Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Walk Across Thailand in a Day

Guest blogger John Borthwick sets out to achieve the seemingly impossible - to walk across Thailand in one day. Yes, it is possible...

“You’re going to walk where in a day?” ask my friends. “Half a day, actually — across Thailand.”

A few mornings later I am standing on sweeping beach on the Gulf of Thailand, 300 km southwest of Bangkok. Wang Duan, just south of Prachuap Khiri Khan, is a whistle-stop where the trains neither whistle nor stop. It does have however a sign that boasts, "The Narrowest of Thailand - 10.96km".

This is the narrowest point of Thailand’s Kra Isthmus, where the distance from the Gulf to the Myanmar border is less than 11 km, although the dogleg walking route is 13.4 km. I set out with my guide Khun Nithima, a local farmer, but four of her friends soon join us and my original “solo” walk has now expanded to six.

Our road to Mandalay crosses a coastal plane of bamboo, lagoons and marshlands. Ahead are the low blue hills of the Tenasserim Range that form the border between Thailand and Myanmar, or “Pamah” as the Thais say. Passing farmers stop and ask what’s with the farang guy? One comments, “Ting tong” 
— “nuts!”

The land climbs towards densely forested ridges. A woman and child on a motorcycle join our caravan. As the sealed road becomes a walking track, another woman points us up a 400-metre bush trail then she, too, joins us. It feels like a Forrest Gump-style rolling maul.

The track ends at a clearing where the Thais kneel to pray before a Buddha altar — giving thanks that we’ve survived? I look back across the coastal plain to the sea that we left three hours ago. “This is the border?” I ask. “Well, just up there a bit more,” I am told. “Up there” is rugged, bush-bashing terrain where my companions are disinclined to go, a ridge too far. I’ve almost walked across Thailand in a day. In fact, in half a day. And our group is now Nithima, her friends, two other women, one child, a dog and myself. “It just grew like a 
pumpkin,” laughs Nithima.

Soon after, a friend emails me the photo of another sign that boasts “Narrowest Point of Thailand”. It’s on the opposite side of the Gulf, in Trat, where the distance from the sea to the Cambodian border is just 450 metres. He adds with glee: “You can now only claim to have traversed the second narrowest part of Thailand.”


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