Rescued (& Almost Killed) in The Land of Smiles

I fidget in the back seat of the taxi. I reread the same page in my Kindle for the fourth time, completely unable to comprehend the writing in the story. I glance at my watch for the 5th time in a minute. I’m antsy, I’m restless and I’m about to be late for my sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – anxious in the knowledge that there isn’t another train available for the next few days.

I ask the taxi driver, who is smiling even though he’s in a sea of gridlocked traffic; “how long, please?”

His English is poor, he doesn’t understand me and so I play the waiting game. I hate the waiting game. I gave myself more than enough time to get to the station, (or so I thought) but the roads in Bangkok really aren’t like any other regular roads in the world.

They’re unpredictable, unsafe and bursting of anarchy. I’ve seen a family of five on a motorbike, travelling with everything but the kitchen sink on more than one occasion. I’ve seen near misses with cars going the wrong way with wallpaper rolls sticking out the window, I’ve seen it all and I was only here for three days.

Taken like a sniper from a bridge in Bangkok, player!

You could offer me all the tea in China and all the hot brunettes in Argentina and I still wouldn’t take to the wheel (or motorbike) on the streets of Bangkok. No chance. After calling around the Chiang Mai hotels and finally nailing down a few nights stay during peak season, the whirlwind adventure began…

The taxi finally gets to the station at 18:25, fifteen minutes after the time of proposed departure. I momentarily ponder what the hell I’m going to do in the outskirts of a strange, bizarre (yet awesome) massive city – and then I immediately snap out of it.I’ve never been the fan of giving up easy, forever the optimist; I grab my backpacks and sprint like Usain Bolt on acid to the platform, hoping that there was a delay on my train. I am British after all, so I’m used to trains not being on time.

I’m greeted by a guy who works at the train station. He takes my ticket and says; “Oh noooo, Chiang Mai gone already, sir.”

My head drops, I am beaten. I am Man Vs Clock, and I have been owned by the clock. I fiddle about in the contacts of my phone, to call

Seconds pass and Mr Thai train employee appears in the corner of my eye, wearing a motorbike helmet and one in his hand for me.

“Come, come” he says, followed by an enthusiastic; “fast, fast!”

He’s surely not going to try and race the train (which already has a fifteen minute head start) to the next station, in Bangkok rush hour traffic…on a motorbike!? You betcha! My instincts tell me I have nothing to lose. He tells me my name and asks me mine as he changes from 2nd to 4th gear and swerves nonchalantly past a pissed off Land rover who almost clips us, but for the purpose of the story we shall call him ‘บ้าระห่ำ’ meaning, “Daredevil” in Thai, pronounced ‘Baraham.’

It takes all of my core strength (thank you abdominal crunches on the beach in Langkawi) to sit upright with a 75 litre backpack while grabbing the seat and trying not to fall off, as Baraham bobs and weaves at an incredulous speed through the cars and other enraged motorbikes. Baraham even had the audacity to beep at anyone who dared to halt him in his quest – even though he went through every red light!!!

Adrenaline kicks in as our near misses seemed to get closer every time, and my priorities are obviously very warped, as the worry for my safety is now replaced with two main thoughts in my mind:

. This is going to make an AWESOME story on my blog!

. This would NEVER happen in England!

I’m referring to the guy giving a shit about me missing my train. This is the general reaction that you’d get in England if you missed your train and were in need of some guidance:

I’m totally getting off on the rush of danger and even though Baraham is laughing in the face of fear with such contempt, I start to feel a bond of trust between the little crazy Thai fella and me. We pull up to a train station and I’m almost sad that our insane adventure is over, but happy that my travel insurance premium has not been compromised. I cross my fingers as he asks his colleague at the next station in Thai if we have missed the train. The postmortem concludes that it left just a few minutes ago.

I’m beaten again but remember my manners and applaud Baraham in his efforts. He smiles (of course he does, he’s Thai – these kids would smile if they were on fire) and yells defiantly “SAME, SAME!”

Baraham was not going to be beaten today, oh no Sir! Back on the bike of death we are, racing through the mad motorway of Bangkok – attempting to get to the next station before the train. He giggles like a little girl and yells; “Hold on tight, Antony Hopkins!”

My pedantic nature refrains from informing Baraham that my name actually has the letter ‘H’ in it, whilst the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ star does not.

Not the time or place, AntHony!

Baraham goes even faster this time, as the slip road is quieter. Full whack he goes, tearing up the highway with only one goal in mind; to help out a stranger. We arrive at the next station and his colleague tells him the Chiang Mai train is due to arrive in ten minutes. Wahoo!

I now have my new hero, and his name is Baraham.

Legend

I tell him; “THAT WAS AWESOME!” As I refuse a cigarette that he offers me. I pull out 500 baht (about £10) and say thank you. He genuinely refuses the money and I don’t let up, forcing the money in his hand saying, “enjoy some Tiger beer.”I immediately feel like a prick. He doesn’t want anything in return; he’s just a kind human being helping out another in a time of need. I hope I haven’t offended him and make small talk. He seems fine and hands me this:

It’s a Buddhist thing sign for good luck, some kind of penchant. I feel overwhelmed and it hits me like a hammer; I am in love with Thailand. Irrevocably, absolutely and unconditionally – I’ve got it bad for this country.

This place is very popular for travellers and tourists and many visitors return to these shores. Is it the pristine white beaches, mouth-watering food, parties, or the cheap beer? I’m guessing it’s a factor, but the main one is quite simply; the people.

The cliché really is true; it’s the people who make the places good or bad. And in the ‘Land Of Smiles’ I am surrounded by people like Baraham and I’m adding to the smiles in this beautiful, mental-in-the-face country! :) I will never, ever forget the intense effort that Baraham made to help me out in my time of despair. Respect.

Have you got a travel hero story to share? Have you met a guy like Baraham on the road, who has enriched your journey? Tell us about it below!

Song for Baraham and the lovely, smiley people of Thailand and Malaysia who have made my journey fantastic – ‘Your Song’, By Elton John, I mean does anyone actually like that Ellie Goulding crappy cover?

Notable Lyrics:
‘I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind

That I put down in words, how wonderful life is,

When you’re in the world.’

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66 Responses

  1. Macca

    That is fooking awesome bud… what a legend. The thai fella is a true legend in every sense.

    Welldone for holding on & not dying.

    Mate. you seriously need to work on your timing… can’t help but be reminded of almost missing the plane to Barrydorm because of a football arcade game. or the time you missed the coach to London for that Michael Jackson tribute thingy…

    Although if you do sort out your time keeping, we would’nt have immense tales like this one!

    P.S. I’ll give you 6 months to get this travelling thing out of you system,,, lol x

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Macca,

      I think you are seriously underestimating the importance of a best of three, with Mini Cheddar on a football arcade from the 70’s!!! Haha, aye you’re right like ;) x

      Reply
  2. Kev

    They’re really great people eh AntHony…that’s why I married one. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me!!!

    Reply
  3. Kirsty

    So has this made you love Thailand more??? I was a bit worried when you left us you wouldnt make the train, this guy is awesome!!! :-)

    Reply
  4. Eurotrip Tips

    LOVE the Little Britain mention. It made my day ;-)

    That was indeed a great story and even though I would have probably died of heart failure before I got to my destination! Have fun in Chiang Mai :-)

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Peg,

      The crazy thought of a video actually crossed my mind hahaha :) So Brazil isn’t awfully dangerous like people will have us believe then?

      Reply
  5. Erin

    What an amazing story! We have experienced some incredible kindness from Thai people (when our moped tire went flat, twice in the same trip, and had no idea what to do Thai people helped us out both times), but this is just amazing. You are right – this would NEVER happen in England. But that’s why we are in Thailand :)

    The traffic in Bangkok is INsane. We now stay near the skytrain so we don’t have to get stuck in it.

    Does this mean you are in Chiang Mai now?! We’ll have to meet up.
    Erin recently posted..72 Random Observations About JapanMy Profile

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Hey Erin,

      I remember that story on your blog. Also, when I got lost in CM one night, the bloke who worked in the hotel lobby who I asked to use his internet for a map – SHUT DOWN THE LOBBY and took me 15 minutes away on his bike :)

      I’m in Chiang Mai indeed, staying on Maneenopparat Road, where the devil are you? We so should! Have you bought lanterns yet for NYE?

      Reply
      • Erin

        That’s amazing! We are just south of the night bazaar but we can moped everywhere. We haven’t got lanterns yet but we should all arrange a big get together for NY.

  6. Ryan

    Great story Anthony! Looking forward to reading more from you. One piece of advice for the next time you encounter one of these situations though… When you go to pull out the 500THB and place it in the drivers hands you need to be sure to simply utter the words “Stay thirsty my friend!” He will immediately know who you are. You’re none other than “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (Dos Equis).
    Ryan recently posted..The Cathedrals and Churches of Leon, NicaraguaMy Profile

    Reply
  7. Catherine Ow

    it is really amazing. Bangkok always is full with nice people. Everyone will fall in love with Bangkok once they have been there.

    Reply
  8. Bret @ Green Global Travel

    I love stories like this! They show us that, deep down inside, despite all the BS we have to deal with on a day to day basis in our modern society, that most people are still inherently good. Nice work.

    Reply
  9. Greg

    So glad you shared this awesome experience! So many people complain about Thailand being “too touristy,” but encounters like this keep me coming back there every year.

    Reply
  10. hayadith

    wonderful..

    i have the same idea too. It’s all about the people. All bad things seem to be fine when you’re with wonderful people.

    Reply
  11. Jim @NeverStopTraveling

    Most of us who travel for a “living” run into great people like this every so often and they steal our hearts.

    Then there are the many who would never have jumped on the back of his motorbike. I’ve always felt sorry for them.

    Reply
  12. Jarmo

    Woah, that’s amazing! I loved those bike taxis in Bangkok, in the end I always ended up using them because they were a lot faster than any taxi or other means of transport. Sometimes they were a bit scary, but none of my rides were as crazy as yours!
    Jarmo recently posted..The Surprising Balut ExperimentMy Profile

    Reply
  13. MaryAnn

    Anthony, you are the best story teller! I could feel your tension as you whipped through those streets with Baraham! You are right about people making or breaking a place. When I lived in Japan, taking a taxi ride was like being on a killer roller coaster with no security. Prayer was the only way to get to your destination alive! But I was never ever late to anything! I’m so glad you made your train!

    Reply
  14. Scott

    Totally forgot to comment on this the first time I read it, sorry it won’t happen again. Awesome story and it’s stuff like this that give you that “Traveler’s adrenaline” rush you just can’t get at home.

    Reply
  15. Chris

    Holy shit. What a crazy story. I love those random acts of travel kindness, and you have to appreciate that it gave one hell of a story.

    But bugger me, I’m eager to get out on the road again. This shit wouldn’t ever happen in uptight Sydney.

    Reply
  16. Tom

    WOW, great story dude! I think I’d have shit myself and then slid off the bike in a slop of my own faeces if the same had happened to me.

    Still, revolting imagery aside, that’s a genuinely, heart-warmingly awesome tale that I’m sure you’ll be telling for many a year to come :)

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Tom,

      What a beautiful thought pahaha. Did the orange ladies get you on NYE, or were the fag hags dependable??

      Reply
  17. Turtle

    I’ve only just come across this story – but what a story!
    You can go to all the monuments and natural beauties on the planet but it’s the interactions with people that are thing things that stick with you. Especially when it’s a random act of kindness like this.
    Baraham is the reason we want to travel the world.

    Reply
  18. Steven

    Great story!

    Unfortunately, for every legendary Baraham, there are 100 Somchais who will gang jump you with sticks, bottles, and clubs at the drop of a hat for no other reason than they detest foreigners and will gladly seize any opportunity to harm one. There are also 100 Porns who will rob you blind and spend his day trying to find ways to cheat you.

    That said, it is the lone legendary Baraham types who keep most of us coming back for more and shine hope and friendlessness into the chaotic world called Thailand.

    + 1 for legendary Baraham!!!! Thailand would be lost without you.

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks, I guess there is good and bad everywhere…and I guess I’ve been very lucky – so far! Fingers crossed haha ;) Yep, this highlights EVEN MORE how much of a legend this bloke is!

      Reply
  19. Marcelle

    I went to Vietnam in March/April, and I was trying to find a friend of a friend’s bar in Saigon. Hopped onto a motor bike, went through the busy streets, only fearing for my legs five times to what I thought was the address. Not so much. It looked like a residence with no lights on. My motor bike driver didn’t speak much English nor did anybody in the jewelry store next door. Nonetheless, I had multiple people trying to help me call the guy and trying to figure out where I wanted to go. They called a few numbers for me and even resorted to google to translate that the phone wasn’t connected.
    It’s a shame I wasn’t able to meet up with Expats, but I was overwhelmed with how everyone was trying to help this little lost Canadian girl!

    Reply

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