With Otres Beach done, my time in Cambodia was coming to an end which meant about three days of a lot of travelling. I sat on booking my night bus from Otres Beach until the day I was leaving and found it booked solid so with a bit of a switch, said goodbye to the sea a little earlier than planned and hopped a bus back to Phnom Penh. Crashed back in the White Rabbit, had a little reunion with a girl I met while in Siem Reap. Small world! Then took another bus which was supposed to be 5 but was actually 7 to Battambang. That is about 5 hours of karaoke and two hours of a war/ action movie of some sorts.
The great thing about travelling in Cambodia, other than the fancy curtains on the bus though, is that they tend to stop every two hours or so, pee break, stretch the legs and there are always food stands. I am still not quite brave enough to try the food at these but all the locals do. They did have grilled corn at one, sweet buns, fresh fruit which is always exciting and then a little corner that sells crisps, nuts, and Oreo cookies.
Battambang was a half day adventure and arriving into the bus station I just laughed, you feel a bit like a celebrity as you are surrounded trying to step off the bus.
Drivers “tuk tuk, do you need a tuk tuk? ”
Me: just hold on and let me get off the bus
Drivers : where you go miss, lady, I take you, which hotel?
Me: hold on, (laughing) just let me get my bags
Drivers: oh yes, of course, here I help you, which hotel.
They circle around you as you walk down the side of the bus, get your bags and then they are in front of you.
Drivers: 2dollar, 1 dollar city centre, where you go, I take you? Do you need a hotel?
Me: I am going to Cchaya Hotel
Drivers: ok, I was first, I take you, 1 dollar, 0.50cents, 2 dollar I take you.
Me: I am not going to go with you as you just said more than him, I will take the 50cents.
This became a dollar as he switched me into a different tuk tuk. My advice would be to always have a hotel in mind or if you don’t have one, lie as they will try to take you somewhere they can get commission. They always do it with a smile though.
I explored the city on foot. There are a few half roads, which have a lot of character and lots of little restaurants. I walked the length of the river on both sides, locals run or play their version of hacky sack. Children were also much braver there, always saying hello excitedly. One group of kids came up to shake hands – two were sporting Starbucks t-shirts and another group joined me for part of the way down the river giving me every English word that they knew. I felt a bit like a pet on show but their excitement and look of proudness when they new a word was sweet and innocent.
I left bright and early the next morning in a mini bus to the border. It took two hours and again on arrival you are greeted by men who promise to take you through the process. I met two Germans who like me wanted to take the train so we avoided the guys and went on our own, walking through no mans land in between the crossings and started to walk to the train station. We realised fairly early that an hours walk with our back packs in the heat was not such a brilliant idea so we got a very over priced and grumpy tuk tuk to the station.
The station in Aranya Prathet feels like you have just walked into what I would imagine colonial India or England. The train fits the bill as well. You can only travel 3rd class but it’s neat, some of the carriages were wood and our engine was a steam engine. It was 6 1/2 hours but I had two seats to myself, there was a rain storm in the middle of the trip and I had my nose stuck in a book the whole time so I was happy out.
My next train experience was the following day from Bangkok to Phitsanulok. 2nd class, air conditioned, tea/ coffee, snack and a lunch. Slightly different. It was 6 hours as well and also a little longer than suggested. If you are looking for a place close to the Hualamphong train station. I highly recommend Baan Hualampong. I was in a three bed dorm, it was all mahogany wood, and their bathroom was quite pretty. It is also a five minute walk from the station so handy if you arrive in the evening. I also had an amazing shrimp wonton soup with BBQ’d pork and crab meat in a little street cafe just beside it on the main road. I was close to asking if they could teach me how to make it.
From Phitsanulok to my actual destination, Sukhothai, it is one more bus ride and then one of the tuk tuks that are there to shuttle you into the city. I was pretty excited to stop for a day in one place.