Having experienced rail travel and air travel we were now going to make our way between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Bangkok in Thailand by way of coach travel.
As is always the case in this part of the world the coach looked nothing like the picture in the travel agency offices. And it soon become evident that this was a journey that was going to entertain!
Two coaches pulled up outside the travel agent’s office and we soon realised that neither coach had room for luggage. So the staff immediately started to pile bags through the window on to the back seat…all the way up to the ceiling. They then started to lay huge bags all the way down the aisle. It didn’t take long before we were pretty much trapped in the coach.
(Olet the German on my left, and the Kiwis behind us – all great fun. Note the wall of rucksacks at the back!)
We then set off. Our closeby fellow passengers were as always great fun. We chatted at length with a Kiwi couple, a German chap and a British couple from Bromley. The Kiwi’s are on a 7 month tour which set off from London with 30 or so people in a converted lorry. So far they have bush camped their way across Europe, Iran, Mongolia and China amongst other countries. The stories they told were brilliant. At one point their lorry got stuck in mud in China and they had to be rescued by the Chinese Army. And some passengers had been refused entry to Iran and Pakistan and had to make other arrangements and meet the lorry in the next country. They were on our bus to escape their truckmates for a while. It seemed a popular idea as quite a few of them had the same plan and were also on our bus. The irony seemed to be lost on them.
After a couple of toilet stops, which resulted in people having to climb over the seats to avoid standing on bags, we reached the border. The bus company employee then took away our bus tickets and stuck a red sticker on our shirts. This was strange, but we went with it.
It seems that no one border is like another. This one was busy and smelled bad, completely unlike our crossing into Cambodia. We soon passed through the Cambodian border and then had to walk for 10 minutes through a kind of no man’s land that was neither Cambodia or Thailand. The area was riddled with beggars, casinos and worse.
The Thailand entry point smelled even worse and we had to stand in line in the sun. It probably took around 45 minutes to reach the front of the queue and we were then ushered into a building, where the queue continued. Half an hour or so later we reached immigration and were promptly allowed into Thailand.
We then had various things written on our red sticker. So at this stage we still had to get to Thailand, nearly 200km away and we had no ticket any more. But we did have red stickers, and ours said BK.
We eventually persuaded the bus company employee to tell us that we were now being split up dependent upon destination, and us Bangkokers were waiting for a minibus.
The minibus took around 90 minutes to materialise. Our 6 hour journey was starting to look more like a 12 hour journey. If we thought the luggage situation on the coach was insane the minibus loading was just plain hilarious.
The minibus driver loaded all of the bags and then when we tried to board realised we were two seats short. So he re-arranged the bags and eventually created a small pocket of space on the back seat. A chap from Sweden and another from Japan drew the short straw and were faced with the prospect of a 4 hour minibus ride cosied up together. As you can see they took it well. I eased their discomfort by sharing my seaweed crisps with them.
(this photograph scared me and I have now shaved that ginger monstrosity off. I was starting to look like my head was on upside down)
That said to even get to their tiny pocket of space they had to climb through the minibus which was now so crammed with bags that no floor space remained.
We were second row from the back and had huge bags piled up behind us from floor to ceiling. If the vehicle was to crash it was clear that we would probably lose our heads. But with this in mind surely the driver would be careful?
Oh no. Possibly because he was behind schedule the driver set off like an absolute nutter. The Scot in the front seat reported that we were hitting 130kmh whilst undertaking and tailgating other vehicles. The road was at times not good so he just drove in the gutter or on the grass verge. It was frightening.
As we neared Bangkok we started to pass over bridges. Though these bridges were on 2 lane motorways they were of the humped-backed variety. Which meant that the driver could not see what was happening on the other side of the bridge until he crested it. This was of no concern to the driver though who continued to press on at 130kmh.
Somehow we arrived safely at a random roundabout in Bangkok and were ejected from the death wagon along with our bags. Everybody looked drained.
Our next journey is the night train down the Thai coast. I can’t remember the name of the island we are off to but it may be Ko Tao. I would ask Claire but she is asleep next to the rooftop pool.
We hope you all have a fantastic New Years Eve Celebration. We will raise a 1.5 litre bottle of drinking water to you on the night train!