Trains Planes and Buses
Trip Start Jan 13, 2009
70Trip End May 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
The long travel day and night continues. I am sitting in the Bangkok Airport, waiting for the check in counter to open. My capitulation back into civilization has been quite jarring. Kind of like the day I flew from Cairo, a sweltering hot city teeming with 30 million people and flew to Inverness Scotland, where there were 30 million sheep and three ladies in kilts and sweaters.
Leaving Vang Vieng was hard. It is so beautiful there, the river cutting through the mountains. We left on a huge bus - two levels, called the King of Buses. Probably 60 people on board and headed south to Vientiane, which looked like a lovely French Colonial City with some really cool architecture. I will have to go back and see more of that. After 4 hours of shaking on the bus through the mountains, I was expecting, when the bus stopped, for some sign - literally - to show us where to catch the bus or transport to the border. The bus unloaded and everyone went their way and only a young guy and I were standing in the sweltering heat - probably 38 degrees.
I saw him trying to figure out a hand drawn map so asked him if he was taking the train to Bangkok. Yeah, he was and apparently his ticket seller was good enough to draw a map of where In Vientiane to go to catch something to the border. If I hadn't found him I would not have had a clue. Another note to self. Take nothing for granted; ensure all details are clarified.....
Apparently, he, a young South African guy, was very happy to find me too as he was useless in trying to a) read the map and b) deal with anything difficult - like heat and discomfort. Together we made our way to an address, had some lunch quickly and were found by an open air truck filled with folks headed to the Thai border. The rest went very easy and like it was crossing from Thailand to Cambodia a couple of months ago, crossing back from the wilderness of Laos to the commercialese of Thailand was so dramatic. Instantly I missed the simpleness of craggy dirt roads and bamboo huts.
Caught the train at 6:15 pm and it looked like it was going to be great - I had hooked up with a youngster from Vancouver and ditched the high needs South African by now, and the Vancouver girl and I had nearly a whole car to ourselves......until the next stop when.......a huge extended Thai family with young toddlers got on decided to party into the night. I did get some sleep but still haven't come to embrace the sounds of squealing babies in my space.
The train dropped me and a couple of guys off at the old airport at 6:15 am as I didn't have a clue how to get to the new airport cheaply and there wasn't a lot of English on the train to establish a plan.
My plan was to go to the old airport which still operates some domestic flights when it is not under siege, and hope they had a free shuttle to the new airport. Thank God, again, or maybe thank good planning on my part, that my bag is considerably light as I had to schlep it up and down stairs to try and cross the freeways to get to the airport. I could see the airport but.....then I could still see the airport but it had a fence around it. It is really surprising how big an airport property is. By this time I was determined not to take a taxi on this journey.
Thankful it was still really early and not yet 40 degrees, still 95% humidity; I dragged my bag around the airport and found my way in to meet an empty space filled with security guys and gals. I found an ATM, got some Thai Baht and one really nice gal, walked me back out from where I came and showed me a break in the fence where I could catch a $1 bus to the new airport. Grabbed it on the 12 lane freeway and it was then really clear Laos was a long way away. Thailand, especially Bangkok, is absolutely vibrating with commercialism and traffic and noise. Different from Hanoi or Saigon, everything sparkly new like Beijing, but feels more like LA with the freeways and traffic. So interesting how everything has such a different feel.
I was so pleased with myself that I got here for less than one dollar. I am so cheap with transport, and then I went to Starbucks and am drinking a $4 Ice Tea. Small price as I saved $50 on the taxi. This airport is one hour and multiple tolls from the other airport.
I really do like the journey. The challenge of the continuous puzzle of how to get there from here. So many others hate that part but it is the part I really love.
Now I am in this 2 year old airport, all glittery and filled with people from every country in the world, hurrying around with lots of self importance, talking loudly on their cell phones and it seems like months ago I was on the riverbank in my hammock in Laos, not just hours ago. Maybe some sleep after the two hour flight to Krabi will have me embracing the access to slurpees once more. Maybe.
If it has to be like this, I am hoping there are slurpees. Maybe the southern islands will have a different charm that I too will love. Here's hoping. I also sincerely hope there might be fewer creepy white old men with their beautiful Thai rentals. So so creepy and so prevalent.
Also new will be travelling with someone else for real. Not just for a little while but maybe for a long while. I have met others for whom that works really well and some it does not. Both Janice and I have done a lot of travelling on our own so we will both be wondering how it will go. Stay tuned.