Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The return to Bangkok and a fond farewell to Maaike...

So the last day in Don Det was spent inside a regular cafe of ours watching movies, namely The Impossible, a movie about the Tsunami in Thailand which couldn't have been a more ill-timed watch as we were headed to the Thai Islands next (where it happened) and we watched it during a MASSIVE thunderstorm! We also watched a few episodes of An Idiot Abroad. We then went for food (but we'd basically been eating all day) and went to go pack as me, Maaike and Devyn were leaving for Bangkok tomorrow. Me and Maaike then watched an episode of Girls, a new TV show, and conked out!  

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So our adventure back to Bangkok started at 11am on the beach/dock of Don Det. We said goodbye to Ashley, but hopefully we'd be seeing her again in Koh Tao! Obviously, in conjunction with all our other journey's in Laos, this wasn't going to be an easy or a short one! Our first transportation method was a long-tail boat across to the mainland, obviously one of the only UNCOVERED boats in the midday heat. We then lugged our heavy bags down the main street to an awaiting mini-van...could we get ahead of ourselves and say that it was the first bit of luxury so far? Well there was only us and 3 other foreigners, air-con and comfy leather seats. However, whenever we've thought we've gotten lucky and think we can spread out, further down the road a whole load more people pile on in. So we didn't get too comfy...until we passed the bus station, and our driver told us he was not picking up anymore people!! AMAZING, off we spread!

Quoting Devyn's blog: Then we realized there was a TV onboard so we asked the driver if we could play a movie. He was super happy about this and started browsing his collection of DVD’s, however… We didn’t see what dvd he put on until it was up on the screen. It was a Laos Karaoke audio DVD. Uh oh. But the driver looked sooo happy that WE had requested to watch/listen to his precious DVD collection. Looking around, debating who was going to break his heart that we could not go on a few more hours with this playing. Maaike took charge. She browsed his DVD’s to try and find something in English, but it was just a dozen different Asian karaoke DVDs. We thanked the driver and just settled on enjoying a peacefully quiet ride in our luxurious and spacious mini van.

We arrived in Pakse, our next destination, at around 2.30pm where we had to wait until 3pm for our next bus. Me and Maaike needed food so we went in search of it and eventually settled on a little tiny street restaurant that looked like it was serving delicious noodle soup...which upon sitting down ready to tuck in, a local man simply laughed at us and just said 'kidney'. He obviously knew us tourists too well. What we were settling down to eat was actually a spicy kidney meat noodle soup...great considering Maaike is a vegetarian! So we proceeded to eat, crisis averted, we just picked out the meat and ate the noodles, and it was actually pretty darn tasty - and all for only 10,000 kip each!

This is the point our transportation started to downgrade. We knew our stroke of luck wouldn't last forever. Our next mini van was completely full. Maaike and I were wedged in at the back with a man cracking nuts, and getting concussion from the roof every time we went over the bumps. Devyn was sat on a pop-up seat, but at least we still had air-con I guess! 

Just after 4pm we arrived at the Laos/Thai border, we were told to go get our passports stamped, then carry our bags through no-mans-land, as usual, into the Thai border crossing. We were informed we had to pay 10,000kip for the privilege of leaving Laos since it was “overtime” aka after 4pm in the day. I was then refused an exit stamp because I had overstayed my visa by one day, and they wanted to charge me 100,000 kip (roughly $10) when it's only supposed to be $5. I proceeded to argue nicely with the border officials, but after checking myself and remembering my last run-in with the Laos police, I shut up, paid up and got my exit stamp. Thank you Laos, it has been a pleasure. 

So over we walked to the Thai border...whenever I head back to Thailand I always consider it to be like going home, and after the ying and yang feeling I'd had in Laos, I was pretty ready to be heading back home. If I hadn't of been lugging my heavy bags, I'd have run across that border! We followed signs for “Go To Thailand”, walking in an underground tunnel that seemed a bit like we were walking into prison, which took us to immigration, where we got our passport stamped (my last entry on my 6 month visa, sob!)

Then we downgraded our transportation again to a much older minivan and drove break-neck speed to Ubon, where we were to catch our overnight train. When we arrived, we began debating with the driver about what time our train left. Our booking agent had told us our train left at 6:30. It was 6, and we were still driving, headed to the airport to drop off two passengers who insisted on being dropped off first, even though their check-in closed an hour and a half away. Ok, a little nervous about missing our train, but our driver who barely understood our English insisted the train left at 7:30. He was right.

7:30 came and still no train for Bangkok. While the girls went off in search of food, I looked after the bags and got chatting to a lovely Thai lady who was waiting for her daughter to arrive, and worked at a large school in town and wanted native English speakers to work as teachers there, as they lacked good English teachers. I said that I could have a few people interested, maybe even myself one day if I return, so we exchanged details. If anyone is interested in teaching English, this school is crying out for people, contact details: Suwadee1234@gmail.com, her name is Suwadee and the school is in the east of Thailand in Ubon Ratachani.

An hour later and there was still no train, but one had pulled up at platform 2 (we were on platform 1), and sat there for around half an hour before another few carriages connected onto it. We thought nothing of it, until another train pulled up and we asked whether it was for Bangkok. We were told yes, but there were no sleeper carriages?! So we asked again and then...we were told that the train that had been sitting there for the last 45mins, and was about to depart, was our train!! So like idiots we leapt over the tracks with our bags to platform 2 and found our sleeper carriage. Literally as soon as we jumped on, the train left the platform...had it been waiting for us?!

So we then settled in for the night, Maaike, Devyn and I all had top bunks, it was fan only but wasn't too hot, but our beds were still fairly luxury. Managed to get a little sleep.
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Upon arrival into Bangkok's Hualamphong station, the next morning at 9am, we went for breakfast as it was time to say goodbye to our travel buddy and now awesome new friend Maaike. We'd spent almost a month together travelling Laos, from first meeting and bonding in a jungle at the Gibbon Experience, to Luang Prabang, Tubing in Vang Vieng, and sharing some pretty horrific journey's across the country, and not forgetting our awesome kayaking duo. She was headed down south for a couple of days and then returning back home to Holland. It's so sad when one of your group leaves, I hate the goodbyes. But I am sure we will meet again soon!

The rest of the day was spent in a taxi, trying to get ourselves over to Khao San Road (how does a taxi driver not know where this is?!), once there we were dropped ages away from the hotel we wanted so we ended up settling for D&D Inn, right on Khao San, with a rooftop pool and air-con - for a steep £10 a night, that pool was getting used! 

The next 3 days in Bangkok (22nd-24th) were then just spent chillaxing. We didn't do an awful lot. Chandler, Devyn's sister who was due out and who we were waiting for before heading to the Islands, didn't arrive when we expected her, on the 23rd, due to flight issues. She was on standby flights and they kept overbooking so there was no space. So we extended our stay at D&D Inn. During our time in BK, we got facials, waxes and a haircut and colour, all for only £40. We went shopping at Siam Parragon, Siam Centre and another Siam mall - these were damn posh places - there was even a MAGNUM Cafe where you could order a custom made Magnum icecream! We went to the cinema, it's a massive cinema, completely space-age, to see the Great Gatsby, which was awesome. We swam and sunbathed at the pool. Got take-out Pizza Hut, had movie evenings. It was simply nice being home and relaxing, doing normal things, not travelling, not spending toooo much money, and simply existing for a bit, rather than living, like we had for the past month! 

See you in Koh Phangan!

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