After my sweet, sweet time on the islands of Thailand, I went to Bangkok to check out that infamous city. Bangkok is interesting enough, but I think 2 days is about all you would need to see the things worth seeing. I’ll tell you a little more about it in a minute. Calm down! I got in late the first night I was there, had a full day there the next day, and then the third day I boarded a super early train to Cambodia. I visited Cambodia and Vietnam and then came back to Bangkok for 4 more nights before heading to Europe. I came into Thailand overland (by train from Malaysia) and if you do that, then you only have a 15-day visa. If you fly in to Thailand then you get a 30-day visa. Since I had to leave, I headed for Cambodia. But by the way, you can literally go to a neighboring country, cross the border, and come right back. They don’t care how long you are gone for as long as you leave by the day you’re supposed to. Just an FYI if anyone wants to go there for more than 3o days. And why wouldn’t you?
Anyway, Cambodia! Yeah! I boarded a train at 6:55 a.m. in Bangkok for the 7-hour journey to the Cambodian border. The train ticket was 48 baht, or roughly $1.50. Can’t beat a deal like that even though the train was dirty and didn’t have air conditioning, but it wasn’t really necessary anyway because I just opened my window and had a pretty nice breeze the whole way. I was also covered in dirt by the time I got to the border. The train arrived in the last Thai town before the border (Aranyaprathet … yeah good luck pronouncing that at the train station when you buy your ticket …), then I had to disembark and get a tuk tuk the 3km or so to the border crossing. I shared a tuk tuk with a Chinese girl who was also traveling alone. Her name was Feng and she had been living and studying in Australia for the last 3 years, so she had an Asian accent on her English, but she also had an Australian accent as well. It was pretty much the coolest/weirdest accent ever!
We got to the border crossing and I already had my visa, so we stood in line in the un-air-conditioned “facilities” waiting to get our passports stamped. (The lady at VisaHQ.com was full of shit, you don’t have to have a visa before you get to Cambodia, you can just get one at the border. But I am glad that I had mine already because there were a ton of official looking people trying to get me to buy my visa from them and apparently these people are trying to charge you about 3 times what the visa normally costs. But you don’t really know that because you think that they’re the official people. Anyway, I avoided that whole potential scam.) Then we walked across the border to Cambodia and waited for the free shuttle bus to take us to the bus station. When we finally got to the bus station, they were hurrying us to get our tickets like we were going to miss the bus or something. So after we had our tickets, and hurried over to where the bus was supposed to leave, they told us to wait. So we waited, and waited, and waited. While we waited, Feng and I made friends with a New Yorker named Emma who was also waiting for the bus. Then about 2 hours after we rushed to the departure point, we finally boarded the bus and headed off toward Siem Reap.
The whole process was supposed to take around 3 hours, and I was already 2 hours in and hadn’t even left the bus station. Timetables and schedules are really just something to make tourists feel better; I’m pretty sure they don’t even exist. We left the bus station when there was enough people to fill the bus. So, moral of the story, pay the extra $6 ($15 instead of $9) for the private buses rather than the “public” buses if you’re going overland to Siem Reap. Also, on a 3-hour trip, I don’t really see a pit-stop being necessary, and certainly not a 45-minute one. But that’s exactly what we did. We stopped at this little shack which only served cans of soda and bags of chips, and only had an outhouse with a hornets nest in it for a bathroom. Sweet.
Cambodia is the land of scams—Scambodia if you will. They were charging $2 for a can of Diet Coke … Which I of course paid because it’s $2, but it should have been like $.15. You could tell that this rip-off station had been arranged by the bus people, trying to milk any extra money they could off of us tourists. This became even more evident when the bus finally arrived in Siem Reap. Instead of taking us the the center of the small town or in any part of the town at all, they pulled up into a dusty old barn 6km outside of the town where tuk tuks were waiting to take the us into town—for $15! We tried to haggle but all the tuk tuks were demanding the same price (Price-fixing! Antitrust!) and so it was a take it or leave it type deal, and the leave it option meant lugging my massive bag 8km into town. So Feng, Emma, and I split the fare 3 ways and we all went to the hostel I had already booked because neither of them had sorted out a place to stay, so they just got a room at my hostel—in the same room as me!
I was expecting Cambodia to be even cheaper than Thailand, but I was kind of annoyed when I found out that it is strangely expensive. Now, when I say expensive I mean comparatively to what things were costing in Thailand. In Cambodia, they have really annoying money. The exchange rate is about 4000 Riel to 1 USD—which is totally fine, but the largest bills they had were 5000 bills. So when I changed my some odd baht that was about the equivalent to $85, I got about that many 5000 bills. They gave it to me in a rubber band! WTF! I felt like a gangster. Or a stripper. Either way, it was super annoying. But I wish that I had this many bills in a currency that wasn’t Riel:
Okay, back to why Cambodia is weirdly expensive. So in Thailand if you want to buy a 1.5 liter bottle of water, it’s usually 14 baht (a little less than $.50). Well in Cambodia, they actually prefer to use the US Dollar. When you get money from the ATM, you get dollars. All their prices are in dollars at the shops and restaurants (well at least in Siem Reap). So most of the stuff that in Thailand was fractions of a dollar when you convert the baht to dollars, well the Cambodian people priced the shit that should have been less than a dollar at $1. You can’t really haggle with $1, and it’s still not expensive, so you just shut up and drink your overpriced Coke Light. And since a Coke Light is $1, you can’t get a street food item for $1. Everything is $2 or $3 … again, still cheap, but in Thailand that would be like 15 baht, which is $0.50! Anywayyyy!
I went to Cambodia so that I could go see Angkor Wat, and that’s exactly what I did. The morning after we arrived, Emma, Feng, and Rina, a girl we met that was our roommate also, woke up when it was still dark so that we could see Angkor Wat at sunrise … which is apparently the thing to do because I was surprised there were that many people there at the butt crack of dawn. The temples were incredible, and seeing them at sunrise was breathtaking.
I also didn’t realize that there were soooo many temples and that they were so expansive and huge. There were quite a lot, and we went to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and a few others, including the temples that Tomb Raider was filmed at. We had hired a tuk tuk to take us around the from temple to temple and I am SO glad we did, and I would say that it is absolutely necessary. After 5 or so hours of temple-seeing in the scorching sun (and wearing pants because you have to wear “moderate clothing” i.e. covered shoulders and no legs showing) we retired back to the hostel. I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the tuk tuk on the way back and almost fell out.
I hung out in Siem Reap for one more day with Emma, Feng, and Rina, and we had a good time checking out the town, the night market, the spice markets, and Angkor What?! (this awesome/weird bar), then on the third day, I had to decided to take a 13-hour bus to Ho Chi Minh or splurge and buy the $150 1-hour flight. I took the flight. You heard what the buses were like! I just told you! Fuck Cambodian buses. Hell no, take me to an airplane please and thanks!
I got to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) with no real sense of what I was going to do while I was there, and no hostel lined up (but I had researched a few and had a few addresses written down, which was lucky because the second the plane landed I got a text from AT&T saying that my cell service in Vietnam wasn’t included in any prior service agreement and that data roaming was $19.95/min so I promptly shut that mother fucker off), so I hopped in a cab at the airport after I exchanged my Cambodian bullshit to Vietnamese DONG! Hahahah! This currency was even more ridiculous!! In exchange rate, which was 20,000 to 1 … yeah, right?!, and in the name. The name. Omg, it’s still funny. Man, that’s a lot of Dong. How many Dong do you have in your hand? Is that a Dong in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? It can go on forever. Anyway, I had the cabbie take me to this hostel/hotel that I had found previously, and I got my own room complete with table, couch, mini-fridge, and bathroom for $9! Yeahhh, livin’ large in HCMC.
Holy Ho Chi Minh! That city is stressful as fuck! I don’t know what it was specifically, but I think it had to do with the fact that there were SO many people, and TWICE as many motorcycles and scooters. I’m not kidding. It’s a fact. There are like 7.2 million people in HCMC and there are over 12 million motorcycles. It is pure fucking chaos. Motorcycles are everywhere, parked haphazardly where ever there is space, crossing the street is damn near impossible, and it’s SO loud. I had some pretty awesome Pho and I wandered around and checked out some of the main sights including the Royal Palace the first whole day I was there, but I couldn’t take the madness anymore so I booked a half-day tour to go see the Chu Chi Tunnels (the tunnels that the Viet Kong built and lived/fought in during the Vietnam War). I retired early and watched Crazy, Stupid, Love in my bed in my room that I didn’t have to share with anyone! Whooohoo!
I woke up the next morning, packed up my shit, walked to the travel agency, dropped off my shit, boarded the bus, and sat crumpled up for an hour and a half until we got there. The tunnels were cool, it is incredible that Vietnam fought us for so long in the ways that they did … using bamboo spears and shit when we had tanks and missiles. Anyway, here are some pictures:
After the tunnels, I went back to HCMC and got my shit and headed to the airport for my flight to Bangkok. Baaaack to Bangkok. Blahh. So in summation, Bangkok is a big, dirty city with a fuckton of Thai people there. And not a whole lot to do that was of any interest to me, with the exception of the Chatuchuck Market which is on the weekends only and it is one of the largest outdoor markets in the world, wandering Khoa San Road, and eating the street food. So I went to the market on Sunday … you can buy jusssst about anything there, and that shit was cray cray. I actually really liked it because it had a bunch of really cool stuff and interesting boutique shops, it wasn’t just selling all the other kitsch shit that is sold EVERYWHERE else.
Aside from the market and the food, Bangkok is just … Bangkok. I’m sure it would be fun if you wanted to catch a ping pong show or get shitfaced with your friends, but I was lacking in both interest in sex shows and friends, so I did neither. And I was suuuuuper excited to ship out to TURKEYYYYY!!! Yayyyy!! Stay tuned for the Eurotrip portion of my Round the World trip!!