Traveling Bolo: The Challenges

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So far, travel from Vietnam to Thailand has been pretty smooth. I’ve asked around and have gotten decent advice from a lot of people. Google is also my friend; I have spent many, many hours at the beginning of my trip trying to figure out how to get from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia through a border crossing; and how to get a visa to get from Cambodia to Laos…etc.

After leaving Koh Samui, though, travel got much harder.

Highlights from my somewhat blind traveling:

* Taxi, Boat, Tuk-Tuk, and Train from Surat-Thani (by Koh Samui) to Bangkok

I found one of the big barges that goes from Koh Samui to Surat-Thani and ended up getting dropped off in the middle of the city where no one speaks English. Even the store signs were only in Thai! I finally found a tuk-tuk driver who could take me to the train station, where I got on an overnight sleeper train to Bangkok.

* A train, 2 buses, and hitching a ride up a hill to get to Wat Pah Sunan

While I’m pretty familiar with taking the trains by now, I didn’t realize that there isn’t a direct train to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok’s main station. I had to ask for directions when I arrived. The info booth lady said I had to take a train and two buses to get to Tan Thien’s monastery at the edge of Kanchanaburi, so off I was again on a 3rd/class 18 baht train, down to some station named Ban Pong.

The trains never call out the names of the stations so I literally had to lean out the window at each station to make sure that I got off at the right one. After arriving at the station, I had to ask around and walk a half mile to a find a bus station ticket booth — which was just a folding table on the street next to a drug store that was staffed by a woman. The bus took me to the Kanchanaburi bus station, where I had to find the next bus (Songklaburi) to go to the monastery. Each step of the way, the folks I talked to spoke little to no English — but they could make out where I was trying to go, and luckily always sent me in the right direction.

The funny thing about the buses out here is that you can catch them and be dropped off anywhere along route. Just tell the bus driver where you need to go and they’ll pull over at your house or a certain market along the way. There are no bus stops — just you waving your hand to slow down and get on a passing bus.

A lady (who spoke absolutely no English) on the bus was actually going to the same monastery, so she nicely motioned me to where I needed to go and then helped me get a ride up the hill to the reception area, where Tan Thien was waiting for me. I really, really, REALLY can’t believe that I finally made it there! Neither can Tan Thien.

Bangkok Sky Train — Eastern Bus Terminal — Aranya-Prathet/Poipet border crossing (between Thailand and Cambodia) — Siem Reap

The treks have been getting harder and harder at this point, and I’m starting to get a little worried only because this is my first border crossing by foot — usually I’m taking a plane over the border. When it comes to getting hustled — at best I just get taken for a few extra dollars on my visa;  at worst I’m hustled for all my money, lose my passport and all my belongings, and end up crying hysterically and alone on the edge of some street. More realistically speaking, however, I was mostly worried about  being sold a fake visa (some companies do that shit out here!).

Taking the advice of some googled sites and my Bangkok hostel owner, I took a bus bound for Aranya-Prathet and got off at the border where the bus took us directly to some company that sold visas. Luckily it was legit: they have a deal where I pay for my visa (with a little extra $$ thrown in for not having a passport photo), they get a guy to walk me across the border, and wait for me on the other side as I pass through the immigration station and the fee stations. My man then escorts me to a bus, that takes me to get a taxi, that then drives 2 hours and drops me (and a few other tourists) off in the middle of Siem Reap — where we floundered about to figure out how to get to our respective hotels.

Luckily, Darrel hooked me up with his friend Try – his tuk-tuk driver that helped him out when he last visited Siem Reap – so I called him and got solid 1st class treatment from then on. Thank god for him — without him it’s pretty easy to get hustled by a taxi or tuk-tuk driver that will take you to the wrong hotel or charge you waaayyyy more than is necessary.

There’s even more to go on about (getting $50 magically stolen from me sometime during the 7 min walk to the Cambodian border crossing; taking a taxi in Hanoi that takes me to the wrong hotel ON PURPOSE)…but that’s for another blog entry. Or two.

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Posted: January 5, 2012

Author: Tiffany

Category: Blog, Cambodia, Thailand

Tags: , , , , ,


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