Lots of bus time lately.. lots of thinking time. It’s like I am staying this trip to the end to avoid the truth of what awaits me back home.. rather who is not waiting back home. I think of my dad all the time. This leg of the trip has been the strangest time of my life.. Sylvie just going along with me.. watching me as I pretend nothing is wrong.. watching me struggling through this in the best way I know how…is this the best way? I’m such a mess .. only a few more days left before I return home to face my new reality.
Dad would have enjoyed this though.. our bus from Phnom Penh was delayed by the royal family! It was around 10:00 pm ( the bus was very late of course) and the bus pulled over to the side of the multi lane highway just on the fringes of Bangkok. Then I noticed we weren’t the only ones pulling over.. all vehicles were. Some fancy motor bikes with flashing lights arrived after about 3-4 minutes.. the scouts.. then 3-4 minutes later a convoy of high speed vehicles came speeding by.. maybe 20 cars ? I couldn’t make out the type of car but they were all the same.. maybe Jaguar? Maybe modern Rolls Royce? James Bond type cars with 4 antennae hooked up to the back of them.. very long antennae.. tinted windows.. there were so many of them. As they were passing, an old man who had entertained us with his stories, explained how much Thai people love their royal family.. he wasn’t annoyed at all by the delay.. he was so excited to see the convoy pass by and wondered which royal family members were inside the cars.. I lightened up about the whole thing.. after all, those were the coolest cars I had ever seen.
So this bus ride was 15 hours.. it was late as well. Arriving at 10:30 pm at the northern bus terminal in Bangkok with no hotel booked was a bit scary.. we hired a cab to a hotel the old man had suggested. This place was in an area we hadn’t visited yet.. a neighborhood unknown to us.. no backpackers anywhere.. we weren’t in the safety of Bamlamphu that was for sure. It was late.. we hadn’t eaten since lunch ( Red Curry Chicken Claw).. We were checking in to this hotel no matter what. It turns out the old man had sent us to a hot spot for Arabs… my dark tan and beard weren’t enough to fit in.. we stuck out like sore thumbs .. we were the outsiders among outsiders!
We hit the street for some food but could only find a dirty food stall serving pad thai.. real dirty.. some grizzled old woman was frying this stuff up from the remainder of her food supplies from the day. At the time of this typing, Sylvie and I are both in for the night with day 2 of some serious diarrhea.. and we both agree and trace back to that meal on the street.. the food did have a funny taste to it.. a la Granada.
The next morning we woke early to cab it back to the same bus terminal to get us to Ayutthaya.. about an hour and a half north of Bangkok. At the terminal an interesting thing happened.. While Sylvie was in the washroom discovering the bonus of last nights meal, the entire bus terminal stopped dead in its tracks.. I was playing on my phone and looked up to see everyone just standing still! Some strange music was playing over the PA system.. then the music ended and everyone resumed what they were doing. It was pretty neat to witness.. we would later learn that at 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. the country plays the national anthem and everyone pauses for it. It completely takes over the television, radio and .. bus station pa systems!
Ayutthaya was the former capital of Thailand before it was sacked by the Burmese.. so this place contained loads of history.. and of course loads of wats ! more temple spotting today. Today we would make it different.. today we rented pedal bikes and traveled many kilometers with them. We got some amazing photos and got to experience a different type of Thai city… narrow roads, lots of trees and lots of elephants 🙂
We also tried a new travel trick .. we housed our bags at the train station while we toured the city.. and we took the night train again, this time saving on hotel cost.. and this time with the sleeper car. It was better than sitting upright all night but wasn’t the amazing experience everyone had been talking about.. gets pretty stuffy in your little cell… We were off to Chiang Mai.. our final destination for this trip.