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Published: October 20th 2009
"If you're heading to Thailand, don't take a bus. Just don't do it. Really. No. Don't." Thus went an article in a Siem Reap city guide I picked up about 5 hours after I had just invested $12 in a bus ticket from Siem Reap to Bangkok. I thought that was rather melodramatic. The road from Siem Reap to the Thai border is notorious but the alternative the guide offered was hiring a taxi and driving on the exact same road for $40.
Our bus looking nothing like the pictures we were shown when we bought our tickets. It must have been 25 years old. The driver placed a crowbar through his door handle to keep his door closed. They were two hours late getting started, and by the time they had packed us all in there - making sure to occupy 80% of my legroom with someone else's luggage - it was getting pretty hot. They made sure we were crammed into the bus before they informed us that we were not going to be receiving the promised air conditioning on this bus ride.
I was sort of annoyed at this point but I thought everyone on the
bus handled the situation very well. Its about 80 miles of legendary dirt road on the six hour journey from Siem Reap to the Thai border. We had all the windows open so it wasn't unbearably hot, but every time someone passed us (which was fairly often when you're topped out at 15 mph) you got a lungful of dust and black smoke. We emerged the full 6 hours later covered in dirt and with a minor case of whiplash and a hacking cough a piece. I don't think anyone has ever been so happy to see Poipet, the crappiest town in Cambodia on the border to Thailand.
Once you get to Thailand everything is absolutely perfect. Our bus on the Thai side was lovely, complete with a TV and speaker karaoke system that was mercifully kept off. Everyone on the bus was silent except for the occasional weak attempt to clear their lungs. Nice and smooth. The word of the day is infrastructure
When I left Siem Reap, I wasn't thinking so much about arriving in Bangkok as I was leaving Siem Reap. I didn't know what to expect from Bangkok, everyone knows about the ping pong
I guess I shouldn't complain
this is the local mode of transport. I could be that guy on the hood with the crash helmet
balls whizzing by and the fat sweaty old white dudes with the beautiful young Thai girls, I mean its all true but there's a lot more to Bangkok. I had one goal in mind: getting a Burmese visa, so I had lots of free time.
I ate lots of airport food, I went to Subway and Au Bon Pain and of course McDonald's. Hey, I ate dog meat in Vietnam and big hairy spider's legs in Cambodia so if I want a freaking Big Mac I'm going to get one alright? But it can be a cultural experience, let's say you go to a McDonald's in Bangkok and you want to buy an apple pie. You would go into the McDonalds and see that they don't have apple pie but they have taro, pineapple, and corn pies. Yum!
I spent the first night at Khao San Road, the infamous backpacker ghetto of Bangkok. Its the end of high season so you got to fight for a room, I stayed just off Khao San Road and if I didn't take the last room available at the hotel I found, there was about 5 other people lined up behind me
Khao San Road
7 AM on a Tuesday
ready to take it. Once I got over the initial euphoria of seeing that yes, the three 7-11's on KSR did sell Big Gulps (and the slight disappointment on discovering that they did not have Super Big Gulps) and I was walking around trying to figure out what the big deal was. It's the most pathetic thing watching those 25 year olds getting so excited about having a place to get their dreds tightened right next to a place where they can buy a Che Guevara tee shirt. I would say that anyone who gets excited over Khao San Road has an IQ of about 75. And is baked.
So I moved to Siam Square which is the ultra modern commercial center of the city. I was turned away from 8 hotels that were booked solid. This was at 10 AM! You guys aren't supposed to let people in until 2 PM! I finally found a good guesthouse, I later talked to some guy and he was quite impressed that I managed to get a room after 7:30 AM. Maybe I looked more pitiable than the average tourist. It was just a bit of a shock because I never
they drive on the left in Thailand
got turned away from a hotel in Vietnam.
There's all these malls in Siam Square, I'm a terrible shopper but I just enjoy walking around the malls. They're immaculate. They must have a team of people that just clean the floors all day. That's the thing about Bangkok- its very East meets West. You can be sipping on a Big Gulp and walking by a Dunkin' Donuts that's pumping out some Fiddy and whoa there's an elephant in the middle of the street.
We all know fast food is good but the street food is Bangkok is amazing. I got the best Thai food of my life for 50 cents, and they didn't gringoize the spiciness. It was definitely good and spicy. And I got a bubble tea for $.25!
They also have the best movie theaters ever, I saw Brokeback Mountain which was good, I was a little worried at first because I didn't know what the Thai censors would do with it. But the Thais are not homophobic at all. They're really great people, even in the touristy places they've been extremely helpful and friendly.
So I'm really enjoying Bangkok but I'm getting a
the Siam Paragon mall
the most beautiful mall ever
little too comfy here. I'm supposed to get my visa for Burma this evening and then I'm taking the bus to Vientiane tonight. Next post from Laos! I'll be back, Bangkok.
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