- to hitch hike from point A to point B, and have fun doing it.
we did save ourselves some money, but more importantly, we gave ourselves a much greater travel experience by taking our reality into our own hands, and subjecting ourselves to the goodness of humanity in the face of our collective evil's.
so much so is the hospitality and ease of hitch hiking in Thailand, that we did it again after Cambodia, and hitch hiked another 1000km's from the border to the islands in the south where i now find myself writing this.
the second leg of hitch hiking was perhaps not as exciting as the first, but the relief that we shared, and the gratitude to be back 'on the thumb' was immense.
for me it was truly a hair out moment.
the only question remaining now is- can i hitch hike solo in Burma?