Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Coaches and taxis

Tuesday 28th December 2010

MP3 track of the day: Bartender and the thief – Stereophonics

Weather: Overcast and cool

Having gone to sleep early the previous night I got up a decent enough time for me to leisurely get ready, which included bags of time to check my emails … still nothing from Stef. I had packed most of my stuff last night though I did give my room a 'once over' to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I met another lady en-charge of the hostel today and I said thank you for a good stay plus I left my email address encase my Christmas present arrived.

The lady next door, who I purchased the coach ticket from, said that she would give me a lift ten minutes up the road to the bus stop, however she wasn't around when I called. She had given me her room number so that I could wake her up however I felt a little mean and besides, looking at the sky, it was pretty overcast and cool to walk I thought … I went for it.

I arrived at the bus stop, not too hot, but ninety minutes early. I went into the little shop next to the stop and exchanged my receipt for my coach ticket; I then waited outside, sat down on a bench, and read more of my book. The annoying thing about South East Asia is that, so far, you are never quite sure what you are going to get when it comes to purchasing something, especially transport. I had thought that I had booked a ten hour VIP coach ride to Bangkok starting at 10:30am … but no. The only part of that story that is true was that the coach did leave at 10:30am however it was an 'express coach' (which didn't sound to bad until I read '2nd class coach travel', in brackets, under the title) however the worst bit was still to come, the arrival time stated 10:30pm which I though was a little odd for a ten hour service. This is really becoming annoying; I had told my accommodation in Bangkok that I would arrive at 7:30pm because I thought that I was taking the 7:30am bus at the time, now it looks like I'll be closer to 11pm. I hope they don't lock up early … or think that I'm not coming? Maybe I should have taken the overnight bus.

With no way of contacting my accommodation you would have thought I wouldn't have worried as there isn't anything that I could have done about the predicament I found myself in … but I would be lying if I said that I took it easy. Before I could worry more the coach pulled up and I was glad to say that it was just a regular coach like back at home (though maybe a tad older). Once on board I sat down at one of the only empty two seats available, I made myself as comfortable as possible.

About forty-five minutes later my additional seat was taken up by a Swiss guy who had eaten a little too much cheese and chocolate … I was a little squashed but okay. The trip went well and I continually looked outside; for this part of the trip we hugged the coastline on this one lane road. The one lane road continued as we hugged the Myanmar boarder, we had to stop occasionally to let Thai army troops onto our coach and I had to show my passport.

At our lunch stop I didn't buy anything but I did talk to the Swiss guy, and his girlfriend, a little … they seemed nice enough. Better still they were only going another hour down the road and so I would get my two seats back. I continued to peer out of the window; this one lane road wound itself up and down hills which where covered in trees, greenery and sometimes the odd building would appear into view. As we descended down one hill the coast came into view and from where I thought we were on my map I think I could see Myanmar … and this was close enough.

It had taken ages to get down to flat land where there was a duel carriageway. I had given up all hope of arriving in Bangkok early, hell I was even worried that we would arrive late. The geography of the land might have changed from mountainous to flat, however the scenery of woods and buildings remained. Most of the buildings resembled sheds rather than houses however, very occasionally a beautiful temple would appear ...again making me wonder if the money used to produce these grand buildings couldn't have been better spent.

All of a sudden darkness approached and we stopped for tea; I was shown into this 'VIP' seating area where a meal was waiting for me. I sat at this round table with others from my coach and ate the spiciest food to date. As I watched people got up and, without paying, got back on the coach. I found this odd, maybe the meal was included in my ticket price … but then why wasn't everyone from my coach in here eating? I left but very slowly so someone could stop me for payment, but no one did.

As it was totally dark outside I switched my PC on and wrote this blog entry, there was no point in me watching the TV as all films and programmes so far had been in Thai (and they were all rubbish. I didn't think it was possible but these films made Aston Kutcher look like a good actor in 'Dude where's my car?'). Just as I started to type it seems the diver fancied going off road as the ride quality has just decreased massively, I looked down to see if there was any tarmac on the road but I couldn't see. To make matters worse the driver then put on the first English speaking film of the trip … though it was 'Indiana Jones: the rubbish new one with the alien skull' and switched off all the lights … thanks I thought.

It was now 9:30pm and I was starting to worry; the scenery hadn't changed at all and, with only an hour to go, I would have expected urban areas to start to build up. I couldn't see any road signs as they were now all overhead. I decided to peer out of the window and look for signs of improved infrastructure. Firstly the ride had improved and so tarmac was on the road, there were now traffic lights and overhead signs so that was an improvement from before. Finally building after building came into view and they got bigger and bigger. Once over a bridge I started to see skyscrapers and I relaxed a little looking at my watch … 10:25pm.

It wasn't over though, we where approaching from the south (where my accommodation was) to a bus station 5km out of town to the north. This is another annoyance about South East Asia, all transport hubs are not within the city center. In New Zealand I could get off the coach and walk to my hostel but not here. We finally arrived at the bus station at around 10:45pm; I had no idea where to go, all information stands were closed and so I had little option but to get a 'metered taxi'.

I knew this was going to hurt my wallet by the large smile the taxi driver gave. As we started driving he said 'forty-five baht', which didn't sound too bad at all considering the clock was already registering thirty-five, I said yes that's fine …

… what he actually meant was that he wanted forty-five baht to pay the highway toll and I had to stump up the cash, which was a little annoying. As we flew along the highway the meter just went up and up; every twenty seconds or so another ten baht was added and it was soon up to 150 baht … I went a little white.

Mercifully we turned off the highway and it didn't take long for us to reach my guesthouse, which was open … relief. The driver wanted to do a 'three-point turn' in the drive way so he could etch out another baht or two. The total cost … 243 baht! Of course I didn't have any change and so in the end it cost 260 baht plus forty-five baht for the highway … 300 baht (£6)! I was a little annoyed however I decided to play the glad game; I had arrived fine and well, I could get into my accommodation and it was clean and pleasant plus my dorm was full of people … I do need to get better with my money as I've almost spent £200.00 in the space of a week!

Not good!

Toodle Pip!

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