After a grueling 29 hours in transit (including layovers) we made it into Bangkok. We were very jet lagged and almost didn’t go out the next morning (yesterday). On our way to an ATM, we met a young Thai woman who started chatting us up. She wrote down a list of temples for us to see and negotiated a tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) for us. Three hours of touring around Bangkok for about 40 Bhat (about $1 CAD).
Just wait until I bring home photos of the giant, 45 meter tall, Standing Buddah. The whole statue is covered in gold leaf – amazing (yes, I’ll be saying amazing a lot). We were also toured around a temple under renovation with a nice man who told us a lot of the history. The trip capped off with a beautiful sunset from the top of The Golden Mountain temple.
All this for a buck, you ask? Yes there was a catch. There is always a catch.
We had to make a couple of stops to what they called a “Thai Factory”; it’s an overpriced custom tailor that wants to make you a custom suit. The tuk-tuk drivers get gas rebates and commissions when you purchase – go fig! We’ve also since realized that the nice woman who started this journey was planted by a company. So was the guy who toured us around the temple and happened to mention a certain “Thai Factory”. Long story short – we toured around for $1 and never bought a thing. Our tuk-tuk driver was mad at the end, but it was a great deal for us. (can you say karma?)
Our hotel/guesthouse in Bangkok was just off of the Khao San Road – the centre for backpackers and tourists. All the roads are crazy – filled with vendors selling anything and everything – and tons of people. Traffic in Bangkok would make even the craziest driver seem cool, calm and collected. The city is incredibly dirty. Really dirty, but still a lot of fun.
So that was yesterday (our 1st full day in town). This morning, at 7:30 am, we boarded a crazy light-duty pickup, picked up another 8 people (little overloaded, but standard fare for the city), and were connected with our “VIP Bus” to set us en route to Cambodia.
More crazy driving through small towns and the Thai countryside. Just think: street lines are only for reference and not really used. It’s beautiful country though with palm trees, and lush green rice fields. It seemed like a very fast 5 hours to the border. So then the drivers drop us off in the middle of a crazy border marketplace, with a giant “Welcome to Cambodia” arch marking the border crossing. We stood in line for an hour in the very hot and humid sun before we saw the officials. We were processed very quickly, much to our pleasure, and were shuffled between a couple busses. It was a bit of a freightening experience, and we were concerned that they might want a bribe to give us our Visa’s, but all went well. It was sad to see, just on the other side, how impoverished everyone was: buildings half crumbled, garbage everywhere, and endless children beggars (watch those pockets). There is an unbelievable contrast between these two countries in the amount of poverty – Cambodia doesn’t even have paved roads, except for downtown in the “big city” where the tourist dollars are.
Our “Air Conditioned” bus (I use the term loosely), boldly navigated the dirtiest, pothole-ridden, busy, insane… road you can’t even begin to imagine. The countryside was filled with houses that were barely houses; roads that were barely roads. Water everywhere in endless flooded rice fields. The land is so flat that it reminded us of seeing Prairie wheatfields.
The bridges along the road look like they could be reminants of the US Army’s temporary bridges, used during war time. Covered in planks, metal, you name it, they were a thrill unto their own.
The whole bus ride took 12 hours, and as you’ve guessed, we survived just fine. We might change our plans and fly back though – the expense is worth it!!!!!
We just checked into our over priced hotel room ($20 USD/night compared with $4 and up elsewhere) and will try to arrange tours of Angkor Wat for tomorrow.
Check back again for more adventures of Tina and Justin…