Bangkok on 80 Ringgit…..

5 Feb

I’m not sure that this is the most interesting post on the journey so far. Certainly, the pictures haven’t been as great, there are no beautiful sunsets… and yet it has certainly been some of the most eventful and stressful moments of the trip so far.

So, the visitors I was waiting for on the hostel desk didn’t turn up, so although I didn’t see as much of Penang as I thought (the Lifting Buddha, the Sleeping Buddha and so on) I did at least get to have a good night’s sleep having earned my keep on the front desk. And the staff had a great New Year, so everyone is happy.

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DSCF0503Staff and guests!

I have 80 ringgit in my wallet, which is around £32, the effect of attrition due to the first class seats I have had to take getting this far. Can I make it, having already paid the RM45 that the minibus cost? We will see.

A walk across town in the early morning, watching Georgetown wake up..And so back on the ferry. A brief moment of panic as I realise that I have managed to get lost going from the ferry to the railway station (I can’t remember that escalator being there) so I scrape my way onto the minibus with minutes to spare. 90 minutes later we’re on the border. Leaving Malaysia is easy enough (although someone had to give me the one ringgit needed to stamp the passport) – the minibus driver collects the passports, and pays the fees, and then we present them at the desk before leaving the country.

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It’s entering Thailand that is more difficult. Immigration is a heaving mass of humanity trying to enter the country from buses and minibuses. Everyone’s pressing forward and there’s no such thing as a queue in here. Two hours later, my back aches and finally I have the necessary documents!

Another hour or so, and the bus arrives into Hat Yai. At which point, Plan D, the current working plan (involving driving by minbus into Hat Yai and getting the overnight sleeper to Bangkok) falls apart. The bus driver has taken me to the bus station instead.

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Well, at least I know that I can get to Bangkok by bus, so Plan E emerges. Having changed money and paid the fare, I still have enough for a plate of noodles and something to drink at this hawker stall.

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Yippee! I feel strangely relaxed – the stress of the last week trying to work out how to get to Bangkok just melts away. It’s been an adventure.. but it has been frustrating and hard work.

So, another night on a bus. Not this bus, which is a VIP bus…

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but this bus, which isn’t.

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Look pretty similar to me! Having watched the Thai karaoke and a strange game show involving flying comedians, I watch ‘The Expendables’ in Thai – the dubbing doesn’t really help Arnie, Bruce, Sly and Dolph sound particularly butch or menacing.

And 7am sees us arrive at Bangkok Bus station – at which point I realise that plan E isn’t actually complete, and I had relaxed too early. I need to get from the bus station into town. At which point, I realise that I have been a wee bit too preoccupied in the big picture of getting to Bangkok, and not looking at the smaller picture of ‘where am I staying?’.

I don’t have a lot to go on – and so it’s with some relief that someone offers to phone directory enquiries, and we finally have an address. Now how do I get there, armed with 45 baht by this time.. or the equivalent of around £1.So taxi is out, minibus is out, even the motorcycle taxi (with my rucksack? Really?) and it’s down to the local bus. Two problems here – the first is the traffic, and the bus is hardly moving. The second… well, I think their approach to ‘which bus’ is to put me on one that goes round most of the city and hope that it goes somewhere close. After a while, I decide that walking is definitely the best option. After a while, a tuk-tuk driver hails me (I haven’t quite got over this reversal of normal taxi-punter interactions and we settle on 10 baht for a ride to the hotel.

Finally… and I can relax and wait for Lisa to arrive: it’ll be odd to have some company on the trip for a while.

And meanwhile, here’s a cookbook I discovered in Penang….

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