The Little Truk-Truk That Couldn’t

hire a driver lampang

The Little Truk-Truk That Couldn’t

If you're ever riding in a pickup truck racing up a mountain, jump out.

If you’ve travelled outside of the Western world, you know driving can get a little… hectic. In some eastern countries, like India, while the honking never stops, it’s not a swath of insults. It’s just a courtesy. It’s a way of saying, “I’m here.”

But in Bangkok, we noted the silence. Cars and trucks and motorcycles weaved through the swarm of traffic like bees in a hive, orderly and with purpose. What first appears as chaos on the surface is actually incredibly organized and calm. You learn to just sort of trust the system, even if you don’t fully understand it.

That said, if you ever find yourself justifying the thought “Maybe going 180 kilometres an hour is normal here” while skirting razor-edge jungle cliffs in a tipsy truck with no seat belt or helmet or hope, please stop the vehicle and walk.

We found ourselves in such a predicament on the outskirts of Lampang. What began as an innocent request to our driver to stop lollygagging—i.e., no more miscellaneous stops for gas or permits or coffee or seeing that guy about a horse—turned into a NASCAR race through a jungle mountain highway while being followed too closely by a cement truck in a truk-truk held together by our prayers alone.

And so began our dilemma.

thailand travel story

The Tan Your Mind team hard at work in the pickup—before things got too dangerous to keep the cameras out. (Photo: Outpost/John Price)

It seemed that, yes, all vehicles on the highway were going outrageously fast. So perhaps slowing down would somehow muck up the system?

But, jeez, we remarked. We’re going really fast.

Then we looked into the cockpit: there was our driver, going 150km an hour, smoking a cigarette in one hand, posting to Facebook in the other, while about to overtake a transport truck on a sharp turn.

Risk threshold maximized.

Usually it’s marked by a torque in my gut or a pang in my temple, but this time it was the desperate squeeze of silver bar my hands were gripping onto. I was white-knuckled.

We had a choice:

  1. Hold on tight, pray to God, trust that “this is just the way things are here,” say nothing and potentially die, or...
  2. Flail our arms out the side of the truk-truk, slapping the side as hard as we can while trying to get our crazy driver to pull over and risk being stranded on the side of a jungle mountain highway with no service.

We went with the latter.

As our driver moved in the opposing lane, positioning himself for the overtake, Mike hung out the window, slapping the side of the truk-truk, yelling, “STOP THE VEHICLE. STOP RIGHT NOW!”

"You have to think from the perspective of yourself on the road, skinned, broken and dying, thinking, ‘Why didn’t I say anything?’ He’s a nice guy, our driver, but not offending him isn’t worth dying for"

We felt the truk-truk shift back into the lines, gradually slowing and pulling over to the side. Mike and John piled out of the car towards our driver, who was already apologizing profusely. Sternly and with fatherly authority, they articulated the urgency of their request.


As we took off again, we went at the slightly more comfortable speed of 100km per hour, hanging onto sharp turns with three wheels instead of one.

All this, of course, incited much conversation in the back about risk. While Sue wasn’t as perturbed by the speed, what scared her was the trailing cement truck. Our photographer’s risk threshold was maxed on the overtake. Our videographer, who’s about to be a dad, was ready to jump ship from the beginning. Ever the calm voice of reason, here his demeanour almost cracked.

“You know, it’s one of those things. You can’t think from our perspective right now in the back of the truck, hopped up on adrenaline. You have to think from the perspective of yourself on the road, skinned, broken and dying, thinking, ‘Why didn’t I say anything?’ He’s a nice guy, our driver, but not offending him isn’t worth dying for.”

Words to remember.

lampang thailand how to get there

At least the views turned out really pretty. (Photo: Outpost/John Price)

Just as we thought we were in the clear, our designation in view, we began climbing up a steep hill, the engine revving, momentum slowing. Sure enough, the truk-truk put-putted, crawling up the slope until it stalled completely.

“EVERYONE JUMP OUT!” our photographer screamed as we all piled out the back. “MOVE TO THE SIDE!”

And just as we cleared the path, the emergency brake released and the truk-truk went flying down the hill like a rollercoaster released from a slow climb. The four of us stood there in disbelief as our truk-truk driver leaned out the window and gave us a thumbs up.

We paid our driver in full, and later took a taxi home.

Watch the Show

Since 2015, Outpost has been sending Lena on adventurous expeditions. An outdoors lover at heart, she never backs down from a new exploration.


Read More Delicious Blog Posts:

new friends in thailand

Time to Say Goodbye

Lena has trouble holding back tears when leaving Thailand.
10th May 17

So Long, and Thanks for All the Pad Thai

Sue bids farewell to Thailand while remembering the biggest highlights.
10th Apr 17

Travelling vs. Travel Writing: A Deeper Connection

Travel writing doesn’t just improve your writing—it makes you a better person.
7th Apr 17

When it Comes to Travel, Love Trumps Fear

No fear of the unknown should stop you from exploring new places.
27th Mar 17
24th Mar 17
20th Mar 17

The Man With The Tinny Guitar

You can’t meet the Black House’s architect. but you can feel his ghost.
10th Mar 17

Mastering the Art of Thai Street Meat

Sometimes the best meals are found accidentally.
6th Mar 17

Behind the Scenes: Travelling for Work vs. Travelling for Fun

Being a professional travel writer is, and isn’t, as glamorous as it sounds.
3rd Mar 17

Different, Different but Same: Finding a New Experience at the Lampang Market

Just when Lena thought she’d seen everything Thai markets offer…
28th Feb 17

The Thai Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss

The If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Thailand, here are four.
22nd Feb 17

How to Enjoy the Journey in all its Forms

Whether relaxing or panicking, it’s the journey that matters most.
14th Feb 17
thailand buddhist statues souvenirs

Don’t Buy the Buddha: Your Thai Souvenir Could Be Sacrilegious

Buddhism is a religion, not an accessory of trendy home decor.
9th Feb 17

When Talking Politics Abroad… Maybe Don’t

Sometimes, the biggest culture shock is what you can and can’t openly discuss.
7th Feb 17

What it’s Like to Travel with a Literary Mind

How did Lena feel after two weeks of travelling with Sue?
2nd Feb 17
eating bugs thailand

The Adventure that is Eating an Insect

Who wants to eat scorpion? Lena sure doesn’t.
30th Jan 17

Bangkok’s Backpacker Fashion Report

Diving into the latest trends from Khao San Road.
26th Jan 17
khao san road tattoo review

Getting Tattooed on Khao San Road

You’ll never guess what Sue got branded forever on her foot.
20th Jan 17
fly from bangkok to taiwan
17th Jan 17
awkward thai massage

Too Neurotic for a Massage

Sue’s biggest problem with Thai massages: You can’t understand the masseuses’ gossip.
12th Jan 17
why i could be a thai expat

Never Question the Chunks: Why You Should Eat Street Meat in Thailand

If you’re looking for good eats, take to the street… meats.
11th Jan 17
sisterhood abroad

A Sisterhood Born Abroad

Nothing tests friendship like travelling together.
29th Dec 16
cathay pacific flight options

6 Ways to Pass the Time on a 15-Hour Flight

From sharpening your chess game to slurping endless noodles, Cathay Pacific has you covered.
26th Dec 16
clif bar backpacking

The One Thing I’ll Never Travel Without

When you’re on the road, only real food keeps the hanger at bay.
22nd Dec 16
thailand expat living

Why I Could Be an Expat in Thailand

With glistening temples and a playful vibe, Sue would happily call Thailand home.
19th Dec 16
chiang mai cabaret show

Chiang Mai’s Cabaret is Second Only to Vegas

With infectious energy and beautiful dancers,  nobody dances like they do in Thai cabarets.
16th Dec 16
hiking northern thailand

In the Jungle, the Spiders Sleep Tonight

Searching for the heart of Thailand in its northern jungles.
14th Dec 16
chiang mai cooking class review

Setting Fire to a Thai Kitchen… in a Good Way

Don’t try this at home. (Unless your home is also a Thai cooking school.)
12th Dec 16
tea fields north thailand

Tea-Leaf Memories at the Choui Fong Tea Plantation

Nothing helps you escape the bustle of Thailand like a cup of tea.
9th Dec 16
opium museum thailand

Chiang Rai’s Opium Museum Makes You Never Want to Try Opium

A more effective anti-drug ad than “This is Your Brain on Drugs”.
8th Dec 16
chiang rai travel guide

Chiang Rai’s Black Temple: If Buddha Walked into a Bar…

It’s like a raunchy, hyper-masculine, American frontier tavern for Buddhists.
7th Dec 16
lampang travel guide

The Little Truk-Truk That Couldn’t

If you’re ever riding in a pickup truck racing up a mountain, jump out.
6th Dec 16
white temple travel story

Chiang Rai’s White Temple is a Modern Architectural Marvel

This place resembles an ice palace in a fairy tale.  
5th Dec 16
2nd Dec 16
dreamer cafe lampang
1st Dec 16
chiang mai bangkok train

Sleeper Trains: The Best Way to Travel When All You Need is Sleep

Of all the land transit in Thailand, the sleeper train wins.
30th Nov 16
yi peng lantern festival story

The Worst Way to End a Thai Lantern Festival

The 2016 Yi Peng festival was dazzling, popular—and ended in the hospital.
29th Nov 16
yi peng chiang mai festival guide

Flight of the Sky Lanterns

Yi Peng, one of Chiang Mai’s biggest festivals, is even bigger than we thought.
28th Nov 16
meeting strangers in thailand

Here’s to You, Grandma Poon

Lena finds an adoptive grandmother on the train to Bangkok.
25th Nov 16

I Love the Open Road and All That It Suggests

Riding in wooden trains, sleeper cars and pickup trucks across Thailand.
24th Nov 16
kanchanaburi train guide

That Time We Missed Our Train to Kanchanburi

Lena, now officially nicknamed Mom, got a little stressed.
23rd Nov 16
elephants world kanchanaburi review

The Ethics of Elephant Tourism in Thailand

Not all elephant sanctuaries are ethical. Thankfully, Elephants World is.
22nd Nov 16
what it's like river kwai kanchanaburi

Spending Remembrance Day on the Real-Life Bridge on the River Kwai

“Tourists snap selfies on the bridge. I don’t understand any of this.”
21st Nov 16

Reflections on Seeing My Grave in a Thai War Cemetery

Who was S. Bedford, the 22-year-old Cambridgeshire Regiment private?
18th Nov 16
thai king mourning bangkok

What it Means to Make a Country Great

Mourning the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok.
17th Nov 16
bangkok market travel

Investigation or Intrusion? Toeing the Travel Journalist’s Line

At Bangkok’s amulet market, not everyone wants to chat with travel writers.
16th Nov 16
bangkok river boat tour

A Banana’s Worth: Haggling on the Chao Phraya River

The traveller’s dilemma: Do you pay what you’re charged, or bargain down?
15th Nov 16

Returning to Bangkok: Same-Same, But Different

Humid, flood-prone and home to 15 million, Bangkok is a marvel.
14th Nov 16
cathay pacific yvr airport

6 Luxuries I Had No Idea People Actually Enjoyed in Airports

Airport lounges literally take your travel experience from a two to a 10.
11th Nov 16

Jibbing From Jabs: Getting Travel-Vaccinated When It’s the Last Thing You Want to Do

Sue’s no anti-vaxxer, but that doesn’t mean she likes getting stabbed in the arm.
8th Nov 16

The Push Factor: Less-Awesome Reasons Why We Travel

Sue’s visited 50 countries in a decade. What’s she running from?
7th Nov 16
travel inspiration

Forget “Finding Yourself” (Or: How Travel Transformed My Brain)

Travel isn’t about “finding yourself.” It’s about becoming someone new.
6th Nov 16

Thailand’s Four Most Stunning Unique Natural Wonders

These places are so cool, James Bond had a duel to the death there.
5th Nov 16
canmore kananaskis mountain climb

Always With the Trekking: Ruminations on Keeping Up With Lena

Lena likes mountains. Sue, less so. This makes Sue very, very worried.
4th Nov 16
how to behave in thailand

Pretend Your Left Hand Doesn’t Exist, and Other Etiquette Tips to Follow in Thailand

Your guide to greetings, utensils and common courtesies in Thailand.
3rd Nov 16
Why Lena Travels

I’ve Chosen My Shit Sandwich and It Tastes Damn Good

Not literally, of course. It’s a metaphor… for life. 
2nd Nov 16

From Full Moon to Full Circle

The first time Lena went to Thailand, she nearly got rabies.
2nd Nov 16
vodka red bull bucket thailand

Venturing Beyond the Bucket

On this Thailand trip, years after her first, Sue would like less vomit, please.
1st Nov 16

Copyright © 2016 Outpost Travel Media
Made possible with the support of the