Short Tales from the Road: Lost in Translation

*Short Tales from the Road is a collection of my travel stories on the road while walking the world. It’s about the good, the bad, the funny and the unexpected situations that I’ve encountered on my travels.*

Lost in Translation


We had just finished dinner by the waterfront. There was not much to do in Surat Thani, and the only activity for the night was just sitting beside a couple of brightly lit food trucks by the river. Other than the dim street lights, they were the only source of light on the dark stretch of road. I turned to Khanusha.

“What is there to do here?” I asked her, “It looks like a completely dead town.”

I was traveling with my best friend Khanusha, and we were spending the night in this transit town on our trip back from the island of Koh Phangan. We had spent an entire week partying it up on the beach at the infamous Full-Moon party.

She was obviously still in the mood to party, “Let’s find a bar or something, get a drink or two.” She proudly lifted up her phone. She had an app on her handphone that showed a couple of ‘bars’ marked on a map. The GPS marker indicated that it was just a short walk up the road. Looking into the darkness, a wave of fear ran through my body. I didn’t think it was a good idea.

Khanusha sensed my reluctance, and then pointed to a group of teenagers sitting on motorbikes by the side of the river. “Maybe they know where to go.” Before I could answer, she walked over towards them.

I was feeling skeptical and cautious as we approached this seemingly harmless group of teenagers. When we got nearer, they stopped talking and looked at us. One of the girls in the group smiled, and before we could say a word, asked, “Lost? Want help?” I thought to myself, “Ahhhhh… English!” Khanusha and I nodded, and asked them a series of questions.

“Where’s a good bar to go to?”
“Where’s the nearest pub?”
“Are they any party places in town?”
“How can we get there?”

The questions got them all confused, and they began talking to one another in Thai. They did not understand English after all. I could make out that they were trying to figure out what we were saying, repeating some of the words we had just said, and giving each other the translation of what they thought it meant.

We tried to help them. The hands gestures came out. The weird one worded ‘noises’ came out. They answered us with single syllable answers like yes and no. We tried breaking the questions down. Pub. Bar. Drink. Party. Beer.

“Beer?” another girl in the group said. “Yes. We know beer.”

Finally! After all the effort from both parties, they finally got what we were trying to say. Or at least I thought they did. “Walk. Near?” I asked her, using two fingers to indicate someone walking.

“Yes. 3km.”

“That’s far!” Khanusha exclaimed, turning to look at me. “That’s so far! I don’t want to walk so far. It’s so far!” She looked devastated. “So faarrrrrrrrrr.”

They immediately reacted to her. “So far?” the smiley-girl said to us, while looking at her friends. I figured she understood what we said. “Yes, 3km. So far.” I replied.

That somehow got them all excited. After talking among themselves, one of the boys gestured to his motorbike and said, “So far? Motorbike.”

“You mean you’ll take us?”

“Yes. So far. We motorbike.”

Khanusha and I looked at each other. We were both silently deciding if it would be too dangerous to accept the offer. We didn’t know these kids, eventhough they seemed nice and friendly. Plus, there were 6 of them in total, and 3 motorbikes.

“Three people? One motorbike?” I asked.

“Yes yes,” the girl nodded, “Three people. One motorbike.” By then, they had already started their motorbikes, signaling us to ride pillion behind two people. Khanusha looked at me and shrugged, “Three people on a bike. Let’s do this.” She got on. I got on the one next to her.

The teens were so small in size that the ride was pretty comfortable. It felt as if the motorbikes were naturally made to fit three people. We raced along the lonely dark road before turning into a secluded corner, and then another, and then another. We were getting further and further from our initial location, I was sure it was definitely much more than 3km down the road. I was starting to get a little worried when we finally arrived at our destination.

“It is here,” the girl said, pointing to a gaudily lit club in front of me, “Beer.” Not thinking much of it, Khanusha and I got off our bikes and thanked them for the ride. “It’s ok!” the girl replied, “Bye bye!” The group repeated after her, waving to us before starting their bikes and riding off. We watched them disappear into the darkness, and then turned our attention to the club.

“This is it?” Khanusha said, sounding a little disappointed, “This place looks dodgy. There’s no one inside. Why did they bring us here?  It’s further than 3 km. I don’t think….” her voice trailed off. I wasn’t listening to her anymore.

I had spotted a large signboard in front of the club. I finally understood their excitement. I finally understood why we were brought here. I gestured towards Khanusha to stop talking. Giggling, I pointed to the sign, “I guess it is ‘so far’ after all.”

In large bold letters, the brightly lighted sign read…


Surat Thani

The elusive Sofa, in all its gaudy glory.

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