Comedy Start To The Thai New Year

Bangkok Travel Blog

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Party time

Or, alternatively, Carry On Cambodia or The Muppet Show. Already our short time in Asia has been a roller coaster. This one's a funny one.

We had intended to merely stop off at Bangkok as that's where we had to fly to and then travel overland to visit Cambodia before we took our time exloring Thailand. But a couple of things led us to change our mind and, basically, chicken out and take the plane. First up, we checked out this site, which I encourage you to read, if only to sympathise with our plight, which basically says, "Don't worry, relax, it will be fine," and then names a thousand reasons why it could be the worst journey in the world.

They got me

http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-overland-bkksr-self.htm

Notable highlights(!) on the bus, tuk-tuk, tourist bus and finally taxi trip are being harassed by mafia taxi drivers to pay way over the odds, being mugged, being left at the border alone as it closes at night at what is said to be the armpit of Cambodia, and travelling the 'road' that can take from 4 to 12 hours depending on conditions.

Some excerpts of people's accounts:

"It was 1pm now (we'd crossed the border just before noon), and we decided to decamp and have cold drinks. We rested for an hour-- the police officer and the two guys who'd followed AND spoken to us stayed just next door to watch over us. Periodically, a man would approach us-- they all had ATTA badges, mafia-- to offer us a ride out, which we ignored or disputed.

She couldn't hide
It got heated when the German bloke got involved-- I was torn between anger and fear at the knowledge that we were essentially screwed, it was only a matter of time before we had to acquiesce to whatever price they named."

"Realizing fully our vulnerability I swallowed my pride and politely inquired to the official why we weren't allowed on the bus or taxis. Without looking me in the eye he raised his voice to inform me that "you talk too much" (I assume about the govt scam because I hadn't spoken more then ten words to him) and that "Cambodia not need you now". We were only able to get a share taxi to Siem Reap after some compassionate fellow tourists commissioned a taxi and we hopped in."

"The road from Poipet to Sisophen was mostly dirt, rough and with large pot holes.

Festive entertainment at Wat Pho
Our driver seemed to hit as many pot holes he found available even when the road had a side with less. We stopped in Sisophen for gasoline and short rest stop. The journey then became interesting. The road from Sisophen to Siem Reap is washed out in at least three places between large rice fields. In two places, one with high water and the other with deep mud they hook the taxi up to a tractor to pull you across. About 10 to 20 km out from Siem Reap the road finally has pavement and is quicker. Got to our guest house at 19:30. Overall the journey from Poipet to Siem Reap is bone jerking and teeth jarring. It took 4 hour to get from the border to our guest house."

We were prepared for the worst and were ready to do it as we went to check out the night before.

People and cars covered in flour and water
Then we spoke to the hostel landlady who scared me more than anyone ever has with what we could expect. Not was it to be just a horrible journey, but it was on Thai New Year, which, she says, is gridlocked across the country and you would be lucky to make it across the border before dark and may have to travel third class which is not safe for Westerners. Her continual, "be careful,'' and ''just watch your stuff,'' and 'set off very early," didn't fill me with confidence, and the fact we would have to leave at 5:30 in the morning was the final nail in the coffin. I know purists will say we cheated and that catching the plane isn't really backpacking. No chance: I'll pay the extra 40 or 50 quid or whatever for a flight!

So we booked up a flight to Siem Reap, where we had intended to go overland.

The celebrations at Wat Pho
Or so we thought. More of that to come.

Our flight was to leave that night so, as a bonus of flying, we could spend the day not trying to get away from the party, but actually join in a little bit. If you weren't aware it was Thai New Year, or Songkran, and you visited Bangkok, you would think the whole place had gone mad. It's basically one massive water fight and you can't walk a few steps without being soaked with (sometimes icy cold) water, or some flour and water-type mix that you end up covered in, too. We were wished 'good luck' as we left our hostel and quickly discovered why when we saw packs of children with water pistols and buckets of water. Across the street some kids tried to get us, but failed, so I goaded them a little. Big mistake. Seconds later I was being chased by a hound of kids with Super Soakers who could smell my fear.

Some of the detail under the Buddha
I escaped them, only to be soaked within minutes by another group. Roads were at a standstill and music blared as no-one had any intention of doing anything else other than party. It was all good fun and made us thankful that we had hung around to join in.

However, that soon changed as we realised getting a taxi to the airport would prove a nightmare. This time, with bags on our back and freshly showered and changed, we weren't so up for buckets over the head and being chased by kids who thought all Westerners had a water addiction as we attempted to flag down taxis in near-gridlocked traffic. Luckily, we managed to find the fastest taxi driver in Bangkok, maybe the world (he was averaging about 140kmh in an 80) who got us there no problem. However, this was where the fun and games really began.

Reclining Buddha

We checked our check-in gate was still open and got rid of our bags. We walked towards departures, then realising that we had tickets to Phnom Penh, the capital, and not Siem Reap. We were sure we had booked the right destination and assumed there had been a mistake. Apparently not. The lady at the desk said we were booked on that flight that went at the same time but to a different destination in Cambodia. Mouths almost on the floor, we soon realised it wasn't the end of the world as we had planned on going there last, not first, anyway. Nevertheless, we racked our brains as to whether we had made the mistake or not, but both remained sure that we had chosen the right destination. Kyle's emails had not been working so we had no way of checking the confirmation email to see whether we were right or not, and right now, we are still in the dark, despite all debate on the matter ending in, "No, I'm sure we did!" Anyway, it's amusing now as we are in a nice hostel in an entertaining capital city. We just have to do our intended route backwards, which is no big thing. You couldn't have scripted it.

Take me back to Australia; that was easy.

jannahw says:
Now you're travelling! Think this is the 'deviation' Angela was meaning when she welcomed you to the site way back in January!
Posted on: Apr 14, 2007
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Party time
Party time
They got me
They got me
She couldnt hide
She couldn't hide
Festive entertainment at Wat Pho
Festive entertainment at Wat Pho
People and cars covered in flour a…
People and cars covered in flour …
The celebrations at Wat Pho
The celebrations at Wat Pho
Some of the detail under the Buddha
Some of the detail under the Buddha
Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
Friends reunited
Friends reunited
Bangkok ferry
Bangkok ferry
Buddha again
Buddha again
Bangkok
photo by: Deats