*Sigh* This shouldn’t really have had a blog post dedicated to it – that wasn’t part of my plan – but considering the drama and the length of time I ended up “passing through” Bangkok, it felt necessary.
Tara and I were picked up from our Battambang hostel by a Tuk Tuk just after 8am and taken to the Virak Buntham bus office (we had wanted to book with Mekong Express but it was fully booked). We were then transferred into a minivan for the first hour of our journey (a cool, spacious minivan) before being chucked off to wait for half an hour for a bus (a warm, cramped bus). Wonderful. Then we were off, to stop again after 45 minutes to wait for 20 minutes while we were briefed on the border crossing, to then move again for 5 minutes before stopping again as we reached the border crossing. Oooo what a faff.
For the border crossing we had to cart our big bags off the bus and take them with us (so I’m not really sure why we paid extra for a “direct” bus), walking a few minutes to reach a small building, which turned out to be the border crossing office for leaving Cambodia. Here we had to stand in line for about 20-30 minutes before having our departure card taken, our passports stamped and our fingerprints taken. All pretty easy thus far (just very hot and sweaty).
We then had to walk about 10 minutes to reach the Thailand border crossing office – a much bigger building over two floors and a much bigger queue. Think of passport control lines when you enter a London airport, but in South East Asia heat and speed; we were in this line for about an hour, with the building crammed with people waiting to pass through and only 2 members of staff checking passports. It was all very easy when I got to the front – I didn’t need to show proof of departure from Thailand as forewarned and I got 30 days free visa despite the recent changes and me going in via land rather than air.
At about 1:20pm Tara and I made it back to our bus, which had moved to meet us on the “other side”; AKA, 15 minutes down the road. It’s hard to comprehend you have crossed over into a different country for it to feel completely the same. We then had to wait for everyone to board the bus, so it probably wasn’t until just after 2pm that we were able to set off. No worry – we had been told the journey into Bangkok would take 3.5/4 hours and our bus out of Bangkok wasn’t until 8pm, so we had plenty of time…
The journey was an eventful one, with me getting into a debate with a random Brit whom was adamant the term is Poetic Fallacy and not Pathetic Fallacy (mate, you owe me one dollar), the bus stopping and waiting on the side of the road while the same guy and his mate jumped off (into the lashing rain) to pick up medicine from the pharmacy, and us having to hang around at a rest stop for 40 minutes when they said we would only be there for 20; as enthusiastic as I was to be reunited with a 7-Eleven, I wasn’t happy with these added delays to our journey, being well aware of the broad estimations Thailand seems to make with regards to timings! It wasn’t until we got to 30km outside of Bangkok, at 6:15pm, that the shit really hit the fan. We became gridlocked in Friday evening (or maybe just evening) motorway traffic, and we moved about 3km in one hour. We both started to get anxious (and panic eat the cereal and Green Pea snack crisps I had bought for the next couple of days) and I began racing through my head what I could do if I didn’t make it. I started to play through my mind what I would do if we missed our bus – it wasn’t so much the money that bothered me but the fact my sister was flying into Koh Samui the following day and I was supposed to be there to greet her. I actually felt sick.
Well, a 30km journey that should have taken under 30 minutes took 3 hours, with us arriving at Khao San Road at 9:30pm. I should mention that when booking our tickets we asked what time we would arrive – “maybe 4, maybe 5” was the response of one woman, for her to then be chastised by her male colleague whom assured us we would be there by 3pm. Well, you were only 6 hours out, mate; you’re supposed to under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around. Anyway, despite having clearly missed our bus out of Bangkok we went straight for the Thai Sriram (the bus company) office, where we were greeted by the Thai guy working there with “you’re late!” Yep, we know! He was kind enough to book us onto same bus for the next day, whilst chuckling to himself the whole time at how very late we were. Relieved to at least have that sorted and not have to pay twice, we then wandered around the Khao San Road area, with our bags on our backs, for about 40 minutes before settling on a guesthouse that was down some quiet side streets and offered a double room with fan for 500 baht. After grabbing a fruit shake, updating our respective people of our current situation and having a well-needed shower, we hit the sack.
Despite still feeling devastated about not making it to Koh Samui as planned the following day (I wouldn’t be over it until I was reunited with my sister, and right now it was still too raw for any acceptance on part) I decided to make the most of being in Bangkok FOR THE THIRD TIME (see, still not over it). This was Tara’s first time so I recommended a few things she could do, but as I had already done most of the typical tourist stuff I decided to spend my day wandering around the canals that stem from Chao Phraya River, where I discovered some lovely little areas and neighbourhoods away from the busy-ness of Khao San Road and the Grand Palace. When I first went to Bangkok I felt quite overwhelmed, the second time I really enjoyed it and this time I felt really relaxed in this familiar place where I continued to uncover dynamic aspects to it. I can now say with resolve that I am a fan of Bangkok (I sort of have to be after going three times – have I mentioned that yet?!)
Late afternoon, after walking around for 4 hours, I decided to treat myself to a foot massage in one of the many parlours just off Rambrutti road. The thing about any Thai massage is that, regardless of which type of massage you pick (be it neck and shoulder, foot or otherwise) they always throw some other moves in there. So, after about half an hour of a foot massage (that also crept up my calves) I was ordered to sit up and turn around so she could massage my head, ears, neck and shoulders for the remaining 10 minutes. It was actually really good (and needed, judging by the crunches in my shoulder blades) but just not what I had asked for or was paying for (but neither was the complimentary Thai tea and biscuits I was given afterwards, and I certainly wasn’t about to complain about free snacks).
I reconvened with Tara at our hostel at 5pm to pick up our luggage before heading for dinner at Green House Hostel. Both of us were completely exhausted and struggled to find the energy to lift our forks to our mouths yet somehow, SOMEHOW, I dug deep and managed to slowly devour the best squid pad Thai I have had this far rather than face-planting it. I always have energy preserves for eating.
We then slowly walked to a 7-Eleven (of course!) to pick up supplies for our bus journey before boarding (in the pouring rain) at 8pm. Shattered, we settled into our seats ready for the night, only to both be met with feelings of rage when the two people sat behind us engaged in the loudest conversation known to Man. Seriously, it was like they were screaming at each other; Tara and I spent a good half hour exhaling loudly and dramatically turning round in our seats to glare at them, before I eventually decided to stop being passive-aggressive and just politely asked if they could keep it down. Which they did.
Finally, time for some sleep. Nope! At just after 1pm the bus pulls in at this station, where we were ushered into a dining area and presented with “breakfast”, which consisted of sharing dishes made of pickled veg, salted eggs, steamed rice and chicken wings. It was the most bizarre meal of my life and I stuffed some of it down my throat in a haze. Back on the bus, with my seat reclined but of course not as flat as a bed, I struggled to sleep the entire night, probably only getting a total of 2 hours sleep, before arriving in Surat Thani at about 7am. We then continued towards the pier where we didn’t arrive until just after 8am, having just missed a ferry – I definitely wouldn’t make it to Koh Samui by 9:30am as promised! Instead my ferry left at 10am, and this is where I had to say goodbye to Tara as she was getting a later ferry to Koh Phangan. I’d only known Tara for a couple of days but, after all we had been through together, felt as though I had known her for years and was sad to say goodbye. Big shout out here to Tara – if it wasn’t for her and our delirious laughter throughout this experience, I would have definitely had an emotional breakdown.
At 11:30am I finally arrived on the island of Samui where we were offered free transport to our accommodation as part of our ticket with Thai Sriram (definitely a bonus!) and, through tears of joy, I eventually got to be reunited with my beautiful sister just before 1pm…