I’ll pick up where I left off in the previous article and that’s at the Thailand – Cambodia border.
The morning we had to leave Cambodia for our next destination, we met our driver at 8AM in front of our hotel, we took the water bottles the owner prepared for us and we were on our way to Bangkok!
3.5 hours and a few neck-pains later we were at the border knowing only that our train leaves in about 2 hours. We had no idea where to take the train from, or how to get to the train station.
The taxi driver called somebody that works at the border and we met with him at the passport control. He kept us company while our documents where thoroughly checked by the Cambodian officers and then guided us to the Thailand visa office.
Of course we stood at the wrong line for 15 minutes! And then other 10 minutes to find out that we need a picture, and then another 5 minutes because we didn’t have enough money (the Thai visa is now 1000 baht instead of 300 baht) and finally after about 45 minutes we were in Thailand.
Tip: to get through customs fast you need a entry/departure card filled out, another visa application form, a 4×5 picture and 1000 baht. No picture = +100 baht and it takes around 10 minutes of everyone’s time.
The guy that I mentioned earlier was trying to help us choose the best option and he was probably expecting a tip for that but on the other side there were some rude minivan owners that tried to nickel and dime us so we left them talking and went to get a cab.
From the border to Bangkok you can get by taxi (4 hours – 1900 baht), by minivan (5 hours – 400 baht / person) or by train (6 hours – 300 baht). If you’re on a budget go for the latter. It made more sense for us to split a cab and get there faster.
Tip: the train station is not really at the border. To get there you need to take a Tuk-Tuk and the price is always negotiable. The distance is 7 km so if you have time and you like trekking … Just go for it!
Back to the main story, 4.5 hours later we were in Bangkok and the taxi driver dropped us off in front of Udee hostel where we had our reservations.
Our layover in Bangkok was to be around 48 hours and we had no clue where to even start our journey. Say hello to Tripadvisor!
Ioana wanted to see the girls that aren’t really girls and I needed a new Micro SD for the GoPro. So … Let’s go shopping!
First stop: MBK / Siam Center – the biggest shopping malls that I have ever seen and they were full of small 2×2 shops. It was literally the Babel tower of shopping. This place has more foreigners than London. I couldn’t find the SD that I wanted in the flavor that I enjoy: ORIGINAL, that is! so we moved on.
Off to the girls! Looking at the map you think this stuff is within walking distance, if walking 45 minutes is something normal for you. By the time we got to the “red light district”, our “ping pong ball show” mood changed towards food related activities.
Tired of all this walking around, we decided to head back home and call it a night (it was almost midnight), but once there we noticed that the hostel had a rooftop terrace so we had to check it out. Inspired decision, I might add, turned a good day into a great day just by relaxing in some chaise-lounges with good beer and a slight breeze in our hair.
Morning came faster than I expected mostly because my bed was positioned towards the window so at 6:30 in the morning … headshot! First ray of sunshine hit me right between the eyes. And if I can`t sleep … no one can! This is SPARTAAAA!
Udee Hostel in Bangkok was built from the beginning with this function so everything was very well thought … except for the breakfast. Don`t get me wrong, they had plenty of things to eat but I had to get creative, and that`s what I really hate at 7 in the morning. They make up for that with a comfy deck to have breakfast on.
So one full day for sightseeing, what to see, what to leave out? The decision was hard but we knew from the start that we needed to see the Grand Palace.
We took the first cab we could find. Temperature outside = 25-30*C, temperature inside = post-apocalyptic Narnia. And it only got worse while we were sitting in traffic. Pinky swear, you can not make this shit up! My face almost froze on this 20 minute ride. My sunglasses kept fogging up for the next 5 minutes AFTER I got out of the cab! And this guy was the biggest hoarder I have ever seen. He had more junk electronics than a repair shop. For the first 5 minutes we really thought we`re on candid camera (he had half-a-dozen webcams just hanging around). He turned out to be a great guy but I suspected him of being some sort of cyborg that needed to keep the body temperature below 5* or something like that.
The Palace was interesting but full of Chinese tourists. And for those of you that never encountered this specie … they travel in swarms and talk louder than a fire truck’s siren.
After this we got hungry and we chose one restaurant from the list, that seemed close to our (then) current location. You know what are popular in Bangkok and don`t open until 5 PM? We didn`t know either! The right answer is “GOOD RESTAURANTS!”. We ended up eating at Siam Discovery/Paragon (a hyper-mall) in a food court where almost everything was “a la carte”. It was delicious. So, in the end, things DO happen for a reason.
Trying to cover more ground we decided to take a northbound boat on the river and it turned out to be a good decision. The boat was like a water-bus (hop-on/hop-off) and it was very cheap (15 baht).
We then took a tuk-tuk (we had to try it no matter what everyone says) to our hostel.
Dinner was nearby in a summer-garden. Being the first tourists that night there, we got special treatment. They didn`t have pad-thay on the menu (it`s regarded as a poor-man`s food) but because we wanted some authentic pad thay the owner cooked a batch of her family`s recipe just for us. Chang beer (Classic) went really well with it.
The next morning was reserved for shopping mostly because we had to be back at the hostel at 3PM. A taxi was about to take us to the Southbound Bus Terminal.
Our bus was leaving at 7PM (and then every 15min.) but trying to get on that specific VIP bus, we got there 2 hours early. Yeah, you guessed it! Some more shopping while I guarded our backpacks and wrote this story.
Top tip: get the VIP ticket it`s worth every penny! We paid 900 baht / person to Krabi and even if it sounds a lot, it`s nothing compared to what you`ll pay for the other means of transportation on the island. So this is definitely not the place to be a cheapskate.
We traveled from Bangkok to Krabi overnight and we slept most of the time. At 6:30 we got to Krabi Bus Station. There`s no way to avoid the jackals that want to get you to the island. So the best bet is to politely refuse 2-3 people (just say you`re waiting for someone to pick you up) and go ask around for prices. When you`ve settled on a price just find out what`s the first mini-van that leaves the Bus Station and go negotiate that price with a jackal. You shouldn`t pay more than 250-300 baht / person for the minivan towards Koh Lanta. We even negotiated to be taken to our resort. Some mini-van drivers drop off their passengers in Saladan. From there you would need to take a Tuk-Tuk, and that`s 50-100 baht / person depending on the distance. So DO negotiate ahead of time to be taken to your resort. (Saves you from a lot of headaches.)
The next entry will be about the Koh Lanta part of our trip.
See you in about a week!