The Random Writings of Rachel: Road Trip in Thailand

Road Trip in Thailand

It all started when Mom mentioned, "Dad thinks we need an adventure."

I enthusiastically responded, "I've been thinking the same thing! Maybe we should all go out to a movie on Wednesday, or get up early on Saturday to go hiking, or try a new restaurant..."

Mom interrupted, "He was thinking something like Vietnam or Thailand."

Oh. Different level of adventure. I see. I can work with that.

That is how we ended up going on a road trip to Thailand over Christmas break.


Wait, I skipped a step. First, Dad and I sat down with computers a couple weeks before Christmas and started looking up plane tickets to Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok and Chiang Mai and said, yeah, no, those prices aren't going to work. That's when I said, "Why don't we just drive to some part of Thailand that's not too far away?"

The Malaysia-Thailand border is less than 3 hours from where we live, but we'd never driven across the border ourselves. Something about crossing international borders in your own vehicle is a bit intimidating. I'd been to Thailand twice, but it had been 10 years since my last trip.

Crossing the border in our own car was a little scary. And confusing. Here's some advice: Don't simply try to drive into Thailand without looking up detailed info on how to legally cross the border with your car. We are really glad we researched the process ahead of time! It's a little complicated, and there's a bunch of paperwork and customs and insurance stuff to consider. The border crossing ended up taking nearly an hour both on the way in and on the way out, so you have to plan extra time into your travel plans to take into account the border crossing.

After successfully making it to the other side of the border, Dad bought a SIM card with a data plan for 7 days and with the help of Google maps, we were all set for our road trip in Thailand!

And then the adventures began!

Just kidding--for people used to driving in Malaysia's big cities, driving in small town Thailand and through the countryside was relaxing. At some points, my littlest sisters said, "Something about this place reminds me of America." I think they must have been referencing the wide open plains, the well-maintained, traffic-free divided highways, and fast speed limits.

We've done a lot of traveling on the roads of Malaysia and the USA, and Thailand wasn't quite like either of them. It's pretty interesting what you can learn while looking out your car windows for several hours at a time.


We spotted a lot of buffalo being walked down the side of the road--we believe many of the buffalo work in rice paddies. It can be a little unnerving passing a big guy just a few feet away!



The pick-up trucks of Thailand seemed miniature when compared to my dad's minivan. But they can carry huge loads!

Something we noticed was that comparatively very few motorcyclists were wearing helmets. In Malaysia, it's the law to wear motorcycle helmets, so nearly all motorcyclists wear them--we usually only ever see children without helmets on motorbikes (which always makes me sad to see!). I'm not sure what the law is in Thailand, but more than half of those on motorbikes, at least among those we saw, we not wearing helmets.


In Malaysia, we're used to seeing palm plantations where palm oil is produced. In the part of Thailand we were in, palm plantations were replaced by endless rubber plantations.




Tourist-type attractions are sometimes clearly signed in English along the road. But not always. Perhaps it depends on the popularity of the destination with foreigners. I'm not sure. Coming from a country where the local language uses the Roman alphabet and is at least decipherable and pronounceable, driving in a place where we can't even begin to understand how to read the Thai script is a totally different experience. We did, however, learn that the sign above most probably means something like "Bridge ahead is out. Cars, don't drive down this road because there is no more bridge." Because...Dad kept driving down the road in spite of the sign (Google maps told him to keep going straight) and we came to a river with a broken bridge that had fallen into the river. Sometimes Google maps is wrong.

We also learned that Angel does not look Thai. At least that's what a friendly man at the barber shop Angel and Dad visited during our stay said. "But," the man continued, "it looks like you are a tourist and he is your tour guide." while talking to Dad. Which probably explains why people kept speaking to Angel in Thai throughout our stay. Actually, at the border crossing, one of the awkward experiences was that there was no real place to park the car, so we left it in an inconvenient place as we went to line up for immigration. When we returned to the car, a security guard walked up to Angel and started scolding him in Bahasa. Angel just looked confused and we all pointed to Dad, the actual driver and owner of the car and the best Bahasa speaker in the family--when the security person saw Dad, he just froze, waved, and walked away. So...we probably weren't supposed to park where we did...but that's the difference between being Angel and being Dad in this part of the world.

Here's a bit of a vlog with a preview of some of our adventures in Thailand...and snippets of the sort of music we listen to while on the road, ha!

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So, that's the beginning of our tale of being on the road in Thailand. More tales to come of our adventures in Trang and the nearby islands!

15 comments:

  1. Oh how exciting, but I can understand how it could all be a little scary as well. I have some friends travelling in that part of the world at the moment and they say it's so very different to what we are used to.

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  2. What an interesting roadtrip! Good to know that it's quite a process to get across the border. I always make sure to research everything ahead of time when going on a trip.

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  3. What a fun road trip! Sounds like you guys had a great time, although I do understand that is was a bit scary as well!

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  4. That looks like a fun experience! I could imagine it would be a bit of a trouble, especially since we got stuck in the border for 2 hours from Cambodia. But at least it'll be an experience you will cherish for good!

    Abby of Life in the Fash Lane

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  5. What a cool trip! That will be an awesome story to tell for years to come.

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  6. This looks like an amazing adventure!! I bet crossing the border was a little bit intimidating though. It's a good thing that y'all looked up the procedures,et ahead of time though.

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  7. This is so fun! Such a cool adventure!

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  8. Interesting that Angel and your dad were treated so differently by the security guard. Did that bother Angel?

    Driving across borders always scares me which is why we've never done it. We always end up taking a train instead. I'm glad it worked out okay for you guys since you did all your research, though! Looks like you guys had fun!

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  9. how cool! I lol'ed @ the part where you were just thinking about going to the movies and your dad had something completely different in mind.

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  10. So cool! I've always thought Thai script was totally fascinating, I think I first saw it on a season of Survivor and remember being blown away by how complex it looked. Glad you had a fun Christmas adventure even if it didn't involve seeing a movie ;)

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  11. That's so funny how you were thinking an afternoon at the movies and your dad was thinking a road trip to Thailand! How fun though! I would have been super nervous to cross the border in my own car but that's great you were all prepared! Thailand is beautiful!

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  12. That sounds equal parts fun and daunting! The lack of ability to read anything useful would have freaked me out a bit, I think. What an adventure you all had, did all members of the party enjoy it? Is it hard finding something you all want to do?

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  13. Living in utah, it seems so miraculous that you could just road trip to Thailand. Such great way to spend the holidays. This is my first time on your blog, but I love your stories!

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  14. your life is so different than mine, so exotic. I love my life, but hearing about yours makes me dream a bit too :)

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  15. This is awesome! I'm so jelly that you can just road trip to Thailand! I went in May and found it amazing.

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