In the last 2 days I’ve covered roughly 700 miles by bus and train.
I left Siem Reap to Bangkok via a ‘bus’ service that would take us to the border and then eventually to Bangkok itself. The bus was actually a minivan, although that type of unexpected surprise isn’t really a surprise at all in South East Asia. When booking the trip, I was told that the bus would get in around 4pm, yet when I got on the bus we were immediately told that we would be running a few hours behind due to construction. Again – not exactly a major surprise. Once we got moving, the trip itself to the Thai border wasn’t that bad, and the bus driver even stopped twice to let people use the bathroom. (The key difference between a minivan and a bus.)
Once you arrive at the border, you are on your own to walk through the various turnstiles and cattle herding devices meant to guide you across the border. Even in the low season, as it is, this process somehow took 90 minutes between leaving Cambodia and entering Thailand. The process is slow, extremely inefficient, and mostly outdoors – so you can enjoy all 95 degrees of heat beating down from the sun.
Eventually when you get through Thai immigration, you are rejoined by the other various people taking buses from Cambodia to Bangkok and a number of other connection points. Everyone at this point is under a large tent which offers some sort of relief from the heat. Then there is more waiting. You aren’t really sure what you’re waiting for, but it’ll be ready in another 5 minutes. And another 5. And about 10 more after that. Apparently the company that does these bus transfers only has one or two buses to move people from this staging area to the actual bus station. Fast forward a bit more waiting, and I arrive (after standing and holding on to PVC piping attached to the hitch of a truck to make room for an extra few people) at a small restaurant where we can wait for another 30 minutes and eat before our bus (minivan) is ready to leave. None of this is actually surprising though, since this is the experience that nearly everyone has making this transfer. Eventually our minivan takes off.
Somewhere along the way from Siem Reap to Bangkok we stopped at a gas station to refuel and let people unload. It was at this point that I knew Thailand was going to be a different experience than the last two countries. We came to a 7-11. This 7-11 is the last known location of my Capital One Debit Card. RIP little buddy.
(Oh yeah – so it turns out I left my ATM card in the ATM and then we drove off and I realized it some many hours later. This is why you bring two different cards from two different banks and you put money in both accounts. Given the amount of time it could take to get a new card mailed to anywhere in Asia, I’m not sure if I’ll try to have a new one mailed to a hotel I plan to be at a month in the future, or if I’ll just have to tie a rope around my remaining card.)
A few hours later, at roughly 7pm (and only 3 hours late) I arrived in Bangkok. Technically speaking, I probably arrived in Bangkok about 45 minutes earlier – the city is massive and we rode the minivan along various 5 land highways and high speed roads for quite a while as we passed 40 and 50 story buildings along the way. The idea of a skyline of any size – after being in a ‘major city’ where daily trash burning is a normal part of life – was a bit unexpected. (Then again if I did any research on half the cities I go to this probably wouldn’t have been as big of a shock.)
Due to the way the internet seems to work in Thailand, the rest of this story will have to be typed up at a later time (today?) when I can find a more reliable network connection.
Part 2 should cover the following things:
- Being in Bangkok for 12 hours
- Running into an old friend
- Taking the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai