Popular mode of transportation
in much of Thailand
. A songthaew is a pickup truck
with seats attached to the bed, over which (usually) a roof or shelter of some sort is erected. Fancy songthaew have plastic sheets attached to the roof. These sheets can be rolled down in case of rain.
Some reflections on traveling via songthaew.
Songthaew can become quite crowded. A good way to meet fellow travelers or Thai people is to be forced upon their laps because of an especially crowded songthaew. If the songthaew is sufficiently crowded, additional travelers may hang onto the rails by which the roof is affixed. Those who fall on the left hand side of the height and/or weight bell curve will enjoy songthaew more than potential NBA All-Stars or the BMI-advantaged. Baggage generally goes between the rows, further decreasing leg room. On the other hand, the baggage can provide comfortable seating. Sometimes baggage will go on the roof. This can be quite frightening to backpackers whose lives depend, to some degree, upon their backpacks, but is generally okay in the end.
Crowded songthaew are cheaper than empty songthaew. The reason seems obvious, but just in case: more passengers equates to more money. Some songthaew drivers will not begin their journey until the songthaew's population meets expectations.
Foreign passengers should usually bargain with songthaew drivers. This is because the initial price quoted by said drivers will generally if not always be two to three times what a Thai passenger would pay. Never pay until the end of the trip unless everyone else on the songthaew is paying during the trip, which sometimes happens -- for example, on the songthaew to and from Lonely Beach. If possible, do not state a price until the end of the trip, and, during the ride, attempt to ascertain what Thai passengers are paying. Then pay the same. This is usually impossible.
Watch your head. Watch your money and other important possessions. Watch Thailand go by (unless it's raining).