Sunday, February 10, 2008

The road to Bangkok all Bs

Buses, Boat, Beaches, Beers and Bikini clad Babes

From Siem Riep I planned to make my way to Bangkok via the coast between Cambodia and Thailand. On the bus to Phnom Penh I made a couple of friends that were also headed to Sihanoukville Cambodia. They seemed to like the idea of me tagging along so I stayed one day longer than I had planned on the return trip in Phnom Penh and then went to the beach town of Sihanoukville with my new friends. I spent the days in Sihanoukville drinking more beer than I should have, playing in the surf and looking at the lovely ladies on the beach. I did manage to do one thing in Sihanoukville that I had been wanting to do since being in Vietnam but had not done and that is try Durian. Durian fruit is banded from a number of hotels and buses due to the strong smell.

After the beach time in Sihanoukville I made my way to the Thailand border via a pleasant 4 hour boat trip. After getting off the boat there were a number of trucks called Sawngthaews in Thai waiting to take people to the Thai border. I was one of the last people off the boat and also one of the last people herded on the truck. I don't know what happened before I got on the truck but I would not get on until the guy gave me a price of 3 dollars. I felt this was high but wanted to go to the border and did not feel like fighting about it in front of this truckload of people who I assumed were also paying 3 dollars. Looking back now I guess I should have made a stink. When we got to the Thai boarded no one on the truck would pay 3 dollars and just walked away without paying anything. I felt like I agreed to 3 dollars so after everyone else had left I paid the 3 dollars. I have got into disagreements on the trip about prices but always before going or only after I felt the price was changed. I have never thought about just walking away when I get to my destination because I don't like the fare.

The border took a bit of time to get the stamp to leave Cambodia but other than that was painless. On entering Thailand the guy was laughing at my passport. I am not really sure if was just the number of pages or the number of visas but he finally ask me if I had been to Thailand before and where I was prior to Vietnam and then stamped my passport for my stay in Thailand.

I found an ATM to get some local currency and then got a minibus to Trat. The money exchange or search for an ATM on a border is something that after the traveling that I have done I find sort of stressful. At an international airport I will just not leave the airport until this is done but when I arrive at a small border town as in the case of entering Cambodia this was not an option. I try to be aware of the exchange rate so I can deal with the local people but since I don't know what the currency looks like I feel like they could be giving me anything. It is also not helpful in places like Cambodia and Thailand where the numbers are also in a script that I do not understand so have to find the place on the bill or coin with the numbers I do understand.

I felt like I did OK on the border crossing and the minivan to Trat was a third of the price of the first guy that ask me about transport on the Cambodian side of the border. I enjoyed talking to some of the people in the minivan and got some tips of places to visit in Thailand. I am not good at talking to people but if I get in a conversation I am always asking for recommendations of places to visit but the problem is I do not always remember the places that I am told.

I spent a couple of nights in Trat and had my first Thai meal at a night market. I am enjoying the Thai food but like in China I do not know how to order. I found a couple of places at the market that just have different dishes and I point to what I want. The prices at the market are about a quarter of the prices for food in the guesthouses that I have stayed in.

From Trat I made my way to the island of Koh Chang which is Thailand's second largest island. On reaching the island I did not know how to get to the area of the island that I had decided to visit and when I tried to catch a shared taxi or Sawngthaew it was full. I tried to talk to one of the Sawngtheaw drivers but he did not seem to understand or want to understand. I was not sure what to do so I just found a seat and waited for the next ferry to come to the island. On the arrival of the next ferry the driver had understood me and indicated that I should get in the truck. There was still only one other person and myself in the truck so we were not going anywhere until it was fuller. While we were waiting the other passenger a Thai gentleman knew how to give me a great impression on his county by giving me a beer. It was not long and we ended up going to another ferry landing and on to the beach I had picked. On the road to the beach we stopped and picked up an American girl that was biking who got to the steep climbs and decided to take the taxi. She had biked from Bangkok and was planning on going via Cambodia into Vietnam. It amazes me how adventurous some people are. No matter what I do in traveling I always hear about or meet people that do stuff that I would never attempt.

I stayed at the area of lonely beach on Koh Chang in a hut. I should have taken a picture of the place because this is the most basic of accommodations that I have stayed in on this trip so far. Lonely beach was not so lonely will loads of huts and bungalows but I enjoyed Koh Kong until the area lost power. After one night of trying to sleep with no power so no fan I figured it was time to move on.

I made it back to Trat and when not being able to buy a ticket to my first choice I bought a ticket for the long trip to Bangkok and the end of my weeks of Bs which consisted mostly of beers and beaches with a couple of long bus rides thrown in.

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