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Lost in Thailand

>This is what happened and what didn’t happen.

After finishing up in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat et al, my plan was to head to Poipet and from there catch a bus to Chong Mek (Thailand), immediately heading to Pakse, Southern Laos. This wasn’t my preferred option as I really would have liked to head to Stung Kreng (spelling?!?) and then overland from Cambodia directly into Laos (skipping Thailand altogether for the moment), but was advised this was too hard and expensive and not worth the hassle. Fair enough, I’m not into undue hassle so I took the supposed easy route.

What I did manage was getting from Siem Reap to Poipet, crossing though immigration and into Thailand (stopping for a Magnum ice cream on the way!). This was prebooked so no great feat on my part.

From here it gets a bit strange. On the advice of a bus driver I took a tuk-tuk to the bus station and there boarded what I believed was a bus to Chong Mek. This would be too simple of course. In fact the bus wasn’t going to Chong Mek at all, although I understood that it would be heading at least towards there. To make matters worse, I didn’t even have any baht to pay for the fare. Yeah yeah, so I’m to blame for that one. I was just so used to using US dollars in Cambodia that I thought it wouldn’t be a problem doing the same for emergencies in Thailand. No such luck. Fortunately there was one lady on the bus who took pity on me and made her sister pay my fare. This was also the lady who told me that the bus wasn’t going to Chong Mek but to some place on no map I have ever seen.

Here I was faced with the prospect of being in a place I didn’t know, with no money, very little understanding of Thai and very little chance that anyone would speak English. My chances of getting accommodation slim, and everything else probably impossible.

Again fortune was with me as the same lady who made her sister pay my bus fare, invited me to stay at her place. I accepted straight away. It wasn’t until later that I thought this could be a bit iffy given that I didn’t know her, where I was or where she was taking me (perhaps somewhere to steal my money – although as I didn’t have any this wouldn’t have been any fun for her). I didn’t really have an option though so I gratefully followed her on her way home, which was another bus ride of one hour in the complete opposite direction to where I was headed.

By the time we got there I was exhausted and concerned about where I was and how I would get any money to get out. These problems soon left my mind though as everyone in the village seemed to be related and turned up to visit their exciting guest from Australia staying at their humble home. My spoken Thai really is pathetic and although a few of the girls knew some English, most of the conversation was based on smiling faces and nodding. It wasn’t long before I was drinking (sprite) with one guy who kept filling my glass (good thing it wasn’t alcohol) and giving me the thumbs up. He was a hoot but eventually his wife dragged him away so one of the other twenty people could sit beside me. For entertainment value I took out some photos I had developed and showed them around. Major excitement and in the end I ended up giving quite a few of them away and autographing the back with the promise to send more in the mail at a later date.

Eventually I moved on to another house where I was asked to stay and I slept on the ground in the living room with the rest of the family.

By the morning I had learned to say dog and duck in Thai (useful?) and a few other things which I now forget. One quick ride on the back of a motorbike to the nearest town so I could change money at the bank … which was closed. But again I was in luck, the ATM accepted my card and gave me money! I think my Rocky style jumping up and down was a highlight for everyone around, but I didn’t care. I had money, I could pay back my debts and get back on the road.

The lovely Thai family all posed for a photo, then took me to the road where I could catch a passing bus still in the complete opposite direction to where I was heading, but it was a bus nonetheless. I ended up changing my plans altogether and headed north to Nong Khai (where I am now) and where I will cross into Vientiane (Laos) tomorrow morning. This is only about 600km from where I had planned to be the day before, but what the hell. Now I’m in a town within sight of a place that I have at least heard of.

I must say that the hospitality of the Thai family was beautiful and I should never have worried, but for about 24 hours I had no idea where I was. Now I have another great experience to add to my travels and I remember again how fortunate I am to have the life that I have.

Lana and family – oops, sorry this was probably a bad risk to take but I didn’t have an option and it’s all ok in the end (plus I will be good from now on).


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