Good bye: Siem Reap, Sinead, Abbie, Helen, Neha, Roberto, Ruben, Lisa…hello Thailand!

Disclaimer: this post is more useful for those who may do the journey from Cambodia to Thailand by bus.

Siem Reap to Bangkok

With Temples, Pub Street and catching up with friends done it was time to move on. I had one last catchup with my old friend from home, Neha Budhdev, and a final dinner and drinks with some travel buddies whom I’d be seeing for the last time (with the exception of Lisa) – good luck Abbie, Sinead and Helen!

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Like most good send offs it was boozy, messy and ran well into the early hours. Without my iPhone I’m alarmless and my Casio watch unfortunately doesn’t make the cut. Fortunately I was travelling with a hero called Ricardo.

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Ricardo, despite being out with us the night before, agreed to knock down my door and Ruben’s door at 5am to wake us up so that we’d catch our bus. And he did.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! At exactly 5am. “Wake up, you have a bus to catch!”. “THANKS, I’M AWAKE” I bellowed in response. Then I heard the same thing repeat as Ricardo attempted to knock down on Ruben’s door.

I had packed the night before, so everything was ready to go, all I needed to do was have a shower and put on some clean clothes.

We were piled into a pick-up truck, which took us to the bus station. At the bus station in Siem Reap, we were loaded onto our respective busses.

The journey from Siem Reap to the border took around 3-4 hours. I slept through most of it.

At the Cambodian border things were mostly straight forward. The area looked like a massive market place but there was no missing the giant gate like structure which could only be the border crossing. Passing through it was easy, though accompanied by a “leaving fee”. I can’t remember how much it was, it was either a tiny amount or a ridiculous amount, but not much in-between.

Once through Cambodian passport control, the other side felt unmistakably Thai. The border control was in an air-conditioned building. There was a queuing system that sufficiently satisfied all of the Brits in the queue. The border staff were fast and efficient. Everyone was granted a 30 day entry without a fuss and without a bribe. In comparison to the Laos and Cambodian border crossings described earlier in this blog, it was fantastic.

One the other side we were greeted with paved roads, 7/11s and coffee shops the likes of London. We were quickly and efficiently directed to our bus. The guys ensured all of our bags were on, that we were comfortable and then promised to get us to Bangkok fast. And they delivered.

We arrived in the undelightful Khoa San Road at the expected time, 4pm. We had to deal with the usual annoyances of cab drivers who tried to convince us there were no metre taxis in Bangkok, despite the sign above his taxi saying “Taxi-metre”. We politely declined and found a taxi who would take us on the metre. I explained the location and said I’d direct him when we get closer.

We arrived at the awesome, Bodega Hostel just off of Sukhumvit Soi 23. A great location along the desirable Sukhumvit Road for a slightly pricey, yet reasonable $10.50/night. With a bar, air-conditioned rooms and all the other amenities you’d expect of a hostel…it was awesome.

Ruben and I went for a final dinner, as this would be the last night of his travels. We went to the extraordinarily great Thai Restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 23, Baan Kanitha. It’s the best Thai food you’ll eat in Bangkok and only costs between $10-$15 for a meal. I helped Ruben get a taxi in the evening and with that we parted ways. Gut glück men freund.

St Patrick’s Day

The following day was a special day for my surrogate nationality – Irish – it was St Patrick’s Day. The Hostel started celebrations early with a special breakfast.

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After breakfast and a few errands, I headed to an Irish pub with a friend from the hostel. The Dubliner just oppose the Emporium on Sukhumvit Road was celebrating big. There was cheap Guinness, Heineken and Cider; more green than in Snoop Dogg’s cupboard; and a lively crowd. It was roasting hot outside and I needed a coffee. An iced Irish coffee was in order.

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We headed inside and met a few other lonely backpackers. Through the evening we lost most people and by the end of the evening Bowen and I were the last men standing in the Robin Hood.

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We met some more friendly Irish company there…thanks for keeping a drunk backpacker company Eime!

Au revoir Lisa…

The following day Lisa arrived into Bangkok for the last night of her travels. We went to Cheap Charlies. I had been there before in December so was slightly less mystified by it. Lisa absolutely loved it.

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By the end of the evening we had vowed to go out, buy a souvenir that would fit the ambience of Cheap Charlie’s. We would gift it to Charlie (I’m sure that’s not his name) before Lisa left for the airport the following evening.

The following day we had visited a lot of shops but couldn’t quite find what we were after. We wanted a broken pocket watch that could sit timelessly alongside the weird and wonderful ornaments, that themselves were frozen in time. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite find it.

After an hour and a half, we were already flagging and almost ready to give up on the plan. Our last hope was an accessories section of the Terminal 21 mall. There we found somebody who sold charms. I looked intently at the variety of charms on display. I was looking for something French and something English. If we couldn’t find the watch we could at least find something sufficiently Anglo-Franco to leave our mark.

We found a small Arc-de-Triomphe and a Big Ben. That would be perfect. Something small that resembled France and the UK. Big Ben provided our desire for time (though in a slightly less rustic way than we had imagined) and Arc-de-Triomphe, a mark of our triumph*.

By the time we had both finished running our errands we met back at the hostel at 8pm. Lisa’s flight was at 0030 and she still had a few last bits of shopping to do at Suvarnabhumi Airport. We would need to leave at 9pm.

She showered and packed her bags. The timing would be tight. We ran out to the street at 9pm. We flagged down a few taxis, I explained to them in basic Thai and English to first take us to Sukhumvit Soi 11, then take Lisa to the airport, all on the metre. The first two were unwilling to go to the airport, but third time lucky.

The taxi driver drove fast and navigated the back streets to get us there quickly. We pulled up. I told him to wait a few a minutes outside. He acquiesced. Lisa and I ran to the outdoor bar. We explained to Charlie we had a present for him for the bar. He accepted with a smile and a laugh. Lisa tied the lucky charm to the front of the bar. We had a 5 seconds for a quick photo shoot.

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We ran back. The taxi was gone. Lisa’s heart stopped. But, after a minute or two the taxi reappeared – he had turned around. The Soi was a narrow one, with Lisa’s taxi waiting for her, the traffic had all but stopped along the road (if you look carefully at the below picture you can see the line of iconic red taxi lights behind Lisa’s taxi). Lisa boarded the taxi and drove off with plenty of time.

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Bangkok round two was done and was awesome. The time in-between the above events was mostly spent at Georgie’s house watching the first few episodes of House of Cards, Season 3.

Next stop…Koh Phi Phi to start my next few months of bumming on beaches. Expect some annoying MMUs of beaches, sunsets and tans.

 

*The sentence about Big Ben, time, Arc-de-Triomphe and triumph is total bull, no such thought went into it. It was mainly about having something English and French.

A few after thoughts

Siem Reap: if you’re in Siem Reap and want a good, reliable Tuk Tuk driver contact Batman. He is friendly, funny and won’t rip you off. You can get him for a reasonable price for the day and he’ll take you to the good places. If you want to stop off at other temples he’ll oblige and not try and charge you more like other drivers. Also he has the fastest Tuk Tuk I’ve ever been in.

Bangkok: if you want authentic Indian food that tastes like it came straight out of mum’s kitchen, go to Dosa King on Sukhumvit Soi 11.

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