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Hitchhiking to Hua Hin: A British Traveler’s Unforgettable Songkran Adventure in 1969

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Reflecting on my adventures feels like delving into a treasure chest of vivid memories and eccentric tales, and few are as colorfully wild and whimsically delightful as my journey back in April 1969 to the Thai resort town of Hua Hin. Picture this: a young wanderer, heart full of dreams, pockets nearly empty, embarking on an epic journey across Asia from the bustling streets of London, with nothing but a sense of adventure to guide me.

By the time my fellow Brit, Clarence Shettlesworth, and I reached the vibrant city of Bangkok, our wallets were singing the blues. Our grand plan? To hitchhike our way to Alor Satar in Malaysia, where financial salvation in the form of a bank transfer awaited Clarence. But first, we found ourselves on the cusp of a sweltering April 14, on the side of Petchkasem Highway in Thonburi, armed with nothing but our thumbs and newly acquired sombrero-type straw hats to fend off the relentless Thai sun. Despite our efforts, the sun proved too formidable an opponent, leaving me with a nasty case of heat stroke.

Our savior came in the form of a friendly Shell tanker driver, a man of no English words, driving two Englishmen with no Thai words to their name. Yet, in that confined space of his truck, we found a common language in smiles and gestures. Our journey, slow and winding through the roads less traveled via Nakhon Pathom, eventually led us to the sun-kissed shores of Hua Hin just as the afternoon began to cool.

Arriving during the Songkran festival, we were greeted by the throngs of Thai holidaymakers reveling in the festivities. Finding a modest 20-baht hotel, Clarence and I made a beeline for the beach, plunging into the tropical embrace of the sea, a stark and welcome contrast to the frigid waters of the English Channel. The joy of that first swim in the warm waters of Thailand is an experience ensconced in my heart, forever cherished. Ah, to be young and carefree, feeling the sun’s kiss but never quite catching its tan!

Our journey took an unexpected pit stop the following day in Chumphon, as I found myself staggering into a local hospital, a victim of the relentless Thai heat. The care I received there was nothing short of extraordinary, a testament to the unparalleled Thai hospitality. The nurses, seeing my financial predicament, waved away the hospital bill with a heartwarming “mai bpen rai.” Their kindness was a balm to my soul, a memory fondly remembered and deeply appreciated.

In my early days in Thailand, Songkran was a delightful burst of cool relief from the sweltering heat, a time of joy and communal merriment, untainted by the future onslaught of tourists with their arsenal of plastic super soakers. The simplicity of buckets and bowls, the laughter and the smiles, everything felt more authentic, more intimate.

Years later, my once eager participation in Songkran has mellowed, replaced by a quiet appreciation from the sidelines. Maybe it’s wisdom, or perhaps just the inevitable march of time, but the raucous joy of Songkran now brings a different sort of pleasure, a contentment found in quiet observation and cherished memories.

And let’s not forget the legendary back seat blues—a nauseatingly hot ride from Chumphon to Bangkok in the ’70s, on a bus with a rebellious back seat determined to buck us off at every turn, and mischievous kids armed with water bombs ensuring not a dry thread remained. Ah, those were the days—uncomfortable, yes, but undeniably alive with the sheer, unpredictable joy of travel.

So here I am, decades later, typing away, reminiscing about my sun-drenched, water-logged adventures in Thailand, a corner of the world that taught me the meaning of kindness, the value of friendship, and the sheer delight of the unexpected. It’s a journey I’d hitchhike all over again, in a heartbeat.


  1. WanderlustWill April 13, 2024

    Reading this made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced! The world has changed; technology has made us more connected but simultaneously more isolated. We’ve lost the art of true adventure.

    • TechSavvy April 13, 2024

      I disagree. Technology opens up new frontiers for exploration that were unimaginable in 1969. It’s just a different type of adventure now, more about exploring ideas than places.

      • WanderlustWill April 13, 2024

        You have a point, but there’s something about the unpredictability and the rawness of experiences like the author’s that technology often sanitizes. It’s not just about where or how, but the essence of adventure.

    • HistorianHank April 13, 2024

      Interesting point, but let’s not romanticize the past too much. Travel back then had its own set of challenges and dangers, many of which we’ve fortunately overcome with advancements in safety and communication.

  2. SunnySue April 13, 2024

    Songkran sounds like an absolute blast from the past! Nowadays, it’s just too commercialized. Wish I could have experienced it in its purer form.

    • LocalLek April 13, 2024

      It’s still a great time if you know where to look! Yes, it’s more crowded and commercial in places, but many areas still retain the charm and fun the author described. It’s all about where you go.

  3. BackInMyDay April 13, 2024

    Ah, those were the days! Everything wasn’t so politically correct. You could just enjoy life without worrying about offending someone. People were tougher back then.

    • ModernityRules April 13, 2024

      I think what you call ‘political correctness’ is just people being respectful and considerate of others. The world is diverse, and what you’re nostalgic about might have been insensitive or exclusive.

  4. ThriftyTraveler April 13, 2024

    How did people manage without credit cards and ATMs everywhere? Must have been tough to budget for such spontaneous trips!

    • MoneyMatters April 14, 2024

      It’s all about planning and resourcefulness. Plus, things were cheaper, and people were more willing to help each other out. Travelers’ checks were a thing too.

      • ThriftyTraveler April 14, 2024

        True, I guess the sense of community and trust was stronger back then. Today, everything feels more transactional.

  5. DigitalNomad April 14, 2024

    As much as I love the ease of travel now, there’s something alluring about the unpredictability and rawness of hitchhiking across continents. Makes for better stories too!

  6. OldTimer April 14, 2024

    This brings back memories. I did a similar trip in ’72. It was rough, but it taught me resilience and the kindness of strangers. They don’t make adventures like they used to.

  7. CultureCritic April 14, 2024

    Nostalgia aside, we must acknowledge the impact of tourism on local cultures and environments. The past wasn’t always better, especially considering the ecological footprints we left behind.

  8. BeachBum April 14, 2024

    I go to Hua Hin every year, and while it’s changed, the essence is still there. You just have to look past the tourist spots. The beaches are still beautiful, and the locals are incredible.

  9. SoloTraveler April 14, 2024

    I’d love to hitchhike like this, but it seems impossible now with all the safety concerns. Plus, no one seems to have that level of trust anymore. Sad.

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