Today began on a very stressed filled note. Mike and I had swapped out tickets from a 8am bus for a 2am bus to ensure we arrived with time to spare in Bangkok for our flight later in the day. We were told to be out front at 1am so at about 12:45 we strolled into the lobby and checked out much to the surprise of the guy working the front desk. 1am came and went and we began to worrying we were going to miss our bus. We enlisted the front desk man to periodically call the company and finally they sent someone at 1:45. En route to where we were meeting the bus we saw this guy race back that mike said he heard snoring. This guy then I believed crashed into another bike and went flying across the pavement. Having seen what my injuries did with very little speed I can imagine this guy was cut up badly. What was weird is the guy driving us to the bus simply said, “he was probably drunk and that happens a lot”. I hope the man was okay but we did not have time to check.
As we were waiting for the bus we ran into another exchange student from CUHK and it was nice to exchange stories and hear about her time in Laos. In typical South East Asian Fashion the bus arrived 30 minutes late and I assumed I could finally go to sleep for real, unfortunately it was not to be. Within about 30 minutes the A/C cut off so we were left with riding in a sweat lodge. About two hours later I guess the driver had become fed up as he pulled over and tried to fix it. As a testament to how tired I was, I started falling asleep on a bench near where we parked but luckily stayed awake so I could catch the bus when it was eventually “fixed”. To say it was fixed would be a misnomer but it definitely improved.
We arrived at the Cambodian Thai Border another 2 hours later but it had yet to open. The bus dropped us off at their company office where I saw the 2nd weird event of the day. A guy walked off the parked bus, walked to the front then walked straight into it and proceeded to collapse on the ground. I was worrying he was having a stroke or seizure but no one seemed to know what to do. Fortunately he recovered but with one side of his face pretty cut up. After that dramatic moment we finally were ready to head to the border.
Cambodian and Thai relations are currently very strained. They periodically fight over a disputed temple and from what I understand simply do not like each other very much. This created the longest time I had ever spent at a border crossing. We first had to get approved to lead Cambodia, which involved queuing up in something roughly resembling a line. It more resembled a pushing and shoving match, as there were no formals lines for each counter. To top it all off it had already begun to become hot, so for an hour we were forced to wait with no idea when we would be finished. After that ordeal we walked the short distance to the Thai Border. Along the way we passed a casino that was actually nice when compared with the ones on the Cambodian/Vietnam border. What I was confused about was based off who we saw crossing the border; do they really generate enough income to justify the expenses? Nonetheless, we pressed on and were soon subjected to a second line at Thai Immigration.
They had tried to expedite the process by making foreigner lines but this did not work very well. While waiting in line we also saw Cambodians who looked about our age waiting to cross the border I assume to work. It was somewhat sad seeing them look enviously at Mike’s iPhone but will probably never able to afford it. After the second hour of waiting we were finally through and headed to a Thai restaurant. As always, I had to order Thai Fried rice that was delicious but while there we were beginning to worry if we would make our flight.
Having three people requesting to leave apparently had an effect as they split us into multiple groups with mine leaving first for Bangkok. I quickly accessed the situation, as I would not be able to do any work so I decided to try and get some sleep. My window seat was uncomfortably between the puller to slide open a window and the small window itself. According to mike. This created a situation where I would just bang my head against various objects trying to fall asleep. However, I don’t remember this and nor did my head hurt so I’m going to assume that it did not happen.
When we finally arrived in Bangkok our first task was to locate somewhere to change money. We had heard Burma doesn’t accept Dollar bills with any tears or marks on them, so we were forced to convert our old money to Thai baht then trade it back to USD. Once that was done we decided to head to the airport. En route to there we had to pull over to watch the king’s entourage pass, which was a sight to behold. We had somehow lucked out and the taxi driver claimed to have lived in Ashville. We talked about the area and he told me he had event been pulled over for DIU. It’s one of those conversations to chalk up as only in Bangkok.
We arrived to Burma with no idea what to expect. I had arranged a tour with a organization called Sunbird which I highly recommend if you ever travel to Burma. She managed to find us a night bus to Mandalay in order to avoid paying for a room in Yangon. After buying the tickets we parted ways and mike and I had to wait for about 3 hours in the Yangon bus station. It was quite interesting as we were the only foreigners but it did not seem to faze anyone. When we finally got on the bus we were in for a treat as it was new and quite comfortable. The only downside was that we had to stop at 1am for a mandatory food stop. Once that was finished we slept the rest of the way and arrived in Mandalay at 6am.