Thailand is a very large country extending over 1869 km from its northernmost point at Chiang Rai at the border to Laos (approximately 20 degrees N), to its southernmost point at Betong, which is one of the border crossings to Malaysia (approximately 6 degrees N). Of these 1869 km we are now traversing 1392 km to get from our northern field area on the Khorat Plateau to our southernmost field area east of Krabi. This means moving from the hot and dry climate of the Khorat Plateau to an even hotter and humid climate in the south, from spicy food in the north to even spicier food in the south, from mainly rice cultivation to palm tree and rubber tree plantations, from flat inland terrain to a karst landscape and the sea. Or, translated into latitudes, a move from 17 degrees N to 8 degrees N).
Thai highways are very good, often four or more lanes, especially around Bangkok, where traffic is heaviest, three lanes most of the time in the north and two lanes in the south. Driving however puts a lot of strain on the drivers because cars are overtaking from left and right without blinking; motorbikes turn up from the middle of nowhere; lorries and pickups, which make up the majority of the vehicles are completely overloaded with goods and passengers; road constructions are announced not more than 100 m before the actual construction site; and many highways pass through the middle of towns and cities, where people cross the roads. Driving at night becomes even more difficult – not all cars have functioning headlights, and streetlights outside of the towns are basically non-existent.
Breaking the long north-south trip up in several stages is thus advisable and gives an opportunity to see some culture along the way: old Khmer monuments and silk weaving villages in the north, temples and markets in the south. Our trip south thus took us four days in total: from Kumphawapi south to Nakhon Ratchasima, from Nakhon Ratchasima west passing Bangkok and turning south to Cha’am, from Cha’am on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand to Chumphon and from Chumphon to our final destination Thung Song.