A songthaew picked me up at the guesthouse just a little past 5pm yesterday afternoon. It made a couple more stops, picking other passengers from the other guesthouses in the area. I guess I miss talking to people, since I started a conversation with the traveler who was picked up after me, and the third traveler as well. It was the usual small talk between fellow travelers (where are you from, how long are you traveling, what do you do, etc.), but it was great to connect with others. Once the group was complete, the driver started driving out of the city center, to what we assumed was to the bus station.
He drove and drove, and we started joking that this songthaew is our ride all the way to Bangkok. It turns out that it would just drive us to the border, where the bus is waiting. We alighted at passport control, and there were signs that we had to pay the exit fee. Most of us in the group didn’t know about it, and we were all wondering how much it is, since there are none written in the signs. The Canadian girl who was ahead of me in line paid 20 baht, since she’s out of kip. When my turn came, I asked how much, and was shown the 2,500 kip printed in the ticket. I did a quick math, and something doesn’t seem right…
We were guided to the place where the bus was parked. It was the standard double decker bus, but this had the uhm, most interesting design. Santa Claus and his reindeers were painted along the side of the bus. Things got even more interesting when it got dark and red and green lights flooded the interiors. There were even lights under the bus.
We waited for 30 minutes for other passengers. Once they have settled in their seats, we drove over the Friendship bridge towards the border in Nong Khai. We were in Nong Khai for another 30 minutes or so, waiting for everybody to clear immigration (including the bus crew who seem to have taken a lot of time there). We boarded the bus again, and by 7:30pm, we are back on the road. We had yet another stop for dinner. Dinner was included in the bus ticket, and it was pretty much just an eat-all-you-can fried rice. Drinks are not included, so you’d need to buy your own from the restaurant. The dinner stop was only for 30 minutes, and as soon as that 30 minute was up, we were headed south.
Like most long-distance buses, the VIP bus had a TV on board. It had a 30+ inch LCD TV. The movie for the night was Fast and the Furious and the Star Trek movie. The FF movie was in English with terrible English subtitles, while the Star Trek was one of the better quality shot-from-inside-the-cinema videos. I’m not sure if that’s how the actual movie was, but the dialogues during the first part doesn’t seem to be English at all. I got frustrated and tuned it out by listening to my happy music on my Walkman phone. Oddly enough, the dialogues of the movie became English after a while.
It was so ironic that the one time that I had to take the night bus, I hardly got any sleep. The bus was really comfortable though, and I had two seats to myself, but I for some reason, sleep eluded me (even if I hardly slept the night before). I kept turning around in my seat, finding a comfortable position, but failed miserably. I was able to doze off little by little, but by 4am, I looked out the window and was surprised to see that we were nearly in Bangkok. The poster for the VIP bus said that the arrival in Khao San Road is at 6am, and I was counting on that since my hostel’s reception doesn’t open until 7am.
It’s traffic in Bangkok any day of the week
We arrived at Khao San just a few minutes before 5am. Walking down the lenght of the street, there were still plenty of people in the streets, drinking. I walk past them, towards Centre Point Plaza, where I go for Internet in the area. I knew it was open 24-hours, so I figured it’d be a good place to pass the time. Two hours and 80 baht poorer later, I make my way out into the sunshine to grab a cab that would take me to Sukhumvit.
There were plenty of taxis waiting along Khao San road. One driver asked where I was going, and I showed him my map to Hostelling International Sukhumvit. He said 300 baht, and I quickly said no and walked away. I heard him muttering, mocking me and saying “Too much? How much do you want? One baht?” I’ve been here several times, mister. For that price, I can already go all the way to the airport. I walk to Tanao road, where I know I can hail taxis that would use the meter. True enough, I get one with a driver that automatically turns on the meter, even if it was evident that I was a tourist. I showed him the directions given by the hostel, and we were off. Since it was early morning on a Sunday, there were hardly any traffic, save for some areas. We were averaging at 70 km/h, and 30 minutes later, we were at Sukhumvit Soi 38. The meter reads 115 baht, less than half of the 300 baht the other taxi driver was asking.
The hostel was already open, but my room wasn’t available yet. They let me stow my luggage in the storage and I was directed to the 5th floor rooftop common area where I can take a nap while waiting for the guest who is using the room I booked to check out. The rooftop had a view of the Bangkok skyline, and there are plenty of seats so you can hang around, as well as a couple of mats for sleeping or lounging. Unfortunately, this is also where the washing machines are, so there are some guests who go up here to use the machines or the staff who are doing the housekeeping. There’s also the din from the traffic below, but it wasn’t as loud as the daily traffic noise that I had to sleep through back at home. I was able to get a couple of hour’s nap before I headed down to check the status of my room, and to freshen up before heading out to meet Mikoy and his friends.
Rainbow over Bangkok
Mikoy is one of the Couchsurfers I met at the walking tour of the Chinese and La Loma Cemetery. That time, we had been talking about our plans on visiting Cambodia and Thailand. Luckily, he read my entry yesterday about heading back to Bangkok, and left a comment that they’re also in BKK and would love to meet up. I quickly sent a text, and got a prompt reply, even at six in the morning. After a couple of misses, we were finally able to meet up at Central World. It was so great to see some familiar faces and hear stories about their own travel. I swear, Mikoy should get the best haggler award.
Today was a particularly good day, even if I was feeling a bit sluggish due to lack of sleep. It was great to reconnect, and meet new people. Plus, I love my current hostel. My room is lovely. The single room I booked was re-booked again by its current occupant, so I got a double room for the price of a single room. It’s the most expensive room I’ve had so far, but it’s worth it. The room is clean, the toilet and bath are shared, but they’re also spic and span. There’s a kitchen where you can cook simple meals or just keep take away food in the fridge. And, it’s a comfortable walking distance from the BTS station. Sukhumvit is a place I haven’t really explored in Bangkok, so it’s great to have a new place to discover. After all, I’m stuck here in Bangkok until Thursday.