Camping in southern Thailand & returning to the crime scene

Khao Lak, Ao Khoei, Thung Wau Lean, and Pranburi beaches. I made my way up the Andaman coast, stopping along the way in Krabi to take another look at a spot where I almost killed myself. It’s sort of a blur of memories, so I just had to try and understand what I was thinking. A few years back I was hanging out along the edge of the river at sunrise with a couple of buddies and two young Dutch girls. We had partied all night and were feasting on some seven-eleven breakfast when the great idea popped into our heads to jump. The girls thought we should do it naked, so of course the clothes came off. One of the other guys was going to dive, and thank god I went first, because he would have been dead. From about twenty-five feet up, somehow we couldn’t see the jagged rocks that were just below the surface. I didn’t have any pain at first. It was one of those moments when you just know you’re completely screwed.

I pulled up my arm to see a giant gash, and then felt my butt cheek, which felt like fish gills. I looked up and asked for some help. I cracked my right heel, and tore chunks out of the bottoms of my feet. If the rocks would have hit my bottom about six inches to the right, I probably would have broken my back. Close to thirty stitches, a lot of bandages, and a whole bunch of morphine and painkillers later, I got wheeled out of the hospital. It was a wild time in the ER passing around a bottle of whiskey and eating toasties. Eventually everything healed up and the stitches were taken out by a Canadian fire dancing nurse. Good memories. Anyway, I had to see this spot again, and try to understand why I jumped, but I just felt even stupider. It was obvious there were rocks just under the surface, and have to chalk it up to being under the influence of alcohol and pretty girls. Another place in Krabi that caused some pain, but not nearly as much, was Wat Tham Suea. I had done the 1,237 steps to the top of the mountain before, but gave it another shot. At the 333rd step a dog had gotten too tired.


It’s really pretty from the top, and are cooled down with a nice breeze.

Like a lot of temples in Thailand, there are monkeys everywhere running amuck. If they ever gave methamphetamine to a huge group of third graders the result would be the same. I feel like sometimes they’re eyes are trying to say “I will eat you’re face off if you mess with me”.

After a week of camping I treated myself to a night at a hostel in Ao Nang, and a night out. Ended up with a group of us dancing our faces of all night until they all left me for lovers. Walking home alone, a ladyboy offered me a ride to my place and I thought screw it. When we got there she asked me for 100Baht, which I didn’t have because I blew all my money. As I was telling her this, I was hit so hard over the left side of my face it almost knocked me out. I saw stars and thought my nose was broken. I camped one night just north of Khao Lak. It gets really quiet and around these parts and isn’t hard to find a spot.

The next day I had made it a bit over a hundred miles when I stopped in a seven-eleven to grab a snack and ended up meeting an American girl who lives and works in the small town. She had done the Peace Corps in Thailand and fell in love with it, and knew the area well. I got a great recommendation from her about a beautiful spot to camp and a nice waterfall nearby. She also told me about the place I’d end up at a couple of days later. The first beach was nearby, named Ao Khoei. She showed me the outdoor market and I bought supplies of watermelon, pineapple, sticky rice, papaya salad, and curries.

Before heading down I stopped at the waterfall and took a bath.


She was right about the beach, it was completely natural, not one thing built on it, and gorgeous. It was tough to decide on a spot because they all looked perfect. I was alone except for some random people. A few old men drank whiskey on the rocks, and invited me over. While I was eating the watermelon on the beach a kid walked by and I gave him a chunk that he scurried off with. I little old lady played and picked tamarind from the trees with a couple small children.

A magical peaceful spot.

In the morning I headed north into Ranong Province and along the isthmus separating Thailand and Burma. At one spot I drove down to there was only about 100 feet across the water to Burma. You could swim across, or take a 15 second boat ride. Before crossing to the east towards the Thai gulf coast, on Hwy 4, there are easily twenty identical stands along the sides of the road selling handmade stuffed buns and dumplings. I stopped at three of them, and all of them were the same and delicious. I always pick my booths in times like these by looking for the friendliest faces. If the lady has a sweet welcoming smile then I pull in and have a couple.

I crossed over to the gulf coast of Thailand, which isn’t that far, and into Champhon. The peace corps girl who told me about the first beach also told me about one named Thung Wua Lean near Champhon that was supposed to be great as well, and good for camping. I had the name, but no idea where it was because I still had no maps since my phone quit working. It was a cat and mouse game of finding an internet shop in Champhon. The thing about Thai people is that even if they have no idea where something is they will still give you directions and sound very sure of it. I was led down many streets and in circles before someone actually had quality info. I figured out where it was and the nice guy in the shop showed me how to head out of town and find road 3180, which leads to it. As I rolled into the small oceanside village I could tell it was a perfect spot to camp, and another great recommendation. The water had about fifteen kitesurfers in it.

The conditions were awesome and I wished I had my gear. I stopped in a small place with some bungalows and asked about a place to camp. He told me that it would be no problem right across the street on the little grassy area next to the beach with palm trees hanging overhead. It’s the windy season right now, which is why the kitesurfers are there. The wind feels so good and keeps things cool. At night there are people wearing down jackets and pants! I was fine in shorts and t-shirt. It was a bit tricky getting the tent set up in the wind, but eventually I got it as the sun disappeared. Throughout the ordeal many curious people came up and chatted with me, and then a Norwegian guy offered me to bring my tent down the beach a bit near his house so I could use the water and shower. It was tough carrying the tent through the wind, but was worth it in the end. I ended up in a perfect spot on the edge of the beach with some nice trees overhead.

I had planned on camping in Thung Wua Lean for a night, but could tell I would be staying for longer. It’s such a chill little village on the beach with some really friendly locals mixed with some kitesurfer and expats. The small road runs right along the beach and is peppered with some small restaurants and bungalows. It’s a gorgeous spot, but has never become very touristy and built up.

Only a couple km’s away is a small town with a seven eleven and a night market with some good cheap food. Being on the east coast you miss out on the sunset, but in the town is a big pier that goes out into the ocean. You can drive a motorcycle out to the end to look back over the water and land to the sun setting with beautiful colors developing in the sea.

A peaceful spot to enjoy a sunset with some old fishermen. It’s easy to slip into beach bum life, and I ended up camping there for 3 nights. The sad feeling of packing my little home up and moving on is overpowered by the open road and endless possibilities of the day ahead of me. There’s always a beautiful spot to discover. It’s not just how pretty the beach is or how blue the water is, but the memories you leave with. I meet some people who are flying along constantly looking for that perfect spot, leaving places behind because they aren’t perfect, but nowhere is perfect. It’s about the dinner you had with a group of strangers, or the game of football you played on the beach, or being woken up in your tent by locals with fresh coffee. I didn’t know what to expect, but the camping on the beaches in Thailand is amazing. Nobody has ever had a problem with me camping in any spot, and every time is actually excited about it and interested. I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere along the way and actually felt protected by the friendly locals. From Thung Wua Lean I headed north up the coast passing through small villages with pretty little bays, guys watching the muay thai fights, and delicious papaya salads in beachside huts.

As the sun started to set, I took a right down a small road, and found myself at Pranburi beach, which is right outside Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park. Someone had mentioned to me that it might be good for camping. It’s only about a half hour drive from the busy city of Hua Hin, but nothing like it. The beach goes on in both directions as far as the eye can see. The road that runs along it has small restaurants, hotels, and a few resorts. I rolled through slowly and kept an eye out for some food. I passed a spot where some locals were eating bowls of something and a guy was selling food off a cart. Looked promising so I turned around. The group was friendly and welcomed me to sit with them. In a few minutes a dinner of Papaya salad, kebabs, and sticky rice sat in front of me. It was a small resort and the young owner had his friends families over. He let me set up my tent across the street by the beach on a grassy area with pine trees and some tables and chairs. He made me feel at home and showed me how to use the lights, and opened one of the vacant rooms for me where I could take a much-needed warm shower. It was a really nice beach camping spot, and I was lucky to have beautiful stars overhead.

I usually wake up around sunrise when camping. It’s my favorite time of day here, with cool refreshing temperatures, no other humans around, and all those early morning noises. On this morning I also woke up to a surprise. I had been told that the high tide in the morning would come up close to me, but didn’t expect it to be at my doorstep. Exactly as I unzipped my door, a wave slid up the beach, up onto the grassy area, and crept up until it stopped about five inches from my tent.


I leapt out and got to packing up the tent. Turned out I would’ve been OK, but didn’t want to risk a soggy smelly tent. The combination of high tide, onshore winds, and the full moon combined to bring the water unusually high. The water and foam came up into the road and beach restaurants in places. The ocean looked full of life and emotion.

About Trueworldtravels

Following my heart around the planet. Bringing to life the unique world around us through writing and photography.
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7 Responses to Camping in southern Thailand & returning to the crime scene

  1. Anonymous says:

    This post actually brought tears to my eyes Ryan. What you are experiencing is truly magical & a gift–and I am so happy for you.


  2. Elaine Segura says:

    This post actually brought tears to my eyes Ryan. What you are experiencing is truly magical & a gift. I am so happy for you.


  3. Sara Keenan says:

    Hey Ryan! Tom and Megan told me about your blog…I’m loving it. Keep on doing what your doing. 🙂 Safe travels!


  4. trvlgrl47 says:

    Beautiful pictures… Glad you recovered from your injuries.


  5. Awesome adventures Ryan! It was great meeting you and I hope your future travels treat you well!!


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