Good morning Bangkok! I’ve just arrived at Bangkok Hua Lampong train station for the first leg of the journey to Cambodia for my visa run. My day started at 03:30 this morning to allow time to get ready and beat the traffic from Nontaburi to Bangkok. I live about 11km from the station but when the traffic hits in the city, you can be sat stationary for two hours, even in the morning and with only one or two trains per day heading to Aranyaprathet I didn’t want to take any chances.
I’m going to be travelling with my friend Paulina, another ESL teacher who I met when I first arrived in Thailand. Today we’re going to be travelling to Aranyaprathet which is about a five hour train ride away from here. From there we’ll take a tuk tuk to the border, cross over, and continue on to Siem Reap. I’m going to keep a daily blog of the trip (WiFi permitting) and keep you updated with how the journey goes.
I’ve just had time to grab some breakfast courtesy of 7/11 and Paulina’s just arrived so its time to head to the train. Cambodia here we come!
We’ve been on the train for nearly five hours now. Had a sleep facing the open window which has resulted in that classic, itchy eyes, greasy face, wild hair look. Its not too far to the boarder from here. The journeys been good. The train is basic but clean and functional. The ticket all the way to Aranyaprathet is 48 baht so you can’t really complain. As well as that people join the train at every stop and jump on to sell food and drinks, I got a can of super sweet coffee, classic Thailand.
Outside of the train, everything’s become completely rural. There have been rice fields pretty much the whole way and the occasional farm. It’s been a good journey made better by Kendrick keeping me company on my iPod, that said, the battery’s just died and my right ass cheek has fallen asleep so getting off at some point soon wouldn’t hurt.
On the bus now. Since my last check-in, its been a bit of an ordeal. Just after the previous section was posted somebody tried to steal from me. The lady sat next to me must have thought I was asleep and tried to get into the pocket of my shorts. I’d like to think that I’m wrong but as soon as I looked she snatched her hand away and moved. What do you do in that situation, should I be annoyed, scared, happy to realise? To be honest I’m still not sure but one thing is, it made me think about travelling in South East Asia. Comparatively, Nontaburi where I’m based is a richer area and so its easy to forget that some people here are extremely poor. To see a group of tourists, dripping in iPods and tablets, its easy to understand why someone might try their luck. Does that make it right? No of course not and maybe I’ve made too much of a narrative about this woman, she could just be a thief, but personally I’m not going to think of it like that.
After the train the plan was to head to the boarder but first was the small issue of getting a photo for my visa. This is where preparation or local knowledge would help because we ended up paying 100 baht to be taken round the corner to the photo shop and then to the boarder. It should usually be around 80 baht so either way, I didn’t feel too short changed.
After being taken to a fake boarder point, complete with “Visa Boarder” sign, we eventually got to the official crossing. Luckily we’d read up on this scam so it didn’t cause us any problems. The crossing process was a bit of a faff with various forms, stamps and different offices, but was complete in around thirty minutes. We then got the free bus to our current destination which looks like it was once a bus station. On reflection, the bus from Bangkok looks like the better option. The staff of the company currently ‘helping’ us have so far essentially kettled us through to this point. We were also told that we could exchange money assuming US dollars would be available which is the generally accepted currency. They then told us this wasn’t an option and seemed annoyed when we said we’d exchange money in town. At the moment, not feeling great.
This is not Siem Reap.
Its the times when things don’t go to plan that make the best stories I suppose. That said, its not fun at the time. It became apparent that what ever company we used were taking us for a ride, to anywhere but Siem Reap. They stopped at places clearly owned by friends or colleagues for long periods of time. What we realised is that they were running the clock down. When we arrived at ‘Siem Reap’ we were taken to a small residential area down a back alley. It was pitch black and there were a team of drivers waiting for us. The bus group was divided and sent in seperate directions. We were then quoted $2 into town by a man who quickly disappeared. After being questioned about where we were staying by our tuk tuk driver, the price soon became $4 as it was apparently very far and if we didn’t want to pay we should “get the hell out of the tuk tuk.” Long story short we eventually paid $2 to the edge of town and walked the short distance to the hotel. What we learned was that its best to say a general area, rather than a specific hotel to the driver because they’ll base the fare on that. We’re in a place called King Boutique because we wanted something a not more comfortable for our few days here.
I’m glad that we tried the route that we did because other size we would never know. Also the train journey was enjoyable other than the issues at the end. Now its time to de-stress, shower and if I don’t have a beer in the next thirty minutes, I may die. Luckily beer is 50 cents so I should be able to stretch to that with the money I have left. Let’s hope the currency exchange is still open!
… and relax 🙂