April 9-10, 2016
Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Location: Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Ask any seasoned traveler and they'll tell you the most aggravating time when traveling is moving from city to city (packing and re-packing, long waits in bus stops, lugging heavy baggage, etc.). This difficulty is nothing compared to crossing international borders. You always have to be vigilant against scammers who see you as a lunch meal, not to mention delays and lugging heavy packs with you. And if you cross the border at night, good luck. I had a series of mishaps on this particular passage.
With my Cambodia visa expiring, I had to leave Cambodia and head for Thailand again (I came from Thailand before coming to Cambodia). From Siem Reap, I was off for Chiang Mai - a daunting 2-day trip. I thought I had myself covered enough - bought the bus ticket, researched on bus and train schedules, booked a room in Chiang Mai, even had a Plan B, etc. I felt confident, I even scheduled a lunch meet up in Rongklaur (Thailand border town) with my Thai friend, Kansuda. But life offers no guarantees despite prudent measures.
Well Laid Plans
From my research, I decided to take a bus from Siem Reap to Poipet ($6, 3 hours), cross the border on foot, meet Kansuda on the Thai side in Rongklaur and take the casino bus that would drop me off in Mo Chit in Bangkok ($200 Baht, 7 hours), where I board the #51 non-aircon sleeping train for Chiang Mai (Baht 271, 14 hours). In the remote chance I miss my train, I could stay at Adventure Hostel where I could use my room credit - this was my Plan B. I would wake up in Chiang Mai the following day - this saves me the cost of one night lodging. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai train station, I would then walk to the main road and hail a cab for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to my hotel which I booked online. Voila! I would be set for Chiang Mai. At least that was the laid-out plan.
The bus from Siem Reap to Poipet (Cambodian border town from Thailand) stopped at numerous hotels picking up passengers. This delayed my time schedule by an hour. At the border, there was a very long line at the Thai Immigration. This ate up 2 hours! By the time I crossed the border to meet Kansuda, it was already 2pm - I was 2 hours late and she wasn't there anymore. The whole time from Siem Reap, I met a Korean lady, Yoon, who was also heading to Mo Chit. We decided to travel together. We took the 2:15pm bus from Rongklaur to Mo Chit (B203, 7 hours). It stopped on all towns. By the time we got to Mo Chit, it was already 9pm! It was the longest Siem Reap - Bangkok ride I ever had!
Yoon and I separated at Mo Chit. I thought the bus would stop at the Mo Chit BTS train Station but that was not the case. Apparently, I still had to take another bus to get there. That curve ball took me for a panicked spin. I took the bus, then the MRT train for Bang Sue to get to the train station for Chiang Mai. Great! Or so I thought.
Fully Booked Train
The train ticketing office told me that the train was full because of the Songkram holidays. I could still ride the train but I would have to stand up the entire 14 hours all the way to Chiang Mai! No way. It was already 10pm, I had been on the road for 14 hours. I was tired and exhausted, and the last thing I wanted was to stand up another 14 hours on a train.
Getting the Luxury Train
Instead, I pre-purchased the train ticket for the following day, lest it be full again. But it was a luxury train (#7 Train) that was more expensive - B 638 (compared to the B 271 for the #51 train). At least I still had my Plan B - go to Adventure Hostel and sleep there using my hotel credit.
Fully Booked Hostel
As Murphy's Law would have it, hostel reception was closed - it closes at 10pm, and it was nearly midnight. Where do I sleep for the night? I had no internet and I didn't know any hotel in the area! As I was fumbling, the hostel receptionist, Zelong, miraculously showed up outside the hostel! Somehow, she had to do some odd shopping and had to come back to the hostel. Yeay...the day is saved! Not really. They were full, again, because of the holidays. Where do I sleep?
Zelong, my Good Samaritan
This is where Zelong went the extra mile for me. She called up a few hotels in the area until she found one - B 400 for a dorm bed at A Hostel! It was too pricey for me, but I was already desperate. I was only too glad there was a place I could rest my weary body for the night. Without Zelong's help, I would be clueless where I could have ended up that night. Not to leave things to chance, Zelong even walked me to A Hostel - close to a kilometer in the dead of night! Thank you Zelong! You are a life-saver! This will be my shameless plug - at Adventure Hostel, the staff go the distance for you!
A Hostel was modern with a chic-industrial flavor to it. The dorm bed was practically a private room with compartment for a full bed (not a bunk bed). Lodging included coffee/tea and water. They had an open roof deck for guests - dining, chilling, view, etc.
Chiang Mai Finally
Early the following day, I took the #7 train for Chiang Mai. The trip was supposed to take 10.5 hours, but it stopped for a long time on a few stations creating a 2 hour delay. It was already 9:30pm by the time we reached Chiang Mai. The transport option to reach my hotel was the red taxi at B100. I haggled to bring the price down to B50, on condition that I never tell the other passengers about it.
I reached my hotel at long last. I thought all the worries and problems were way behind me. I could now relax and take it easy. NOT! I realized I left my passport at A Hostel in Bangkok! I wanted to flush myself in the toilet. I was frantic and messaged the owner of Adventure Hostel, who has since become a friend. His next message was, "I have already secured your passport. It's with me now. Where do you want me to mail it to?". Yes, there is a God! And his name is Chainiwat!
This entire episode is classic Murphy's Law. What could possibly go wrong, did go wrong. It was odd. In Siem Reap, the abundance was outpouring. En route to Chiang Mai, it was the exact opposite. Was my benevolent universe giving me a message not to push through? Well, too late. I'm already here.
I would have gone crazy if not for the selfless assistance of Zelong and Chainiwat, both from Adventure Hostel. I cannot thank them enough for going the distance for me. If you ever visit Bangkok, you'll be in good hands if you stay at Adventure Hostel.
Nawa Sheeva Hotel Chiangmai
Location: 184/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: 061.272.8008 / 053.326.583
Features: salt-water swimming pool, expansive space, big luxurious rooms, great hotel cafe using top-of-the-line espresso brewer
Nawa Saraan Hotel Chiangmai
Location: 37/1 Singharat Lane 2, T.Sriphum, Muang Chiangmai, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Features: upscale container-themed, luxury appointments, central location
Adventure Hostel Bangkok
Location: 1541 Phahonyothin Rd., Payathai, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: 062 527 2581
Hours: open 24 hours
Features: central location by the N7 Saphan Khwai BTS train station, clean aircon rooms, fast and reliable internet, staff who will go the extra distance for you, reasonable rate
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Northeast area of the Old City area
- to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
- train - for more info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains. Main train departure is from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)
- #51 - best value. It's a sleeping train leaving Bang Sue Junction (at the Bang Sue MRT station), leaves 10:50pm, arrives Chiang Mai 1pm, non aircon, $14 or B271
- #7 - Bang Sue Junction (at the Bang Sue MRT station), leaves 8:40am and arrives Chiang Mai 7:30pm (allow for delays), aircon, non sleeping train (so you stay seated the entire time), B638
- bus - B450
- red taxi (shared) - B50 standard fare
- bicycle - B50 daily rental
backpacker places (US$1 = Thai Baht 35.11 = Php P46.10 as of April 11, 2016)
- North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session
- Road House - in front of Porn Ping Hotel
- Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar
- Chiang beer
- 1 hour drop-in yoga session
- one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
- noodle soup with meat
- pad thai
- wash-only laundry
- wash+iron laundry
- dorm bed/night
- fan room/night
- internet cafe/hour
- Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
- Movies weekdays
- Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
- 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
- 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
- Muay Thai boxing ticket
- starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)
- bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
- bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
- bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
- Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
- bicycle rental, 24 hours
- motorbike rental, 24 hours
- #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- red taxi fare from point to point
- red taxi fare from train terminal to city
- full day elephant sanctuary
- Chiang Rai one-day tour
- mountain biking scenic ride
- Loving Bangkok All Over Again Feb 22-26, 2016
- Adventure Hostel Review Feb 22-26, 2016
- Hotel Review: Riva Surya Bangkok Oct. 20, 2014
- The Shopping Malls of Bangkok Oct 6-20, 2014
- Bangkok's Street Food Delight Oct 6-20, 2014
- Bangkok Revisited 3 Oct 6-20, 2014
- Bangkok Dec 31, 2005
- Ten Days in Chiang Khong, Thailand Apr 30 - May 9, 2016
- A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
- Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
- Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
- Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiangmai (Thailand) April 9-10, 2016
- Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016
- Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) May 15, 2016
- Exploring Chiang Saen, Thailand Apr 28-30, 2016
- 4 Days in Mae Sai, Thailand Apr 25-28, 2016
- Border Crossing - Mae Sai (Thailand) to Tachileik (Myanmar) Apr 23, 2016
- Exploring Pai, Thailand May 19-24, 2016
- Visiting the Land Split in Pai, Thailand May 23, 2016
- Trekking the Ridges of Pai Canyon May 23, 2016
- Climbing up the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) May 21, 2016
- Pak Chong (Thailand) En Route to Siem Reap (Cambodia) Mar 20-21, 2016
- Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
- Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
- Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
- Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
- Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
- First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
- Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
- Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
- Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
- Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016
- Yoga with Amm Prajna Pitchaya and the Sivananda yoga community of Phan May 16-18, 2016
- Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016
Adventure Hostel Bangkok
(Apr 18, 2016) Really appreciate it, Gigit - the blogger from thelonerider.com, for your mention about our staff in your blog. Hope to have a chance to welcome you at our hostel next time.
(Apr 3, 2016) Happy Songkran:)
(Apr 3, 2016) sounds good! and familiar. always very funny afterwards
(Apr 3, 2016) What an adventure!
(Apr 3, 2016) Let me know what you end up doing in Chang Mai. We'll be visiting during out Thailand trip in September. smile emoticon
(Apr 3, 2016) Careful wth ur cash wen u hop on the night bus going to bkk... they're sooo good at it..
April 9-10, 2016
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