Finally the day had come to pick Freddie up at the airport. I could have got a minibus straight from my accommodation to the airport for 100 baht, but again I wanted to be a ‘proper traveller’ and go by songthaew. Songthaews are a kind of random bus service, they’re old pickup trucks with ramshackle roofs galvanised onto the back, with some basic wooden seats in the back. They’re meant to be super cheap, and are also pretty fun, so I walked down to the area I’d seen an airport one the previous day. Unsurprisingly I’d been optimistic and there was none there at all. And I was cutting it fine for meeting Freddie at the airport. I spun around looking everywhere and walked up and down a few streets before finally seeing one shooting past.
“Waaay!” I shouted, and he smiled and stopped. “Airport?” I asked. He nodded. And so onto the back I jumped.
It was a lovely experience until I got to the airport, where he proceeded to ask me for money. I thought he said 20. “20?” I said. “Noo, two hundred!” He said.
I was like whaaat!? But this moment I was too flustered thinking about getting to Freddie in time that I couldn’t think logically. The guy was totally mugging me off! I gave him 150 in the end – again over the price of a minibus and took me twice as long. But unlike my previous experiences I felt less satisfied. I Went in to meet Fred, mulling over in my head all the things I should have done – create a scene, give him 50 and walk away, smile and laugh in his face. Ah well you live and learn. The money would go further in his pocket than mine anyway.
So Freddie arrived and I was just in time! This time we got a minibus to the hotel, and all went well. Cant remember what we did that night but I’m pretty sure we had some beers as I had a hangover the next day.
The following day we were meant to be heading south on mopeds. We picked some up for a bargain price – 2000 baht for 2 weeks each (about £45) and sped around. But then we heard the King of Thailand was going to be coming through Krabi that day. Which explained why there were twice as many thais on the streets, all wearing black (it was still a time of mourning after the previous king had died). We debated what to do – continue our plan to drive south, or wait for the king – a ‘once in a lifetime experience’? The deciding factor came in us watching a video on youtube of a previous King’s Parade. He had tanks and beasty cars and and cavalry and troops and everything! ‘YES!’ We thought to ourselves, and decided to stay. He would be coming at 3pm and it was still 10am, so we first visited the Tiger Temple – a few km outside Krabi.
The drive there was scary – this was literally the first time I had driven any kind of motorbike. And Krabi was busy, crazy busy. I could barely stay upright and there were trucks and bikes and cars shooting up and down and all around in all directions. I just thought ‘fuck it’ keeping driving straight and hope they dodge you. Much like on a ski slope, the experienced fast skiers are expected to dodge the slow ones right? Anyway it worked and we got there.
Then we had to climb the 1264 steps to the top of a cliff. They sounded like a lot but then it turned out to be a lot more when we found out the steps were nearly VERTICAL. It was like climbing a goddamn ladder. Halfway up I genuinely thought I was going to have a heart attack. But it was definitely worth it in the end.
By the time all this had happened we realised it was 2pm, we were nearly late for the King! We jumped on our bikes, now with added wobbly legs, and raged it back to Krabi. On the way the roads were being cleared by the police, ready for the King. At one point we got pulled aside in a little road. A flicker of fear we were going to get robbed appeared in both our minds, but it was soon clear this wasn’t going to happen. Instead we waited as some advance interceptor cars drove past at a ridiculous speed, clearing the road for the convoy. We were released after and had the whole road pretty much empty for the ride into Krabi Town.
Krabi was rammed with locals waiting for the King, an impressive sight, and everyone was full of pride they were going to see him. We grabbed some beers and waited. Only to be told he was going to come at 5 instead of 3. We grabbed some more beers at a strange bar with a totally high guy who was listening to heavy metal. At one point he drove off to get some food and left us at his bar.
Eventually it was 5pm and we waited. We moved to a bar with a decent view and waited some more. Then some more. By 7.30pm we we totally drunk and there was still no sign of the King. But at least there would be tanks. I wanted to see the tanks. At intervals the fast interceptors would keep the roads clear.
At around 8pm I went for a piss. When I came back Freddie turned to me:
“You missed him.”
But it turned out there were no tanks, no jeeps, no troops, no horses. Just a man in a car waving his hand. So we got another few beers, and drowned our disappointment.