Although I swore I would never do it again, I made another visa run to Cambodia by bus. The one I use leaves from the coffee shop opposite Ekamai Bus Station at Sukhumvit Soi 31. It leaves at 9:30 AM, which is an OK time for me, and returns about 7PM the same day. It costs 2000 baht, and you need your passport (of course), 2 passport photos, plus a photocopy of the ID page of your passport.
It’s one day, there and back by bus. It’s a big tour bus, but no toilet, but they do play DVDs. It’s 4.5 hours there, 1 hour at the border, 4.5 hours back, more or less depending on traffic.
It’s hard on the bum. There is a toilet break half way both directions, and they feed you a free lunch. It costs 2000 baht which is about Cdn$72 currently. Half goes to the Cambodian government for a 30 day visa which is issued and then immediately cancelled. The bad news is that this visa takes up a whole page in your passport, it’s not just a stamp.
Coming back into Thailand, they give you only a 14 day visa. It used to be 30 days and an unlimited number of entries; now it’s 14 days and a max of 3 entries. While Thailand desperately needs tourists and the Tourist Association of Thailand is advertising worldwide, the Immigration Dept is making it more difficult. It’s the Thai way.
Cambodia is dirt poor, literally.
The village at the border has no paved roads. There are always a dozen or more children begging for money. One of the little girls that I gave some money to a couple of years ago, when she was 7, is now about 9, I think.
Two years ago, when I gave her about $1, and some other kids lesser amounts, they all ran over to the local shop and bought potato chips and gum and candy, so I don’t give them money any more.
The kids go to school (I asked) but learn only pissah khmen (Khmer), no Thai, no English, at least at that age. However, the kids understand and speak some Thai, which is what I use, and the 9 year old girl now understands and speaks some English, which she apparently taught herself in the few brief moments while trying to wheedle money out of the farangs. Poor, yes, stupid, no.
The kids call me “papa”, which is the word they use for all old guys. The kids are downright cute, I can understand why people want to adopt them. I believe Angelina Jolie adopted a Cambodian boy after making Tomb Raider there.
Two years ago, when tanks rolled into BKK, the military closed all borders and people were stranded for a week. I was praying that would not happen again, and it didn’t.
The worst part, other than the long sitting, and the often crappy movies, is the toilets at the highway rest stops (gasoline stations with an attached market), which are awful. First thing I do back in Bangkok is walk to the Landmark Hotel and use their toilet. Last night I also had dinner at the Landmark’s Huntsman’s Pub in the basement, something I rarely do because it charges Western prices. However, I needed real Western food, other than hamburgers and KFC, and so had an English meal: pork chop, baked potato, apple sauce, carrots and peas, and a Yorkshire pudding (not as good as my mother’s, though). But the Coke Zero was 106 baht (more than $3) and the entire dinner cost 455 baht (an arm and a leg). I often eat from a street vendor for 40 baht, and did so tonight.
I hate this trip and each time vow never to do it again, but it’s cheap, and I needed a delay until I get my new software product done. I have to leave Thailand again on the 26th.
Surprisingly, the day after the trip, I always suffer from “bus lag”; I am always exhausted, no energy, short attention span, sleep a lot.