74% of road deaths in Thailand involved motorbikes.
This time, I really goofed.
Leaving Bangkok in Style
On my last day in Bangkok, I decided last minute to fly to Krabi and post up near Railay. With its limestone cliff walls and towering karst islands, Railay is one of the world’s premier rock climbing and deep water soloing destinations. I’ve always dreamt of climbing there.
When I bought my flight ticket, I forgot to commit my departure time to memory. I knew I was flying out around 2:30pm or so, and my hostel was only 30 mins away from the airport by taxi. So I figured I could take it easy, eat breakfast, and heck, I even had time to do laundry too.
While doing my laundry, I finally pull my boarding pass out of my pocket to review my flight details. My heart sank. My boarding time was at 1:30 and it was already past 12pm.
I flip out.
Now panicking, I pull my wet clothes out of the drying machine and carry them back to my room in a rush. While running, I call over the balcony to Som, the co-owner of the Yard Hostel (awesome), and shout, “Som! Can you please call a taxi? I f#&@$ up, my flight is at 1:30, not 2:30!” Som and staff go into a frenzy.
Back in my room, I stuff my clothes into my bag and the bag is heavier now. I rush goodbyes to my new friends and bolt downstairs, hoping I didn’t leave anything behind (I did).
I ask Som if my taxi has arrived. Her reply: “Yes, taxi here now. I called motorbike taxi.”
Suddenly I feel very sick.
“Som, why a motorbike taxi?”
To those of you who don’t know, I have a massive fear of riding motorbikes, especially in Thailand. Apparently Bangkok is one of the most dangerous places in the world for motorbike accidents and I personally witnessed two motorbike accidents already in 3 days. And judging by many other travelers I met, getting a motorbike injury or accident seemed to be a common rite of passage.Som earnestly replies, “Traffic is very bad, today is Saturday. You’ll never make it with normal taxi. Motorbike can weave in and out between cars and buses.”
Seeing the terror on my face, she hastily adds, “Don’t worry, I ask driver to be extra safe.”
I see the driver of my motortaxi waiting for me in the driveway – he revs up the engine and sounds like he’s ready to roll. I hesitate, but then notice he at least had a helmet for me.
OK, I’m in.
A few minutes in and I’m sweating in high alert mode. Everywhere I see crazy, maddened bus drivers, reckless tuk-tuks, and wild mopeds. Bangkok is the Wild West. At some points the traffic is bumper to bumper and we’re still beelining to the front.
To make matters worse, my 55L backpack is filled to the brim with damp clothing, weighing about 25-30 lbs on my back, and I have morbid visions of getting thrown off by the bike’s acceleration.
Each time my driver sees a small opening inch wider between two buses, I hold on for dear life as he guns toward them.
And then there’s the highway. Zooming at 55-60 mph with an apprehensive, hyperventilating aZn in tow is not a great idea.
As we weave in and out in between buses, I suddenly no longer care if I make my flight. I just want to get there in one piece.
When we finally do arrive, I sigh with relief. I’m alive, and we made it just in time. Cool. We take selfies, and he shoots off without a word.
Until I learn he dropped me off outside the airport instead of at my terminal. I guess I did say to drop me off at the airport. Anyway I freak out and start running with my bag to the airport, and I lose another precious 10 mins.
In the end, I made it just on time.
As I write my recollection of this experience, I realize I am only 4-5 days into my trip.
I loved Bangkok. But I have a long way to go.