After breakfast, a van picked us up from the hotel and fetched others on the way. We later on transferred to a bus at that station near Pub Street.
Crossing the Cambodia-Thailand is very notorious. Prior to the trip, we have read and heard of horrific stories of scams, smuggling, and pickpockets. Just utter chaos all over. But we just took it off our minds and braved the trip.
We got to the Cambodian side of the border in Poipet at around 11am. Because of the scam we were a victim of on our Phnom Penh-Siem Reap trip (click here), we were just booked on a regular bus instead of the one where you won’t have to bring your luggage down as you would just be taking the same bus for the whole trip.
So we got off the bus with our luggage in tow, then queued ourselves up. The lines were so long. I don’t know if they were having some renovations or what, but the immigration booths were just by the roadside, and not even in some establishment. The noontime sun and dust were excruciating.
Passing through, we walked to the Thai side of the border, Aranyaprathet. To get to immigration, locals have a separate (non-air conditioned) area, while foreign tourists have to climb up a long flight of stairs for theirs. The lines were even longer than the one in the Cambodian side. But thank God it was air-conditioned!
You fill out all these papers, and just wait for your turn to face the immigration officer. There, you get to chit-chat with other backpackers, Asians, Americans, Europeans, etc. You really learn a lot from their stories and experiences.
Like I said earlier, because of smuggling and other scams, the Thai border is very strict. My dad wasn’t let in just yet because he was asked for the address of the hotel we were going to stay at in Bangkok. We slightly panicked, because again, we didn’t pre-book a hotel. We just picked from our prospects hotels and immediately got their address. The officer accepted it anyway.
Soon as we were out, we still waited for at least an hour to get in the van. Others who were gonna take the trip with us were still in the long lines to get passed immigration.
As we were all already in the van, and soon as we thought the ordeal was over, some immigration patrol knocked on the doors, and asked one of the guys in the van to step out. Of course, we didn’t understand a single thing that went on, till the officer asked the guy to open his huge duffle bag. We were shocked to see packs upon packs of cigarette. Must be smuggled. The patrol must have already had their eyes on the guy, and they were right. Obviously, they arrested him.
Anyway, after that, we were just so happy to finally be hitting the road. In the van with us was a skater from Catalonia, Spain, who also works as a teacher (interesting), then a volunteer firefighter from Oregon, who was spending his vacation months in Bangkok to learn Muay Thai (or whatever it was called), and a psychologist from Manchester, England, who we thought really resembled the Hollywood actor, Chris Hemsworth!
Because of the delays, our driver drove so fast to make it to the ideal arrival time. At around 5pm, we had a stopover at this gasoline station with a 7-11 store. They sold this packed hot (VERY) Thai basil pork meal for only 30Baht. It was so good I said to myself, “I’m finally in culinary heaven!”
Due to the notorious Bangkok traffic, we got to the city at around 8pm. The van dropped us off at the highway, a few blocks walk away from our prospect hotel, J Two S Hotel in Pratunam. It’s just a small, budget hotel, but it was so worth it. At only 1,500php for 2 pax, with buffet breakfast, and a great view of the Baiyoke Towers from the windows, it’s just perfect! They had a very accommodating crew, especially on the night-shift, not to mention, J Two S is also right at the heart of Pratunam market.
We originally planned on celebrating my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary in Bangkok. But I guess we made a mistake somewhere in our timeline, as we arrived in Bangkok very prematurely, and had already spent at least 4 days in Bangkok just shopping. All.DAY.EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. If we did not start moving, we might have already spent all our money and just starved to death. haha
Anyway, Bangkok’s such a lovely place to be. It had everything I was looking for in one place. Shopping (wholesale and retail; market and upscale), street food, nightlife, among others.
In the vicinity of Pratunam, are numerous buildings for wholesale shopping. There was one building where one whole floor only literally sold all kinds of slacks. Black, grey, brown, pinstriped, name it, they have it! And then another floor dedicated only for denim. So on, and so forth. There was even one 6 (or was that 7)-storey mall which had all electronics! And the prices, are just sooo cheap. One could really say, “What is cheap if you don’t have money.” I bought several pieces of trousers, equivalent to around 250php apiece. I saw an exact same kind in one of the department store chains here in Cebu (re-branded of course), and it was priced at 700php! Also, in another popular brand here in the Philippines, was a blouse sold at 1,500php, but we remember seeing the exact same one in Pratunam Market for only 500php. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know! haha
In those 4 days, we were also able to cover the Grand Palace, the high-end Siam malls (Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, and Siam Center) and Lebua at the State Tower, where they filmed parts of the movie, The Hangover Part II. We grabbed some drinks (a bottle of beer at around 600php!) at the Sky Bar with the iconic golden dome. They also had a band playing my type of music–jazz! It’s interesting to note. Their band is a mainstay, but they fly in singers from other parts of the world. They change singers every 3 months!
All-in-all, Bangkok’s just that city I will never get tired of going to. It’s kinda reminiscent of Manila. So very much like home to me.
Just a few things to take note of:
-Again, shop in Bangkok. Just do it!
-if you plan on going to Bangkok, just bring an empty bag, and lots of money. Shop, and fill the bag.
-A lot of tuktuk drivers are crooks. They’ll take advantage of you the moment they find out you’re a tourist. They’ll try to rip you off, overprice you when your destination’s even just a stone’s throw away. I suggest you take a cab instead. It just might cost you cheaper than taking a tuktuk. But beware, some cab drivers are also crooks. And mostly, they’re very choosy. They’ll charge extra (and I really don’t know why. Kinda like the +30, +50 in Manila) for nothing, and if you won’t give in to their demand, they won’t let you ride.