personal notes on a nomadic style round the world trip.
Thailand Part 3: The journey south……
So on our last day in Pakse with our tickets ready (bought a day earlier from Pakse travel at a discounted rate of 275,000 kip ($33, £21) (normally around 315-330,000 kip ($38/£25-$42/£28)) each for the border crossing and upper sleeper on the night train to Ayutthaya. Basically the last day in Pakse was spent not doing very much and just waiting to leave, we went to the market and Gav picked up some recycled spoons and apparently there were illegal animals for sale there- the mere sight of us though and I think everything was hidden as we heard the ripple of “Falang” as we entered the meat section. There is no sneaking up on the people of Pakse! Damn it! It was your standard market and the only thing out of the ordinary were huge bags of really fragrant tobacco.
A trawl of coffee shops- some bad (Delta-why can’t I charge my dying phone?), others excellent (Daolin– our main place in Pakse, gave us a table where I could charge and play with my phone! Yay!).
So after a rather uneventful morning we headed to the office for our 3 pm pick up, the bus arrived, we piled on- bags on the roof, zoomed around Pakse picking others up and we were off for the border! It was only 40 km to Chong Mek, where were were unloaded and had to walk to the Laos border control. After a very confusing few minutes of handing in our passports to one window and getting a ticket, then handing the ticket in to another window and paying either $1 or 10,000 kip, getting another ticket and going back to the first window where you hand in your ticket to the clerk who holds up various passports and asks “is this you?”, Gav got a blond guys first, then an american passport handed to him before handing it back and pointing to his one eventually got his one. I got shown a man’s passport first (!!! the cheek!), then with the dwindling pile eventually managed to get mine by pointing. Secure eh?
Then it was another 150 m or so to the Thai boarder, up a dirt path and through a turnstile manned by a very blase security guard, he checked Gav and waved the rest of the group (6 of us) though. Then next job the Thai border control, which this time involved the usual entry card plus a health questionnaire- MERS related, the guard we handed it to barely glanced at it with a slight smile, soaked as it was with the sweat that was dripping from our faces in the roasting room. Then on to immigration, as we had our visas already, the only worry was if we would get the two months we had requested-otherwise it would have been pointless for Gav as he gets 30 days at the border anyway, a rather tense few minutes passed and then I was at the front of the queue where the officer asked me what we were doing in Thailand. I think he regretted it immediately as I started off into our 6-8 week travel plan but I got my two month visa anyway. The last hurdle was a security bag scan and I waited for Gav on the other side. I waited for what seemed like an eternity and eventually he came through and we joined the rest of the group. What followed next was the most confusing 2 hours we have had in a while…..
We were separated into groups, then the groups were mixed when we got in the tuk tuk for the short drive to the bus station where our ticket was taken and we were pointed in the direction of our bus, or was it our bus? Who knew? Eventually someone confirmed that we would get to Ubon Ratchathani but not what would happen after that. There was no room for the bags so it was a massive squash in and more people crammed on as we wound our way to Ubon. Gav was somewhere in the back of the bus, I was crammed behind the front seats between two guys and our rucksacks. On arrival into the bus station, we were met by the usual slew of taxi and tuk tuk drivers. We were to find someone who had our train tickets- luckily it wasn’t too long a wait and eventually he found us, gave us our tickets and whisked us away to his taxi for a short ride to the train station. On arrival he escorted us to the ticket office where we discovered the train was delayed by an hour (this we would soon discover would be a common theme with Thai Railways). We took the extra time to grab the most horrible bowl of chicken (neck?) noodle soup. Then it was time to board the train…….
The delay would have worked in our favour but we managed to make up the time so still arrived into Ayutthaya at 5.30 am, our guesthouse didn’t open until 6.30 am, so we found a spot and waited… once it did open our room wasn’t ready so we had to wait till 9.30 am to get into our room. We were both stinking as you can imagine and really wanted a shower but we had to wait. After coffee and breakfast we got our room, finally had a shower and then headed out to see what Ayutthaya was like.
To get to the old city you had to get a boat across (or a tuk tuk- the boat, right next to our guesthouse, was 5 B ($0.13/£0.09) though so no contest there). We spent a day and a bit there. It was enough.
After Ayutthaya we grabbed a 3rd class train ticket for 15 B ($0.39/£0.27) into Bangkok. It was another episode of extreme train riding as there were no seats….
It arrived an hour late into Bangkok and we quickly got off and out of the station and away from the tuk tuks for the short walk to our hotel (20 mins). I ended up injuring myself within two minutes of getting out of the station thanks to their slippy and steep crossings so it was shaping up to be another crappy trip to Bangkok.*sigh* We were staying in the New Road Guesthouse near Silom. It was ok, I would not recommend it though.
So Bangkok…. Apart from Silom being so expensive (UK prices essentially) we didn’t hang about there much. What we did mange to do was meet up with Stu again (Thailand Part 1) and visited the Chatuchak Weekend market, one of the largest markets (if not largest) in the world apparently. Amazing for shopping, this part of Bangkok we do like. Also since it is on the Metro we didn’t have to get a tuk tuk. Hurrah!
We liked Bangkok a lot more this time although we always seem to have stomach issues when we are near Bangkok (including this time Ayutthaya), I don’t know what it is but once we leave we are fine, it’s weird.
Anyway after Bangkok we hopped on another train south to our next stop of Prachuap Khiri Khan, a sleepy little town and holiday destination for the Thais since Hua Hin has been overrun with westerners, where we planned to do not very much at all and we succeeded very well at this. We arrived into Prachuap within an hour of the horrific bombing of the Erawan Shrine. Gav got notification of it on his phone as we were having dinner, I thought he was joking but then reality sunk in and we notified family and friends that we were ok and no longer in Bangkok.
The first few days were gorgeous, really warm and sunny but then the weather turned and it got cold and wet. Yep 23ºC is now cold for us. I dread the next UK winter we experience.
Thankfully we made it back down to street level again intact and parted ways.
The following day having exhausted everything in walking distance we hired a moped. It was actually our last day in Prachuap- we spent a week there, time flies! Our first stop was a temple, Wat Ao Noi, and cave next to it to the north of Prachuap.
This was the highlight of the day! After this we went to the Science Park. It was a bit like a post apocolyptic nightmare, everything broken and overgrown and the much hyped Aquarium was awful.
We had a play with some of the remaining exhibits- here’s a video of about the only one that worked:
They also had a really good Walking street Market on Saturday and Sunday. It was small but one of the nicest we’ve been to. Lots of cool stuff to try, sorry but we were too busy eating tasty treats to take photos!
It was then time to move south to the town of Chumphon, which is more of a gateway/passing through town for people travelling to the islands (Koh Tao, Phangan and Samui).
We had booked out PADI Open Water diving course on Koh Tao for the 27th August. We opted to spent one day in Chumphon before getting the early ferry to Koh Tao. Believe me when I say that was enough!