My Pride, My Thai part 8: Bangkok - Ubon Ratchathani

This next blog entry from the big tour of 2015 will be about the absolute highlight of the whole summer trip, both of them. The intention was to be on the way from Bangkok just as the sun rose in the morning, but sleepy-head me could not get out of bed as usual. After all, it was supposed to be a working holiday where I managed pretty much my own schedule. Unlike what we are used to in Scandinavia, the sun in Thailand rises (and sets) pretty much the same time throughout the year. As the night prior resulted in some impromptu pub-visits, the sun was already up when I eventually woke up in my comfortable bed at The Berkeley Pratunam Hotel. After a quick trip down to the food vendors street side, I had secured my Thai style breakfast. It was already hot outside, really hot, I could feel the heat up my legs and sneaking into my pants. The tall buildings thankfully still created the shade I needed. No wonder Bangkok is so hot for a northerner with all those food stalls burning coal to grill the food that they are selling. 

To read part 1: My Pride, My Thai part 1: The Preparation (opens in a new tab). 

To read part 2: My Pride, My Thai part 2: The flight (opens in a new tab). 

To read part 3: My Pride, My Thai part 3: The arrival (opens in a new tab). 

To read part 4: My Pride, My Thai part 4: The first morning (opens in a new tab). 

To read part 5: My Pride, My Thai part 5: Big C (opens in a new tab). 

To read part 6: My Pride, My Thai part 6: Bangkok (opens in a new tab).  

To read part 7: My Pride, My Thai part 7: 200 THB to heaven (opens in a new tab).

After consuming the very delicious 50 THB breakfast in the comfort of my air-conditioned, so-called “luxury” room (that is a blog entry for later posting), I was almost ready to go. Check out, find the car in the parking lot and move out into the Bangkok traffic. The first 500 meters went fast, but then I got stuck at a busy intersection for the next 30 minutes or so. Even snails and turtles overtook the car at the speed I was going. Once out of the worst intersections, I headed straight for the elevated tollway. I was very amazed and impressed at how efficient and knowledgeable I was navigating Bangkok traffic. I had initially feared I would be lost, as it’s been quite a few years since I drove all these streets. Some 40 minutes after leaving the hotel, I was already entering the elevated tollway at Wipawadhi Rangsit. Once up on the elevated road, I made an extra effort to stay a little bit below the speed limit, as I from experience knew police would be keeping an eye on the speed of the northbound traffic. That meant every single vehicle blasted passed me, no matter if it was a car, bus or truck. The speed limit is 80 on the tollway, but I kept the car at around 75 only. 

Arriving at the last tollgate near Rangsit, where the elevated tollway again rejoins with the motorway below, my assumptions were confirmed. Swarming the area just after the tollbooth, was a great number of traffic police. I knew I would be pulled over, because you know, I’m a foreigner: a so-called alien (though I’m still from the same planet) according to the law here. I paid my 40 Bath at the tollbooth, and my eyes immediately caught the attention of the nearest police officer. Guess what?

I was pulled over. 

I stopped the car on the shoulder of the road and thought about having some fun, pretending I don’t speak a word of Thai. The police officer was extremely polite, despite the massive amount of sweat emerging from his forehead. He asked for “license drive” and passport, which I handed over without saying so much. He then went on to tell me that “you drive very fast, you pay 500 Baht”…. shocked as I was, I could not keep my composure any longer and replied in what I hope was prefect Thai, that my speed had not exceeded 75 km/h for the entire duration of the tollway, and that I would like to know how he determined my speed, wilfully knowing that he would never tell me: Naturally, it would be entirely up to his mood whether he would let me go. One important thing I have come to learn in Thailand though, is that you must never ever loose your cool or composure, you must always remain calm and polite.

We spoke at length about the speed, and I quickly learned that an officer stationed at an exit had used a radar to clock my speed. After some negotiations back and forth, on where I was heading, where I come from, why I spoke Thai, and a few more things, he decided that he would let me go with a “stern warning” this time. Don’t misunderstand me: I knew I was going to be pulled over because of my light complexion, but this guy was actually one of the nicest and most polite police officers I had met in all my years in Thailand. 

Off the elevated tollway, the traffic intensified as expected but progressed smoothly and fast towards destination for the day, which would be Ubon Ratchathani and Sisakhet in the north east, not too far from the Laos border. According to previous trips in the past, I knew it would be somewhere between a 6 and 8 hours drive, depending on how many stops I make, and how the traffic is along the way. Once, I also spent nearly 18 hours on the same trip, but that was for Thai new years holiday, and the traffic moved at half the pace of the previously mentioned snails and turtle pace. 

After a couple of hours of driving, I was in dire need for a local Thai ice coffee. Passing Khorat, I eventually found the over-sugarcoated sweet Thai ice coffee. One cup contains probably twice as much sugar as Coke, and I don’t even dare to imagine the calorie count of a big cup. But it’s so unbelievably delicious if you like milk based sweet coffee. With my stomach full of this delicious coffee, I quickly needed “to go” if you get it. There would be a restroom at the Suranari Park, and I knew it would be just a few kilometres ahead. 

This was the first rest stop since departing from Bangkok, the heat was almost unbearable, but I just had to go get some photos. I had visited this park a handful number of times before, as far back as 10-15 years ago, and even though it was now more beautiful, it still looked pretty much the same way as it did before. I forgot about the scorching heat though….. I could not stand in the same place for too long, as I feared the soles of my flip-flops would melt onto the asphalt. Seriously. Where is an umbrella (for shade) when you need one? 

A Thai-version of the Red Bull, a so-called Kratingdaeng, a quick 5 minutes with eyes closed, and I was ready to continue. 

The trip progressed throughout the afternoon without any serious incident, but after sunset, it quickly got really dark. Really dark. A gigantic storm system moved in, and it started flooding down rainwater. I have never in my life seen so much and so heavy rain, anywhere. It was literally like driving through a lake! The window wipers were on full power and they had no chance in the world removing the water from my front window. The trip slowed down, and I wasn’t able to do much more than 40 km/h. There were overloaded trucks in the ditch besides the road, broken trees across the road with no warning, it was raining, it was lightening like on the middle of a dance floor at the disco, and there were carabaos walking along the road as well. 

Almost at my destination, I ended up in a road closure because a truck had driven right into a fallen tree, and they were trying to clear the road. It took some time, as most of the people appeared to be standing waiting for someone else do something to reopen the road. I wasn’t in a hurry, I had air-condition in the car, fuel on the tank and lots of Thai snacks in the back. I wasn’t in any hurry at all. Just let it take the time it would take. 

Eventually, late in the evening I arrived at Ubon Ratchathani. I had reservations for hotel accomondations in Ubon for the night, arranged for by a friend. Finding the hotel was a bit of a challenge, but with the help of Google Maps, I managed to get really lost in some dark side streets from the main road. Just about the time when I was giving up, and tried finding the way back to the main road, I saw the hotel sign right in front of me. How I eventually found the place, still baffles me today. The hotel wasn’t large, but it was almost brand new, reasonably priced and according to my friend, a great place. 

Indeed it was. The Excella Hotel was staffed with friendly….. oh, well, that is for a later story here on my bLOG. 

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Ubon Ratchathani by night. 

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