Day 24: 14th October 2019
Met one ex-colleague for dinner and got ready to meet another one for the breakfast. We wanted to leave by 8 am and I requested her to come by 7 so that we can spend some time and continue further gossiping.
The difficult part of this trip is time management and had to get up early every day to capture or record my journey and experience and need to get up earlier today so that I can finish all these before coming down to meet her. Tried writing in the evening on the travel day itself but it is really becoming difficult after such long days and rides.
Somehow managed to finish and came down to see her (always accompanied by her husband and this happens even when she comes to annual off-site in Singapore). All Thais are soft-spoken but need to find a better word for Khun Chutima (that’s her name).
I haven’t seen her speaking rough or tough in the last 19 years. While doing the regular or customary checks about CS life post me leaving the firm, saw the clouds turning into dark black and heavy rains showered Bangkok.
That’s the final thing we wanted and we waited for it to reduce. Riding through the rains is the most difficult part and maneuvering Bangkok traffic in such situation is a torture. Finally, the rain stopped and we saw a neatly dressed policeman arriving at the hotel in a sleek BMW bike.
Khun Tom told us that he would escort us out of Bangkok and clear the traffic for us. Felt privileged and proud (later silly) for some moments. He did a great job and we smoothly checked ourselves out of Bangkok. Lots of friends were surprised and messaged me to spend more time in Bangkok and thought I have become a Monk.
My share of Bangkok experiences has been accomplished during past visits (both as a tourist, attending a bachelor’s and official visits) and don’t expect anything new now. I have become a monk without the “Old”. Long ride day and have been warned that the Cambodia roads are not that great (30% of the day’s journey) and we went through some patches outside Bangkok city.
Roads are being repaired or constructed and Khun Tom took us through some shortcuts. Finally, we touched some highway and the beautiful roads of Thailand greeted (or treated) us with lush green fields and dense forest cover.
During my “Incredible India by Road trip – 2018”, I started observing the cloud patterns and fell in love. As a matter of fact, people started complaining about the cloud pictures I sent…
Clouds are really fascinating and we all would have spent looking at the clouds (and creating shapes or stories using our imagination) during our childhood days. Happy to revive that skill now but doing that sort (seeing and enjoying the cloud patterns) of imagination on a ride is difficult. But today the roads were really long and straight and I was happy to see the cloud patterns again. Blue sky acting as the backdrop and thick clouds forming shapes or designs is a wonderful thing to watch.
Rohit who had been to Pattaya joined us at a meeting point and Naren stayed back in Bangkok to do some administrative work (re-entry visas into Thailand, Myanmar and maintaining accounts).
We reached the restaurant (and filled full tank because petrol is costlier on the other side) and ordered some fried rice. Interesting to see a bowl of “onions, garlic and chili” sitting next to a jar of red chili paste. Food habits are different near the border but having so much amount of hot pepper can be dangerous. One lick of the paste gave me watery eyes. Khun Tom left quickly (flying in his 650 cc Suzuki bike) and asked us to reach the border.
I and Manish got lost and finally took help from Rohit (shared his location) and reached the “Ban Laem” Exit point. Saw sad faces of Rohit and others and apparently, they stopped allowing “Indians on bikes” through this exit point.
No idea about the reason and the other alternative is to travel to the next exit point and check our luck. Aranyaprathet (Thailand)/Poipet (Cambodia) exit point is around 100+ km and we started our ride. Great roads and managed to reach the point by 5:30 pm. Did see a good amount of people moving from one country to another by bikes (regular movers and called Free travel residents) and sat at a coffee shop to complete paperwork.
Hot day again and Khun Tom helped us in getting the exit formalities done quickly and I crossed the border. It was tough 40 minutes and ignored to take pictures or videos while crossing and would do that on the return journey.
On crossing the border, saw a gentleman talking to Cambodian officials and cleared our vehicles. He asked for my passport and gave it to him without thinking. Hope is the best thing one can have and that is definitely not a great thing to rely upon at such places. Fortunately, he came along and helped us park after the border and without doing the customary entry procedures.
No passport and our unofficial entry into Cambodia got completed and we were welcomed by Bars and casinos at the entry point. The first building after the entry was a huge casino and I started enjoying Cambodia already. People looked the same to me (cannot differentiate between Thai and Cambodians) and started talking to the agents or hosts.
They speak a language called Khmer and found it difficult to learn the word for “Hello (chum Reap sur) “. We waited for the entire team to arrive and it took close to an hour for that to happen.
It was dark and riding for another 150+ kms on unknown roads gave me frightening feelings. Started to convince fellow travelers about staying near the border and start early in the morning and believe I did a good job with that. Everyone was convinced about it (except Manish who hates early morning schedule) and decided to speak with the host.
When approached, he gave me a sad face and we waited for Khun Tom to arrive with his wife. We were asked to take our vehicles to the customs office and welcomed by a golden Lion statue and a board carrying the department details. Interesting to see “Yahoo” email address as the official communication platform for a government agency and expected some tough procedural checks.
Khun Tom arrived and placed the idea of staying nearby rather than traveling long distance in the night. As always, he is a good host and smilingly approved our request and went out to do the needful.
He came back and told us about a hotel booking (near-by and travel time of 3 minutes) and I couldn’t control my happiness and got everyone a can of “Anchor” beer. Drinking while riding is not a good thing but this moment gave us an excuse to celebrate.
The customs checks got cleared smoothly (in fact we haven’t entered the immigration or customs office and met any officials so far) and we reached the hotel. Without the agents, it would have been tough to enter and exit southeast Asian countries given the language issue and demanding paperwork.
My room was the smallest in the entire trip and Munnabhai MBBS Dialogue came to my mind (Bhai yeh room toh shuru hote hi khatam ho gaya).
To give you a feeling, just imagine all the toiletries were kept at the table next to your bed and it blocked the door to the wardrobe. Got refreshed and went to a nearby ATM to withdraw cash and it gave the only USD and not local currency.
1 Indian rupee is equal to 57 Cambodian Riel and this could be the reason. Had a couple of more cans and food at a restaurant (used Google translate to convey what we want) and got me back to the room for a good rest. Didn’t take lots of pictures and video and promise to compensate on day 25.