Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Back to Bangkok

It was a long day getting from Siem Reap to Bangkok. About 10 hours all told, including three hours with a Redbull-chugging driver to the Cambodian-Thai border; two hours of waiting in lines for visa processing (including some confusion when the wrong exit date was stamped on my visa, and I was given an arrival card instead of a departure card); to the utter chaos on the Thai side where we waited with fellow tourists, all emblazoned with a type of “sticker” on which were written varying codes and numbers which quickly became clear bore little to no significance of any sort of order or timing, and we were jammed into pickup trucks where we drove to another dropoff/pickup point where we waited for the regular buses… into which we were jammed for the final five hour trip.

For the last leg, Mark and I shared the front seat of the bus with the loud, mouth-breathing driver, and so had front row seats for the death-defying Cannonball Run we seemed to be in. Pushing 120 and passing with abandon, our two-lane highway operated predominantly as a three-to-five laner, with all the forced shoulder driving. It was exhilarating. We drove with the empty-tank light on for the first third of the trip, but when we stopped for gas and passengers tried to get out for a pee, the door was slammed in their face. No break! But then another check engine light or something came on a while later, and we had to stop again, and the driver relented that we could all stretch our legs for 5 minutes while another tank was filled.

Back in Bangkok, it was surreal to be back where we’d started our adventures just over two months ago! And the hotel we’d booked for the night ended up being literally around the corner from our first guesthouse! So we knew the area well.

We only had the day in Bangkok before our south-bound night train, so we explored somewhere new: the modern malls of Bangkok. But like no mall I’ve ever been in, ones with Maserati and Valentino… it was bizarre; sparkles and jewels and fancy, oh my! Not exactly my life, or even one that I aspire to, but sure was interesting walking around, looking at all the shiny excesses…

Bangkok tuk-tuks are the funnest!

It's hard to convey how bright and shiny (and loud) the stores were.

An entire store of jelly shoes. My dream when I was 8!

All sorts of neat installations.

And an aquarium.

Like, whoa.

You know, just going to the mall to pick up some toothpaste, shoes, and a Rolls.

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