Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day 7: Bangkok, Northern Thailand

Note: The photo to the right is from Vientiane, Laos, at Wat Si Saket (a Buddhist temple), taken by a Buddhist monk who I ended up chatting with for about an hour (he spoke rudimentary English). I don't have any pictures of Bangkok, since I will be returning there on September 5.

September 1 in Thailand turned out to be a lot less burdensome than I expected. Since the trains weren't running due to the aforementioned interminable protests, I had to buy an overnight bus ticket to Laos. But just as I was about to leave my hostel and head to the bus terminal to purchase the ticket, I saw a sign in my room that said bus tickets to Laos can be purchased at the hostel reception desk. Nice! This just saved me several hours of hassle!

I was expecting a price in the upper $20 range for this journey, but the actual price was about $40. Not that I had much of a choice, but I obliged. This was to be a VIP bus with all the western comforts: air conditioning, a bathroom, and reclining seats. Having purchased the ticket, I went and had a nice traditional Thai street food breakfast: an egg (sunnyside-up), some stuff that looked like Pad Thai, and a pepsi. The price? Less than $2.

Then I headed back to my hostel, but not before I stopped at one of the ubiquitous 7-11s in Thailand. Indeed, Thailand has more 7-11s by far than I have ever seen in any other country. I bought an iced coffee, two sandwiches and two frozen iced coffees for the trip to Laos. Then I went back to the hostel (finally!) to wait for the bus, which was to come at 5 p.m. and pick me up.

Having come 10 minutes earlier, I was off on a mini-bus to a "tourist waiting station" in another neighborhood of Bangkok. There I was relieved to find out that I wasn't the only tourist heading to Laos. In fact, the double-decker overnight bus was nearly packed with tourists from all over the world: France, Israel, Canada, Japan, and even Uganda! And they were all headed to Laos. I met an Englishman, Will, and a Japanese student, Hiroki, with whom I later ended up sharing a room in Laos. But more on that later on...

And away the bus went to the north...

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