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Published: November 30th 2014
Bangkok's Got Ariel
I depart Siem Reap and am picked up from Samatika after breakfast. I had arranged a private bus ticket to Bangkok which seemed like a smart idea. It was cheap, the vehicles had AC, and there were no direct flights. So I have a sad goodbye with the staff, and get into an airconditioned car. This turns out to be the only good part about my ensuing trip to Bangkok. The ball had to drop somewhere.
I get dropped off on the side of some road after a wordless 15 minute drive, and sit on the curb with a lot of other people with luggage, so I assume I'm in the right place, though am given no instruction. After about 30-45 minutes of waiting in the heat, a bus pulls up and our tickets are checked and we are ushered in like cattle, again with no words communicated. The ride goes on for another 3.5 hours. Fortunately, there are passengers who have made this trip before, and they assure me I'm in the right place. The bus is cramped but there is AC. Happy I'm short and smallish so I can cram into the seat.
We arrive at what appears to be the Cambodia/Thai border, and we get off the bus with people screaming in Cambodian, but no comprehensible directions are given. Everyone has concerned and confused looks on their faces. As I get out, the man takes my ticket stub and puts a red sticker on my shirt, and looks at me like I'm cattle getting branded and herded. So I follow what seems to be some other tourists to the Cambodia border. I hand in my documents after filling out some paperwork and waiting in the wrong line for 20 minutes until a kind soul ushers me to the right place. There are no signs, no instruction, and absolutely nothing is comprehensive. The border control officer is not happy that I didn't print off my e-visa, (what's the point of an e-visa if you have to print it?!?) but fortunately after a lot of finger jabbing and pointing they allow me through. I have no idea where to exit, but walk in the direction of some white faces with luggage, and I get in the back of a very long line. I have reached the Thailand customs office. I fill out some more paperwork and after 90 minutes in line, I go through customs without issue. Again, I find some door to walk out of, and arrive in Thailand on a dirty road and extreme heat and not a soul I recognize, not even white people. I somehow was absorbed into a tour bus group headed some place I was not going. So I put my head down into the dust and start showing my red sticker to random people in hopes that someone would know where I was supposed to be. Finally about the 10th person did, and shuffled me to another hot street curb with some other travelers. When I arrive, a man starts pawing at my chest, and after I look at him in disgust I realize he is trying to mark my red sticker. I allow him to write something that looks like the number 18.
Another thing, these bus drivers and directors are mean. Like really mean. As if they have a personal vendetta against tourists. They have a deep harshness and brutality to them which just erupts with their speech and their glares. After about another 30 minute wait, we get yelled at for not following a random guy and get put on a cattle car. After a 10 minute ride we get dropped off at a restaurant for lunch and are told it will be another 30 minutes. Some people order sad looking lunches and we sit... And wait. No a/c, no fans, holes in the ground for toilets. We ultimately wait at least 2 hours. I figure out that there are vans coming from Thailand to the border for those going the opposite way to Siem Reap, and once these arrive, they fill them back up with tourists going the other way to Bangkok. Our numbers on our stickers indicate our boarding order (again, I just deduce this) so I wait until a mumbled 18 is called and I get on a full minivan. A Japanese couple gets screamed at in their faces for not coming when their number was called. Of course, they just didn't understand.
I wish things got better - they don't. Our driver is on a suicide mission and wants to take us all with him. I'm pretty convinced we are driving on a closed road for much of the time and we hit bumps at speeds so high our heads could touch the ceiling. We stop at a petrol station, and when some of us don't get of the van in fear of being left behind, the driver slams his open palm against a sign over and over screaming "HELLO!!!!" The small illegible sign indicates we should get off the van while it refuels.
One more encounter was when I tried to get my purse I had left on the van. As I walk to the door, he kicks it shut in my face. Yeah. As we left that stop, he almost left a woman behind, but I realized she wasn't on board, and yell for him to stop. He screams and slaps some more but allows me to run out and fetch the passenger.
The one saving grace was the two people I met on the bus, and the bond we made out of shared suffering. One was a Spanish guy who was traveling and had just left a monk homestay in India. The other was a Brazilian woman who had lived in Siem Reap for 3 years with her Austrian pilot husband. It helped to turn the ridiculous nature of our trip somewhat comical, and we had great conversation. And we were all serendipitously getting off at the same stop, so when the driver pulls over and yells at us, we get off in as a trio which lends some security.
We are not where we were supposed to be dropped off (shocker), but we were an easy walk away. So we ask a lot of people where to go, and ultimately got on the Skytrain which took us to our respective hotels. Fortunately Bangkok public transportation is clean, comprehensive, and organized. I had left at 7:15am, I arrived at 6:30pm. I guess for a $17.00 bus ticket, you get what you pay for.
Never. Again. I would walk first.
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