Well, THAT was interesting
Nothing is ever as expected.
Pam and I boarded a bus last night from Chanthaburi to Aranyapathet at 10:00 PM. We were both extremely tired from the full sightseeing day and anticipated a decent sleep on the night bus.
But.... nothing is ever as it seems.
We should have known when we tried to buy a bus ticket. The lady at the counter didn't speak very good English (not that I hold that against her), but she also didn't know anything about the buses!!! We asked if we could buy a ticket and she says, "You buy ticket on bus."
We asked what time the bus leaves and she says, "I don't know." Luckily she went and asked someone to find out.
We asked which bus it was.... where does it leave from, and she didn't know. She directed us to a guy who directed us to a guy who directed us to a guy who said it was 'this' bus, and pointed across the road.
"So it's the 'one six' bus?" I asked, referring to the numbers on the side.
"Yeah," the guy nodded.
"Or it's the 'five two five' bus," I tried to figure.
"Yeah," the guy nodded.
Yikes. We really had no choice but to just to get on one.
The bus we boarded was archaic.. it consisted of remnants of a tin can held together by screws that were in dire need of some WD40. The seats were hard and uncomfortable, and sat straight up with no chance of a recline. There was also no leg room, custom made for our small Asian companions. Pam and I just looked at each other and made that face that said without speaking, "It's going to be a long night." The bus was to arrive at 6:00 AM.
The driver came by to ask for our money. He didn't speak English and I tried to ask using body language what time we arrive in Aranyapathet.... to try to make sure we were on the right bus. After many renditions of the same question, he hesitantly answered "two." Well, that's wierd. The guidebook said that it was an eight hour journey. We leave at 10 PM, so that would estimate our arrival at 6:00 AM. What's "two?" Two o'clock? Two hours? I just didn't know.... but this wouldn't be the first time to fly blind.... so I simply situated myself, ate some food, and tried to relax in order to get some sleep.
It was way too bumpy to sleep, and it smelled. But I ended up staying up and then drifting off when all of the sudden Pam shakes me and says, "Wake up, we're here."
"We're here?" I ask, still asleep.
"I dunno," she says, "That's what the guy said." She had been asleep also.
We literally stumble off the bus, making such a racket that we wake up a few Thais along the way and receive some very amused looks from the ones that were already awake. Partly because we have so much crap and couldn't carry it down the narrow, narrow aisles.
It's night, it's dark, it's about 1:30 AM. Are we even in the right town? Two men are standing outside, one guy in an orange reflective vest and the other a Tuk Tuk (taxi) driver. We were a little stunned after the sudden disembarkment and stood there for a minute before I gathered enough mindset to try to form a half assed plan in my head.
Cost consciousness was first priority. Can we make it across the border and save on a night's accomodation? "Is this Aranyapathet?" I ask.
"Yes," they answer.
"Were's the border crossing?" I continue.
We get completely blank stares.
"To Cambodia?" Pam asks.
Blank. Zero. Nothing.
"To Poi Pot?" I add.
Not even a blink.
Shit, are we in the right place?
Okay, time to revise the plan.
"Hotel?" I ask.
"Yes, yes, yes," they nod. Okay, now were getting somewhere.
Pam agreed. "We'll just get a hotel and then figure out where we are in the morning."
It cost us 40 Baht to go around the freakin' corner to a hotel in the tuk tuk, but it was well spent money. The hotel was one featured in the guidebook. It had large rooms with comfortable beds. We walked into the "lobby" which was actually a ground floor parking garage, and immediately saw signs for arranged travel to Cambodia.
I asked if we could sign up to go to Cambodia in the morning.
"Yes," said the guy behind the counter. "We leave at 6:30 AM."
Can you believe the luck? It all worked out after all!
We each got about four hours of extremely comfortable sleep.
The border crossing this morning was surreal.
We take a tuk tuk from hotel to Thai border... stand in line (a long line) and wait for our exit stamp. From just outside the window in the immigration office, you can see a large bridge... KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA displayed across the top, overhead. As we looked out the window, hundreds of natives were crossing the bridge in both directions. They had on traditional looking rice picking hats made of reeds and were pulling heavy carts full of fruit, cigarettes, and electronics. Some carried their goods on one shoulder... it looked like they were balancing an old school scale, goods as weights suspended by strings on each side and carried by a flexible stack of bamboo across the shoulder. The whole contraption bounced up and down as they walked. I didn't know where they were going or what they were doing.... but everyone seemed so..... busy.
I tried to take a picture and capture the moment but, as always, the picture just doesn't do it justice. That's okay, I still have that wonderful memory.... that feeling when every ounce of your being feels like you're in a whole other world. It's brilliant.
Posted by Erin
on January 8, 2005 04:02 AM
Category: 12 Thailand