This is the part of the journey I have been blocking out of my mind because there are so many things which could go wrong. My motto is to plan well but have a back up plan if things go badly wrong!
Our plan was to travel by train from Bangkok to Arunyapatta, cross the border to Poipet and then take a bus to Siem Reap. What is the problem you say? Well the train leaves at 5:55 am and take 6 hours and if we miss it there is not another until 1pm which means we would miss the border opening times and have to stay in Arunyapatta. or we would have to battle across Bangkok to get a bus which also takes about 5-6 hours. Then once across the border it is another 2 hours to Siem Reap. Altogrther a lot of connections I have no control over.
Our morning started at 4:30am trying to drag ourselves and the children out of bed so we could get a taxi to the Station. We whizzed through the streets of Bangkok in the dark. The traffic was light and we arrived at the station with time to spare. After buying our tickets (£3 for all of us!) we made our way down the train looking for seats together……..we walked the entire length of the train before we found any seats where we could sit together. Every set of seats had one person sitting or lying down asleep! I have no ideas when they arrive but we were the first to buy our tickets and they were all there in place.
I am so glad we got there ealry because as the train pulled out every seat was taken. This train is third class (hence price) with no air-con just open windows and ceiling fans.
As we pulled out of the station the sun was just coming up over the high rise buildings of Bangkok. We passed through rows of blocks of flats with washing hanging out on the balconies and out of the windows. Sometimes the buildings were so close you could reach out and touch them. The slum houses croweded up towards the trains with their mismatch tin roofs, patched walls and occasionally the bright red flash of a satallite dish. We could look right down onto the early morning lives as people we getting up and starting the day. Flashes of peoples lifes went by as the train gathered speed….a man washing pineapple in red liqiud (red food colouring to make it more vibrant to sell), mangey dogs picking over rubbish piles, smoke from charcoal fires, clothes fluttering in the rush of passing train, sellers with baskets of food balanced on their heads, families eating breakfast of rice soup on split bamboo platforms under the tin roof with just packed mud floor underneath, children in their uniforms walking to school, the saffron robes of the monks as they walk around recieving offerings of food and money. This is a snapshot of the “other” Bangkok far removed from the glittering, pristine shopping malls, and designer living which was where we were yesterday. One thing I found interesting was the number of “parking”lots at the edge of the slum where nice cars were parked. In Thailand what you look like and have is important and often you will see very smartly dressed people who come walking out of a slum area get in their nice car and drive to work!
The train stopped at every station and each time more people got on. We had thought about getting on the train a few stops from the main station so we didint have to get up so early….so glad we didnt because by the time it got to that station it looked like this……
Every time the train stopped there would be a big shuffle round the door where people scrabbled to get off and on and as soon as there was a small crack of space on a seat it was pounced on by someone who had been eyeing it up for the last hour. The amazing thing was people were very unfazed by it and just accepted this was how it was so as the journey went on we had to adopt this attitude and squish up and rearrange out seating. At one point there were five people sitting on the one seat opposite me!