Crossing Borders, Breaking Barriers: 31 Hours from Battambang, Cambodia to Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’ve got some backlog on my experiences in Siem Reap and Battambang in Cambodia, but I felt the need to post this first just because this is more than just an account of places to see, or things to do. :P
Traveling Solo Again
I did my first border crossing (and also my first and only solo traveling until now) back in October or November 2006, when I took a really lousy train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. And that did nothing to make me any less anxious about crossing over to Thailand from Cambodia.
Being a lame-ass planner, I only planned for Cambodia on this 2.5-month trip, and I was able to book my guesthouse for the first 2 nights, and I knew I would be going to Hariharalaya for at least a week, where I met Hanne. After spending close to 2 weeks there, I returned to Siem Reap with Hanne for internet and other things, then went off to discover Battambang together.
Hanne’s visa allowed her to stay in Cambodia longer, but my visa was expiring on July 21, and I didn’t want to renew it and just took it as a sign to move on.
[My last picture in Battambang, Cambodia with Hanne and our tuk-tuk driver Pon]
This would be the first time in this trip that I set off alone, with no guesthouse booking, no contact person in Chiang Mai, nothing. I paid $14 for my ticket, and at 6:00a.m. on July 21, I hopped on the bus that would take me to the Poipet border where I would cross from Cambodia to Thailand.
[With Stevie Necks, Mr. Pringles, and dates from Hanne on the bus to the border]
The bus ride to the border took some 3.5 hours, then we had to go through the immigration process, which took close to an hour. I am very thankful for having a lot of equally ignorant travelers with me so I didn’t look lost, and the knowledgable travelers who told us what to do, and we all just stuck together when crossing the border. Once we crossed over to Thailand, we had to wait around another hour for our mini-bus/van to Bangkok. The ride to Bangkok lasted around 4 hours or so.
Once in Bangkok (around 4pm), we all headed our separate ways (no one was headed towards Chiang Mai), and I just asked fellow travelers on advice on transport to Chiang Mai.
Oh My, Chiang Mai.
Since we were dropped off at Khao San Road, I went to a parallel street with other travel agencies to try and look for the best price for a sleeper train to Chiang Mai, and after getting quoted 900-1050THB, I finally found one that gave me the actual price of 791THB, and I was lucky enough to get a slot on the train that would be leaving at 7:35 p.m.
So I walked around in the general direction of the train station, looking for a place to eat. I walked a lot, killing time while waiting for my train, good thing I packed light. At 6:15p.m., I had eaten and decided I couldn’t/shouldn’t walk anymore lest I be late for my train, so I took a cab to Hualamphong Train Station for 50THB, bought some rations for the expected 14.5-hour train ride.
[Platform 3, car 9, seat/bed 13]
[View outside the train]
I was happy to share the same cabin with Belgians Justine and Michael and Thai Ro (Sorry, it appears I don’t really have pictures inside the train). We chatted about our travels, and Ro was a very helpful guide as well, even offering to drop us off along the “Khao San Road of Chiang Mai” so we could easily find a guesthouse.
Our expected 14.5-hour train ride turned out to be 17.5 hours instead, as we arrived in Chiang Mai around 1pm versus the anticipated 9:55 a.m. stated on our tickets. I wasn’t in any rush so it was okay, but Ro said it was normal for the train to be 1-2 hours delayed, so I wish they just stated expected arrival of 11:55 a.m. on our ticket (and they’d still be 1 hour late).
[Hallelujah, Chiang Mai! featuring Michael’s back and Ro’s profile]
After Ro and his friends dropped us off, I thought it would be time for me to part with Justine & Michael as well. I doubted they’d want a third wheel bunking with them, but it turns out they weren’t a couple and were happy to have me along, and we scored a room with ensuite bathroom and airconditioning for only 130THB/person. *fist pump*
[With Justine & Michael before parting ways]
Time to explore a bit more of Chiang Mai!