13 Hours to Bangkok

Trip Start Jan 25, 2011
Trip End Feb 21, 2011

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Monday, February 21, 2011

13 Hours to Bangkok…

By Bus. Yes that was my decision. One of the great things sometimes when traveling by yourself is the person with you isn't going to say "are you kidding me? I’m not sitting on no bus for 13 hours" because I don’t have those conversions with myself..,  When it’s what I need to do, I just do it, and there’s no discussion. The trains were full. My only other choice was to take a small minivan which is usually crammed with as many people as they can possibly fit, for a 2-3 hour ride to the next major city after taking a ferry from my island to the mainland, then get a hotel in a not so good place where I would get up early the next day and go to the airport and fly back to Bangkok. Or I could take a ferry, a short mini bus ride to Hat Yai, a town close to Malaysia (yes I know they say it’s a little dangerous down there, but adds to the fun of it all…I’m kidding! Its fine) and then take a 13 hour VIP (well see about that!) overnight bus ride back to Bangkok, and arrive in the morning. So my choices once again didn’t rock. The bus is supposed to have only 24 seats, and they all recline. And they give you water and a snack, and it’s supposed to have a bathroom on it! It’s VIP! So that’s what I’m going to do. I honestly don’t mind the challenge of the journey; it’s all part of the experience. Yeah, we’ll see about that.

I have been on some very interesting bus rides in the past trips for those of you who follow my blogs. One of the most memorable was the one I took with Sara D. from Siam Reap in Cambodia to Bangkok. It was suppose to be 10 hours, but I’m sure it was at least 13. On the first leg we were all told if you open a window…I throw you off bus! The air con didn’t work that well and someone cracked a window open in the back for some fresh air. That bus was definitely not VIP, and Sara D. took a pill to help her sleep through the ride, but they wanted us all off at one point to take a break, and it was so hard getting Sara up and off that bus! She was so out of it.  I love traveling with you Sara, you are the best.

My journey starts again with a short, but smooth speed boat ride to land. The days have been sunny, and hot, and today no wind. That helps keep the ocean gentle, but boy it’s hot. Then a 2 hour mini bus ride, I boarded last so I would get to sit closer to the front..I’m getting good at this! Then a long sit in a somewhat shady city of Hat Yai, down by the border of Malaysia. There was a lot of police presence, which in a way makes you feel safe, and then you wonder..Why are they all here? There is a large Muslin population this far south, and in the past there was conflict with the Thais. All seemed quiet today. I spent most of my time awaiting my 730 pm departure for my  bus hanging out  in a quaint coffee shop updating my blogs…buy a coffee, free Internet! I had two.

So the VIP bus….hmm, not so sure about that. The seats were okay, and they did recline. But I was the ONLY farang (tourist) on the bus. Why were there no others taking this route? Do they know something I don’t? Well, I was in it, so I have to enjoy the ride. The buses are always painted with the loudest colors, and decorations, and some even have florescent neon lights, and fancy lace curtains. And why do they play loud Thai music on all the buses?  The Thais don’t even seem to enjoy it, please tell me they are not going to play this all night? I hope my iPod is charged up. So the ride started off okay, but then the roads got bad. The bus was one of those high ones, so you felt every bump. And this driver was on a mission, and driving like it. It’s so hard to fall asleep anyways with someone else driving, and add to it, no seat belts! Don’t you agree? Talk about a serious trust factor…has the driver had enough sleep?  Okay, being the only awake on the bus and lack of sleep myself puts some crazy thoughts in your head. It’s now 2 am, and for some reason they decide to stop for dinner, everyone is sleeping but me, food sounds good actually. I get off the bus, getting the best answer I can get from a non- English speaking crowd, think they are breaking for 20 minutes.  I look around when I get off, wow; there are SO many other buses here! At least 20. I look over and notice the bus next to mine has a huge line of stuffed animals in the front of the driver’s window. That’s a good focal point; I can remember that, our bus is next to the stuffed animal bus. I don’t look much at my bus; I wonder around and find some delicious pad Thai for only 40 baht. It’s time to head back I think…oh my god, where is the stuffed animal bus? It’s gone, that one already left.  I am standing in this parking lot, with at least 20 other gaudy, VIP buses,, its 230 am, I have no idea what city we are in, and I have no idea what bus is mine. And I am the ONLY tourist. What the hell have I gotten myself into? How could I have not written down a bus number? I start walking to every bus..” Am I on your bus?” they all just stare at me..” no understand”

Oh great. This is not a great way to wind down my trip. After about 10 minutes of panic (my first panic in a whole month! Pretty good for a month of travel in a foreign country by myself!) I walk up to one more bus and there is a Thai man sitting on the wall smoking a cigarette by that bus and he said” you lost? You on my bus..” thank god for being the only blond around,, they all look the same, I stand out.

I got on-board and took a couple Tylenol pm, and tried to get some sleep. That driver made Bangkok in 11 hours! Two hours early! That’s a record. We arrive at the bus station at 630 am. The anxious taxi drivers’ await hording by the bus door. As Sara D. would say, get ready, here they come. Here comes the tourist, let’s see how much money she will pay for a taxi. I tell them where I want to go, and say “Meter” they say no, can’t do. They hate to use their meter, even though all the taxis say meter! What are you going to do? Turn them in to the taxi police? Lol.

One says 400 baht! I say no way…that’s what it costs from the airport, and we are already in the city. I don’t give up, I look for the quietest one, they are tired and not willing to argue about it. I get the meter. It only cost me 130 baht. I am getting good at this.

A nap, and a shower and it’s off to the famous weekend market. Note to self, plan a little ahead, sometimes….Take the train or fly next time.  I will take the local bus to the Market though..Only 8baht for the fare! It’s so fun riding with the locals.

So as my trip comes to an end, I’m already a little jealous of the new arrivals in Bangkok just starting their journey, most having way longer than my month that I spent here in Thailand. The more I visit this wonderful country, the more in love with it I fall. I visited 8 islands on this trip, the ones I knew the least about, Ko Phayam, and Ko Bulon Leh stood out as my favorites. But I actually loved them all; they all had their special qualities about them.

I am often told by many people and friends how they admire my courage and ability to travel so far, on so little to see these amazing places that I have. It really comes to my Love and Passion for Travel. It’s in me so much, that it’s what I base my life around. It’s what I do for a living, to allow me the great travel benefits. I live a pretty simple life, so that I can do these trips. The world, and what I’ve seen and experienced have made me who I am. I am constantly learning and becoming wiser and more appreciative every time I step into a new place. Thanks to all of you again who have followed my journey. I hope that I’ve inspired you to want to take a step off the path and see a little more too.
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peggymarcinia@aol.com on

welcome back from your fantastic journey. I think you've inspired me to do more of these types of trips. I's never too late, really, is it?

Tracey on

Loved it Elizabeth!!! Tell me when the next trip is!!!

Iris on

Hi Beth,
Sounds like you are having another great Asia adventure. I love this part of the world and I can see where it always draws you back. Yes those bus rides and all the other over land transportation in Asia can be quite interesting and make fun converstation pieces. As always thanks for sharing your adventures with me. Hope to see you sometime when you come to San Diego.
Have a safe trip home.

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