A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5 - The longest day

Bangkok - Hua Hin - Surat Thani - Khao Lak

sunny 30 °C

We were up early (yet again) and made our way to Huamphalong rail station in central Bangkok.

We arrived at about 7.10am and rushed to the ticket counter to buy two train tickets to Surat Thani (a town in Southern Thailand), where we were going to hire a car and drive west for two hours to Khao Lak. The only problem was that when we got to the counter, we were told the 8.05am train tickets were sold out, which threw a huge spanner into our travel plans – we had to get to Khao Lak that night.

We both must have looked extremely disappointed and after watching some back and forth between Justin and I about what we should do, the Thai attendant asked if we could just go tomorrow – and we said no. Then she asked if we could just take the 1pm train, and we said no (we wouldn't have gotten to Surat Thani until after midnight). She hesitated and then said that she could try and find us tickets for the 8.05am train, but that it would cost some more money – we immediately said yes!

She took us into a little office where another Thai woman said she would try to help us, and made a call on her mobile phone. With the very limited Thai I know, and her body language I could tell things were not looking good. She hung up, and said that she wasn’t sure she could help us, but that her friend would call back. We sat there watching the clock tick closer and closer to 8.05am, waiting for that phone call.

Finally, it rang, and we had our tickets (I suspect they had contacts at other train stations down the line, and had two Thais who didn’t need to travel that day sell their tickets for a nice profit). We made it to the train platform five minutes before the train was due to leave and we were so relieved.
The train was a bit aged, but it was clean, and Justin was very happy to be travelling on the ground, rather than in the sky. We traveled out of the Bangkok metropolis and were served some breakfast:
After some time we arrived at Phetchaburi train station. Luckily the Thai woman sitting near us spoke a little English and explained that the train ahead of us had derailed and that we would not be moving for some time. After about 40 minutes the Thai train attendants came through the train saying something in Thai.

Again, we were lucky the woman near us was able to explain that we were all to get off the train, and board a bus that would take us to another train station, because there was no English translation from the train attendants. The Thai woman also asked that we explain this to the other ‘falang’ (foreigners) in the train, which we did. So we all got off the train and waited for the bus in the hot Thai sun:
We waited….
And waited.
And finally got on a bus that drove us Hua Hin, a seaside resort town on the east coast. There was no explanation to any of the ‘falang’ about how long the trip would take, or where we were going. When we got to Hua Hun after about three hours, some of the foreigners got off, and we then continued on for three more hours, again with no idea how long the trip would be, or where we were actually going. There was no food, no drinks and no stops.
After what felt like forever, we arrived at the train station and got off the bus and straight onto another train - again with no chance to buy anything to eat or drink. After about an hour in, I broke down, exhausted and hungry (after 12 hours of travel and an entire day of travel the day before). Justin was lovely and supportive, and tried to distract me with some television on his tablet, but this was only temporary - I was utterly miserable at being trapped on a bus or train for hour after hour. We kept stopping at new stations, and I kept saying ‘it has to be the next one, it has to be the next one’.

After comforting me, Justin wandered up the train to talk to another English speaking couple with two very young children and ask if they knew how much longer the train would take to reach Surat Thani. He returned and wouldn't tell me what they had said, and then told me the bad news that it was another whole hour until we would get there.

We finally (FINALLY) arrived in Surat Thani, and hauled off our luggage and dragged it into the township. We found a driver who would take us the two-hour car trip to Khao Lak and he brought the car around. While we were waiting, Justin got a chicken and noodle dish from a street vendor that was delicious but even more so after so long without a meal.

We got in the car, and after another two long hours we arrived at the JW Marriott in Khao Lak at 11.30pm – such a long day, but we were grateful to be here.

Posted by MealsEeles 06:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged bus train bangkok ticket Comments (1)

Day 4 (PM) - Crossing the border

Poipet - Aranyaprathet - Bangkok

sunny 27 °C
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We reached Poipet at about 2pm and went through the process to leave Cambodia. We then walked over a bridge to the Thai side, which is called Aranyaprathet, and went through the process to enter Thailand. Our fingerprints were scanned, but we were waved through the customs gate without being questioned or searched. Our Thai driver was waiting for us, and we quickly realised he didn’t speak any English, but also that he was totally insane.

It was like being in a real-life racing car game, the way he wove in and out of traffic, at high speeds (like, 150 kms), missing other vehicles by inches. We were literally hurtling towards Bangkok. After about an hour of this, Justin and I realised that he knew what we was doing, and tried to relax, but I still squealed every time he threw the car into a gap that looked far too small, which just made him laugh, and drive even faster.

We arrived in Bangkok at about 6pm, and check into the Hua Heritage Hotel in Pathum Wan, which was really beautiful – highly recommended.

Posted by MealsEeles 20:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 4 (AM) - Gem hunt in Pailin

overcast 25 °C
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Today we were up very early to satisfy Justin’s gem hunt obsession*, so our first stop was Pailin, which is a town in the west of Cambodian near the border with Thailand. Pailin is famous for the sapphires and rubies that the surrounding mines produce, so much so that the Thai word for 'blue sapphire' is actually 'pailin'. Our driver, Prey, told us that this area used to be dangerous because it was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, but that it was fine to visit now. We headed west from Siem Reap while it was still dark, and as the sun rose behind us, we started to see more of the Cambodian landscape. We were watching flat rice paddies stretching out until the horizon to meet small, misty covered mountains.
We arrived about 9am and stopped for a quick breakfast:
Then it was onto the gem hunting. The first stall we went to had some stones that Justin really liked, but we kept going. At each new stall, the owner would tip out loose stones in all sorts of colours and cuts. Justin had a little eye glass to look through the stones and look for indicators as to whether they were real or fake, as it is possible to make synthetic stones that look very close to the real things. We did run into an Italian, living in Pailin who sells gems online, and he offered the advice to just buy what we like the look of, and not worry too much about whether it is fake or real.
Once we had found what we were looking on, we were back on the road, for the journey up to Poipet, where we were going to cross the border into Thailand. The drive was about three hours, and we were essentially driving due north, parallel to the border. During the drive, we kept noticing (as we had in Siem Reap) blue signs everywhere saying ‘Cambodian People’s Party’ in Khmer and English. They were usually out the front of expensive looking houses or key industrial buildings, like the rice mills. Prey said that the Cambodian People’s Party was the ruling political party, so we asked how often elections were held in Cambodia, to which he replied ‘every five years’.

After thinking about how frequently we saw the Cambodian People’s Party signs, and realisig that we had not seen signs for any other political party, we asked how long they had been in power, and Prey said ‘thirty years’. Justin and I were shocked. We asked why, given the state of the country, the population didn't vote this political party out of power, and Prey said that in the last election the people had voted out the Party but they refused to go. He said another party, the ‘Protesting Party’ had been established as an alternative but it was useless because the ruling party refused to relinquish power.

Then we asked about what the newspapers and television stations say about the situation. Prey said that only good things are reported about the government, and that most Cambodians will not read newspapers anymore (when he said this, Justin and I realised that we had not seen a newspaper at all in any shops in Siem Reap) and that they will not watch television unless there is a movie or a soap opera on. Essentially the population just ignores the propaganda.

Prey said that the introduction of the internet, and social media, especially Facebook, has given Cambodians a way to share images and information about what is really happening in their country and that the government is finding it much harder to cover up their lies and corruption. We asked Prey if there had been protests or violence against the government, and he said that there had been some protests in Phnom Penh but that the population does not want another war, and more killing, so everyone just puts up with the situation.

Watching the view of abject poverty roll past as we drove through the Cambodian countryside, which was only broken by expensive houses with these blue signs out the front, clearly paid for by a corrupt government makes you realise how lucky we are to live in a country like Australia.

  • A few weeks ago I downloaded a TV show called ‘Gem Hunt’ where a few jewellers go to a different country in each episode to search for different types of gems, and one episode was about rubies in Cambodia.

Posted by MealsEeles 17:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged drive gems pailin Comments (1)

Day 3 - Kampong Phluk and Tonle Sap

overcast 23 °C
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We woke up feeling a little worse for wear after our night out in Siem Reap, so a quick beer for Justin:
And a quick ‘Dead Bull’ for me (ie straight shot of taurine) to get us on the road:
We were on our way for a morning of shopping. The handbag shop looked like a Gucci store from the outside:
Inside there are bags made from snake, crocodile and stingray skins. After some tough negotiating we left, happy that we had wrangled a deal (and a crocodile):
From there, Chea took us to breakfast by the river. Although there were delicious options such as:
We settled for a delicious fresh coconut juice and chicken satay. From the restaurant we moved onto Kampong Phluk which is a ‘floating village’ on a river that leads to Tonlé Sap – the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. Just like the top end of Australia, there are wet and dry seasons here, and during the dry season, you can drive and walk around the area. But during the wet season the lake swells and floods the surrounding areas. There is an entire village built up on seven metre high stilts so that the houses do not flood:
Floating schools:
And floating restaurants, one of which we stopped at for lunch.
They had a cage of little crocodiles out the front, and Justin asked if they could pull one out for him to hold. Both the Cambodians and the English sitting at the next table looked at him like he was insane, and Justin proceeded to regale them with stories of how big the crocodiles are in Australia. They still looked at him like he was insane, and the Cambodians still wouldn’t let him touch their crocodiles:
After a quick meal, we jumped into a canoe and paddled through the ‘floating forest’ which was serene:
Once back at the restaurant, we jumped back onto our bigger boat:
Well, Justin did.
I slipped and fell into the water. It happened so quickly that I didn’t realise I was under water until I breathed in a mouthful of murky water. My first thought once I came up for air was to throw my bag out of the water, which managed to save the paper currency and my phone from ruin. My next thought was ‘there are crocodiles in here!’, but I stayed (fairly) calm and managed to pull myself out. After Justin realised I hadn’t knocked myself out in the fall and didn’t seem too shaken up, he hung out my wet clothes to dry and then laughed for about the next hour:

Posted by MealsEeles 17:20 Archived in Cambodia Tagged boat village floating crocodile tonle sap Comments (1)

Night 2 - Siem Reap

overcast 20 °C

After an afternoon nap we decided to go to FCC in Siem Reap for dinner, which was lovely.

On the walk back through town, Justin suggested I get a foot bath with the fish:

There was a club across the road, that Chea (our tuk tuk driver) had told us was the most expensive in Siem Reap. I decided to get a pedicure, and Justin ducked across the road for a drink.

Twenty minutes later, I walked over to the club, and the door men said 'you here for your boyfriend'. I said 'yes....' and they led me inside to a busy club, and Justin sitting with a Cambodian man in a suit - who turned out to be the owner of the club.

Within minutes there were songs being dedicated to 'Mr J' (three in a row), because they had trouble understanding 'Justin'. After about half an hour, I had had enough and we were escorted out by the owner and asked to return tomorrow night.

xx A & Mr J.

Posted by MealsEeles 08:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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