Ready with our bags on the curb at 7:30am to meet our van for the scheduled pickup to the bus station, we sat in Siem Reap, time ticking by with no indication as to how to proceed. The time edged toward 8, when our bus was scheduled to depart for the Thai/Cambodian border. We sat hesitantly, uncomfortably waiting for someone to tell us what to do. Finally, from the hostel next door, a man walked us all around the corner where we stood with a large group of other backpackers from all over. Eventually a bus pulled along curbside and we excitedly rushed on to find a seat. It was such a nice bus in comparison to some of the train wrecks we had ridden on already throughout our journey.
We got a late start, but thankful enough to be on the bus headed to our next point of interest, we got comfortable for the expected two-hour trip to the border. Before long the bus pulled over and the driver opened the door to a distinct hissing sound. “Crap,” we thought, “not AGAIN.” I urged Rob to go check it out with the other gawkers, thinking we had another flat tire. He reported back thinking that it was the radiator. Whether the driver actually was able to repair it or hold off the damage until our next stop was unclear, but we were surprisingly back on the road in no time, thank goodness.
We arrived at the border an hour later than expected unfortunately, but we made it, so we grabbed our bags and took to the queue to be stamped out of Cambodia. It took about 30 minutes of waiting in line, but we were through. Once that was completed, we had to trek across the border on foot, all baggage in tow, carefully avoiding traffic and push carts hauling loads taller than their pushers.
This was the worst part. We stood in line to cross the Thai border for almost 2 hours, barely moving. Sweat dripped, frustration pooled, and exhaustion raged on as I flapped my fan back and forth and back and forth mostly to move the stale air, but also for something to keep me busy. Actually getting stamped back into Thailand was a breeze once at the counter so I am not sure what took so long, but when we finally made it through we had to find one of the workers helping us along the process but they weren’t in uniform so we kind of had to trust the first person to motion us over. Luckily we ended up in the right hands.
The ticket we purchased required us to change vehicles once at the border so when we loaded on the covered bed of a truck I immediately thought the remaining 4 hours to Bangkok were destined to be vicious. When they dropped us at a nearby restaurant for lunch I was so thankful we were not to be taking the entire trip in that. One guy had to stand on the tailgate and hold on. Can you imagine a trip that long holding on for dear life?
Yet again we got a late start, not leaving until about 2:30, as we waited for three more travelers so they could pack us into the van as tight as possible. They never arrived so back to the border we went to fetch them. Then we were on the road. The driving here is insane. It’s weaving and passing and speeding and unpredictable, yet at the same time surprisingly under control. It seems that everyone is able to correctly anticipate what everyone else will do and everyone just adjusts to make way. They drive on the shoulder, sometimes two to one lane, no problem. I have not seen one accident, nor anyone pulled over. I am not even sure most of the drivers have licenses… But somehow it works.
A few bathroom stops and many miles later, we had finally arrived in Bangkok. What had been a promised arrival time of 3pm turned into an actual arrival of 7:30pm. It’s frustrating, but what can you do besides not trust ETAs?! A crazy tuk tuk drive later and we were at the Bangkok Railway station buying our tickets to Ayutthaya, a cute island town approximately 40 miles north of the city. We were a little concerned we were too late, but luckily a train was due to leave after 20 minutes so we were on our way shortly, for only 20 Baht each (that’s less than a dollar per person!). It took us about 90 minutes to get there on the rickety little engine that could but thankfully the windows opened fully so we got plenty of “fresh” city air and the opportunity to stick our heads out to cool off.
Arriving at our destination at just about 10pm, way later than expected, we found a place to stay that seemed fine, aside from having no curtains – HUGE wakeup call when the sun came up at 6am! It got us out early enough though so we made due, taking full avantage of our one day in Ayutthaya…