There is not a whole lot that I want to say about the trip itself. It was very long, very cramped, and very boring. We did not get window seats, and those that did have window seats closed their windows, so we could not see out at all. That part was pretty disappointing. The food was really good though, which I was not expecting. They fed us so well that we ate hardly anything that I had brought with us. It took 24 hours of travel to get to Bangkok. By that time I was so tired! We decided that next time, a good book is as important as anything that we bring. For you airplane junkies out there, the first plane was a little tiny turbo prop, the second was a 777, and the third was a two level 747. The second and third planes made up for the smallness of the first, they were huge!
My first impressions of Bangkok were sort of blurry. I don’t think that anything impressed me at all. It was like being in any other big city when you have not had much sleep in many days. It was dark and warm, but not too hot. What did leave a lasting impression on my mind was seeing Anna, Maria, and Micah waiting for us! I was never so happy to see someone in my life. They took us to where Lena was waiting. Gayle and Bradley were not able to come, and Paul and Josiah had stayed at the apartment since Josiah was sick.
The next morning, after sleeping maybe 4 hours, the first thing that really got my attention was the house plants! We were walking over to the cafeteria for breakfast, and there were houseplants all over the place outside! They had a whole bed of peace lilies. Now I know where all my plants came from! It was just beautiful. Lena had rented an apartment at Mission Hospital for us to stay in. There are 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and living room. Plus two bathrooms with regular toilets in them! The only difference here is that there is no hot water in our bathroom. It took me a while to get up the courage to get in the shower, but I decided that it wasn’t that bad since it is hot in here. ( I chose not to turn on the air conditioning since I am tired of being cold.) Oh, the other difference here is the bed. It is very hard, and the pillow is hard also. But, the amazing thing is that I have had no trouble at all sleeping on it. It is much more comfortable than I thought it would be. It is like sleeping on a box springs.
The food is absolutely incredible! We ate in the cafeteria yesterday, and for breakfast we had rice with vegetables in it, and some sort of fruit that came with a little bag of stuff to dip it in. It seems to have consisted of salt, hot chili, and maybe sugar. But, it was pretty good when you dipped the fruit in it. The juice was fresh squeezed, I could tell! We could not always identify the kind of juice it was, but it sure is good! Then, they had these little plastic boxes with “fried mushrooms”. I looked at them for quite a while before deciding to try them. I love mushrooms, but these looked really different. I just decided to be brave and try all the new things that I could. Well, they tasted just like some sort of meat, maybe chicken. I was so impressed. I wish that I could get mushrooms to taste like that at home! Lunch was pretty much the same, but without the choice of fruit. Even Roy liked the food, which had me in a state of shock for hours!
The Little Truck That Wandered
In the afternoon of our first day, Lena decided that we needed to go to the mall and get our pictures taken for our Cambodian Visa. So, we all piled in the pickup, kids in the back, and headed out into the city of Bangkok. We had asked numerous questions so that we knew on the map right where to go. It was just up the street from the hospital, so it should be no problem to find it. Our first problem happened when we got to the gate of the Mission Hospital Compound and found that we could not turn the right direction to get out. So, no problem, we would just turn the other way, and then find a place to do a u-turn on up the road. So, we drove and drove and drove, and finally found a place to turn around. Then, we headed back towards the hospital going the right direction. Then we started looking for the right building. We kept driving and driving, trying to read the Thai signs along the way. Finally we got to a cross street that we could identify on the map, and found that somehow, we had gone way too far. So, we looked for another place to turn around. Finally, we thought we had one, and it turned out to be the entrance to the toll way and we could not turn around, but had to get on the toll way! To make a long story short, we wandered around Bangkok, seeing all the sights, taking in a great plenty of pollution, and have plenty of near misses by Kamikaze motorcyclists all along the way. You cannot imagine the joy of our trusty navigator and pilot when we finally found the right building, (with the help of our communications expert, Lena, who had called Marilee Kier on the phone numberless times to get help) Our joy was short lived when we went into the “Mall”. It is huge, and crowded, and has absolutely everything imaginable. Since our “short” trip had already taken an hour and a half, we were pretty tired, and were not all that well prepared for the bewildering assortment of shops. To make matters worse, I found out that my debit card would not work in the ATM machines. I don’t know what is wrong, but now I have to find some way of notifying the bank and getting it to work! It was supposed to be activated on Monday for overseas use, but it sure isn’t working yet! So, we got our pictures, and then headed back to the Hospital. Before I end this section, I will bravely try to describe the traffic from my point of view. It will be difficult, but I will try! We would be driving down the wrong side of the road, with our driver, Paul, sitting on the wrong side of the truck to drive, which is strange enough, but then you have to take into consideration what is happening outside the truck also. You can be driving down the road, and the opposing traffic suddenly decides that they do not have enough room on their side of the road, so they just come on over into our lane, and drive there. It makes perfect sense to them, I am sure, but it is a little unnerving to find that much traffic suddenly coming straight at you! Then, there are the motorcycles. Many of them had two people on them, a driver, and a girl in a mini skirt, sitting side saddle on the things, not even bothering to hang on or the decency to look concerned about her near death experience! They would weave themselves in and out between the cars and busses, weaving to miss the protruding mirrors, and dirt, so that they wouldn’t scrape the sides of the other vehicles. Well, it is pretty hard to explain it all. Maybe I can try to get some pictures.
Today we are leaving for Cambodia. We hired a van to take us to the border since that is the cheapest way for 4 people to travel there. It sounds nicer too, since they will come straight to our door to get us! So, we are up early, ready for our new adventure. I will try to keep you posted on the happenings of this day!
Now I know why Ben said not to try to go to Cambodia until we were well rested. He gave me a set of directions that was several pages long on exactly how to go about going to Cambodia. If only he had been with me! It is not that we didn’t have a good trip, it is just that everybody and their brother looks at you and thinks “rich American” and tries to get every bit of your hard earned money away from you! They did manage to get a lot of extra money from me, even though I tried to follow Ben’s directions.
The difference from Thailand to Cambodia is amazing. Thailand is modern and pretty well off. There are lots of really nice cars and fancy busses and houses. The people all carry cell phones and dress well. Cambodia on the other hand looks really poor in comparison. The people seem to be mostly farmers. We saw plastic tarps laid out on the ground next to the road in peoples yards covered with rice that they had just harvested. A lot of the houses are up on stilts. The country is very flat with an occasional hill sticking up in the middle of nowhere. There are lots of coconut trees, and banana trees. It looks like the perfect place to grow things.
It is not nearly as hot as I was expecting, and the humidity is not as bad either, although it does make you feel sticky. It reminds me of Texas or Arizona. There are not as many cars here, but way more motor bikes, and lots of Tuktuks. Everything looks very poor, until we got into Siem Reap. Coming in to town there are huge, very fancy hotels lining the road. I was told that this is a popular tourist destination. But, on the other side of town, the road was very bad, and there were no fancy places at all. It looked like the third world country that it is. Tim told us that the road had just washed out due to the flooding that they had a few weeks ago. The road coming to the school was certainly not a disappointment, it was just what I would expect in Asia, including wayward cows, scrawny chickens, dirty children, brave motor bike riders, and one old rickety missionary truck! ( Tim said that he would fix the truck when something actually falls off of it instead of just sounding like it is falling apart. )