If you’re a backpacker exploring Southeast Asia and have more time than money on your hands then you’ll probably have to use bus transportation within and between countries at some point. Fortunately, the buses nowadays aren’t too shabby and based on the horror stories that I’ve read on the interwebs these buses are worlds away from what they were just a few years ago.
After extensive research we decided that the bus route from Bangkok to Siem Reap would be a safe, economical, and comfortable enough option for us. It would save us about $200 which is about 100 nights of accommodation in Cambodia. I exaggerate. It’s more like 15 nights. Anyway it made sense for us so we gave it a try. Since it’s a fairly new service there isn’t much information out there so we’ll share our experience.
First thing’s first, buy your bus ticket. Supposedly you can buy your ticket online but this didn’t work for us. I’m not sure if the issue was with my US credit card or a flaw with the online ticketing system, but I couldn’t complete the transaction online, so we had to go to the bus station to make the purchase. The bus terminal is called Mochit2. Don’t get it confused with the Mochit BTS train station or you’ll be waiting a long time for a bus that will never come. At the bus terminal the ticket booth is inside, on the first floor. There are booths outside too, but the one you’re looking for is inside underneath a large LCD screen. It’s actually called The Transport Company and there will be a sign in English with route information.
The guy at the window spoke English well enough to clarify our ticket information several times before he printed and sold us the tickets. He was surprisingly thorough unlike other bus ticket sellers we’ve dealt with around the world. He checked our departure date, time, destination, and names several times. Bring your passport or at least a copy of it. He asked for ours and typed in our names for the tickets. Each ticket is 750 baht; the price for a one way trip with breakfast and lunch served on the bus.
The next day we arrived 45 minutes early to wait for our bus. I don’t like to rush for international travel, so I’d rather get there with time to spare. There are a bunch of food options at the station and I highly recommend that you stock up on snacks if you’re a big eater because the bus does not make any pit stops and the provided meals are meager. The bus arrived at platform 106 before 9:00am and after loading luggage and passengers we were on our way by 9:05am. Not bad for timing.
It started off with a random guy who made eye contact with us at a bar. “Hi, are you Thai?” Minutes later, this British expat close-talker had me awkwardly pinned against the back of someone’s chair, practically touching my face with his as he excitedly talked to us about how much he adores New York. After asking us what we were doing later and getting a vague answer, the friendly fellow recommended a few go-go bars that “aren’t boring”. We closed up the bar at the early hour of midnight and ducked into a cab with our new friends, Power, a Taiwanese friend-of-a-friend and Rebecca, her German friend.
The cab stopped in front of Soi Cowboy — the red light district of Bangkok — and we made our way down the narrow street aglow in a rainbow of neon lights from the big signs above. Scantily-clad young girls sat or stood by the bars that lined the street, calling out to the (usually Caucasian) men looking for a good time and a happy ending to the night. Power pointed out a bar she’s been to and we were made to order our first round outside the bar as an “entrance fee”. While we waited for our drinks to be delivered, we sat outside and people-watched.
A loud group of white guys in flower print shirts caught our attention and Rebecca called out to one, asking him why all of them are wearing a similar floral print pattern. “We’re here for our friend’s bachelor party and we had to wear the ugliest shirts we could find.” It was interesting to note that the majority of the shirts are perfectly nice, and the men wearing them clearly had zero taste. The guy chatted up our German friend, asking her if she teaches English in Thailand. She laughed and his drunk eyes steadied on mine as he slurred, “You’re very beautiful.” We all laughed at this poor drunk guy and headed into the black light of the club.
A stout woman wearing a Japan soccer jersey (for some reason, the Thais rooted for Japan during the World Cup) gestured to the stools by the brightly lit stage and we sat ourselves down. We looked up at the girls in white shirt-sleeved shirts and tiny skirts and realized they weren’t wearing any underwear. Neither were the girls on the floor above, standing on the plexiglass floor and swaying back and forth. So this is what Power was talking about at dinner. I looked at them for a bit as all of them stood on the stage unenthusiastically shuffling around like cattle at auction and I felt like an involuntary perv who enjoys looking up girls’ skirts.