Backpacking Indochina Part 1 of 4: Vietnam
Backpacking Indochina Part 2 of 4: Cambodia
Backpacking Indochina Part 4 of 4: Thailand
This is where our itinerary becomes a bit confusing. We originally planned to visit 3 countries but since Myanmar is so close, we decided to cram it into our itinerary. We’ll be parting with Jayvee in Thailand because she didn’t have enough vacation leaves to join us in Myanmar. Karla and I chose Bagan as our destination. The reason we went to Thailand first was because direct flights to Mandalay are available from Bangkok. Direct flights to Bagan were not an option for us because they are expensive. Having experienced the 5-hour travel from Mandalay to Bagan, I strongly recommend Yangon as an alternative if time is not an issue. 9 hours by bus separates these 2 destinations but the roads are very comfortable compared to the road from Mandalay 😀
Day 5: Bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok
After paying for our stay at the Siem Reap Hostel, we hired on of their tuktuk drivers to take us to Nattakan’s office. When we got there at 10 minutes before 8 AM, there were several passengers already there waiting for the bus. We paid for our tickets (28 USD which includes breakfast, lunch and water) which we reserved the day before and boarded the bus when it arrived. We were assigned seats but the conductor told us that it was okay if we moved to other seats because the bus was only half full. Yay! The bus was new and very comfortable. I was able to recline my seat because nobody was sitting behind me and there was also a footrest which I could unfold from my seat 🙂
To our disappointment, however, the free breakfast that came with our fare was a simple meal of juice and 2 cookies. I was feeling hungry again after 30 minutes 😦 I slept so I wouldn’t feel hungry.
“Breakfast” from Nattakan Bus
Upon arriving at the Poi Pet border after 2 hours, we were instructed to disembark with our luggage. We were given a card with written instructions on how to cross borders but it was in very confusing English. So we followed where most foreigners were going and found ourselves lining up at Cambodian immigration for our exit stamp. Karla, Jayvee and I met fellow Filipino tourists on our same queue, and we exchange travel stories while waiting for our turn.
After obtaining our exit stamp, the 3 of us were clueless on where to go next. Our bus was nowhere to be seen but we saw a fellow passenger heading somewhere so we followed him. It turns out that our destination was the Thai immigration at the Aranyaprathet border.
Upon arriving at the immigration building, we saw signs directing us to the immigration forms to be filled out. The stamping was at the 2nd floor of the building where we had to walk a flight of stairs with all our luggage. The line was long and it took us more than an hour to finish. After my passport was stamped I headed to the exit by following the signs in the building. Our bus was waiting on the parking lot beside the immigration building. There was a well-maintained pay restroom there so I borrowed 5 THB from Jayvee (my money was still in dollars). Our bus also had its own restroom but it smelled a little funky earlier.
When everyone was back on the bus, we resumed our trip to Bangkok. We stopped after a couple of hours to pick up our packed lunch. Just like breakfast, it wasn’t really filling. We regretted not buying snacks for the trip 😦
Lunch was a cup of fried rice, a few strips of kikiam and small slices of cucumber 😦
At past 4PM, we arrived at Mochit bus station and were immediately bombarded by taxi drivers offering their (overpriced) services. Luckily, I researched how to go to our hostel via public transport 😀 We got lost for a bit, but questioning a few locals we found the bus that would take us to the Bangkok Transit System station (BTS). The bus was old and all passengers seemed like locals. We were having second thoughts about it and had no clue where to pay our fare. I gathered the courage to talk to my seatmate who luckily understood some English. I found out that the bus was free. Yay! 😀
The bus stopped directly at the Mochit BTS station and we hurried to buy tickets to Siam Square where our hostel was located. I will write about our hostel in Bangkok in part 4 of this chronicle 🙂 The 3 of us were very hungry at this time and salivated at a KFC ad we saw at the station. The spicy chicken seemed so delicious and we didn’t want anything else.
We arrived at our hostel, left our bags in our room, and asked reception where we could find the nearest KFC. MBK Mall was a short walk away to our delight. We were able to satisfy our craving for KFC chicken, Thai style, immediately. After our eat-like-there’s-no-tomorrow dinner, we went back to the hostel – Karla and I to prepare for our flight to Myanmar, and Jayvee to prepare for her solo tour of Bangkok.
This wasn’t exactly the ad we saw, but it’s the same product 😀
Day 6: Flight to Mandalay & travel to Bagan
Thanks to Bangkok’s reliable transport system, Karla and I arrived at Don Mueang International Airport with time to spare for our flight. From our hostel, we rode the BTS to Mochit station. Just below the station is the bus stop where we had to wait for bus A1 which directly passes through DMK airport. Our fare was only 72 THB for the train and bus!
Our flight with AirAsia to Mandalay was pleasant. Karla and I arrived at an airport with weak air conditioning and dim lights. Our fellow passengers were the only people there along with the airport staff. We went through immigration and exchanged our money to Myanmar kyat (pronounced as “chat”). We headed to the AirAsia bus which brings its passengers to the downtown area for free. We asked to be dropped off near the bus terminal going to Bagan.
My first impressions of Myanmar was that it was hot and unfamiliar – the sound of their language was strange, almost everyone had a streak of brownish powder on their face, most were chewing on betel nut which left a reddish tint on their teeth, and the males were wearing something similar to a skirt instead of trousers (even some of the airport staff). When we arrived downtown and walked towards the bus station, it took Karla and I a few tries before we found a local who could speak English.
Bus terminal in Mandalay
I have to be honest that this was the first time I felt fear and hesitation during this trip. We arrived at the terminal and locals immediately approached us to ask where we were going. Karla and I were afraid and it showed on our faces. The locals assured us that they had no ill intention towards us but it was better to be cautious. There was one bus company (Shwe Man Thu) with trips to Bagan who had a good reputation among the blogs I read. We got to their office at 2 PM to find out that the next trip to Bagan was in 7 hours. There were other buses but Karla and I were hesitant. We went back to the diner we saw earlier. Imagine our alarm when one of the locals followed us there for the sole purpose of persuading us to ride the Pwi Daw Aye bus leaving in 2 hours. He presented an ID and was very nice. He really made an effort to speak in English. We convinced him that we would think about his offer and he thankfully left.
We asked a local if Pwi Daw Aye was a reputable company and she said yes. Karla and I decided to take the Pwi Daw Aye bus instead of waiting for the Shwe Man Thu bus for 7 hours. We went back to the terminal to purchase our tickets and found out that the locals are very accommodating indeed. They gave up their chairs in the shade for us, gave us water when we asked where we can buy beverages, and even invited us inside their office so we can sit in front of the electric fan. The last one we refused because we didn’t want to inconvenience them further.
We left for Bagan near 5 PM and I thought that we could finally relax during the trip. How wrong I was. LOL. The road was so bumpy but the driver doesn’t slow down for anything so we felt every pothole and turn it made. Good thing that we didn’t eat before leaving because I am sure I would have puked during the trip. I felt my insides turn. Imagine your butt and whole body flying a foot from your chair with every bump. I almost cried and badly wanted to go home . Makes me want to laugh every time I recall those moments >.<
Our bus finally stopped at Nyaung-U, a town beside Bagan, and we transferred to a jeep. It seems that the bus companies also pick up and drop off each passengers at their final destination in Bagan. Yay!
At long last, we arrived at our hostel at 10 PM and looked for somewhere to eat. There are a cluster of restaurants just across the road. We chose Black Rose Restaurant and got to taste Myanmar’s own version of curry. The food was so delicious! I was so hungry at that time but the food is truly delicious.
Black Rose Restaurant. A meal with rice and beverage costs and average of 4,000 MMK
Our dinner on our first night in Bagan. We requested our dishes to be spicy