Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Siem Reap to Bangkok by bus

I know that when I was looking into traveling from Siem Reap to Bangkok by bus recently, there was very little information available that was less than a few years old. From my own experience I can tell you that the roads are a lot better than those posts make them out to be.

I also want to clarify something: it really does take nine hours however, this is divided up into three parts: sitting in a minibus in Cambodia, standing in line at immigration at the Thai boarder (for an hour and a half, maybe two hours), and sitting in a minibus in Thailand.

Honestly, it's not that bad. I even managed some sleep.

Here's what you do (#10 being the easies to mess up, in my opinion):

1. Ask your hostel owner! I was staying at a rather helpful hostel where I was able to book the entire thing without getting out of my PJs. Most hostels, I imagine, are equally as helpful (it's good business).
If your hostel owner doesn't have something set up himself, he'll know where they do.

2. Wake up at about 4:30AM, maybe earlier. Have snacks with you, because you won't have much of a chance to eat all day. Or even buy anything.

3. Get in a tuktuk sent by your bus company.

4. Chat with your future bus mates for a while while the guy who overslept gets dragged out of bed.

5. Watch in amazement as a small, impoverished Cambodian man somehow fits 15 bags in a cubic meter worth of trunk space.

6. Squish. As you get out of the van, a man will put a sticker on your shirt. Don't take it off (your shirt or the sticker).

7. Fill out a quick form and get it stamped. You have now exited Cambodia. That was the easy part.

8. Take that form to another building, where you will wait in line for what seems like an eternity without it moving. Then, suddenly, you will all be ushered into the building together to...
Continue waiting.

9. Get a quick stamp from a chubby Thai man and wonder what took so long for the line to move (I think this may have something to do with my ownership of an American passport: Them be rich people! No questions, move along!)

10. As you exit the immigration building, that sticker on your shirt will get you grabbed by a random dude who will tell you to wait in some random open space. You will then have to wait for every other person that was on your bus (regardless of how slow they were getting in line/how far behind you they are; I was first through immigration of my group, so I sat around for at least a half hour).

Be warned: the man whose job it is to spot the sticker on your shirt is LAZY. Keep an eye out for the people who were on your bus. One guy on my bus walked right past us, and if we hadn't literally run after him, he would have wandered off, and likely would have never found us again.

11. Be put on another bus before you are given any time to buy anything to eat.

12. About three an a half hours later, arrive in Bangkok.

13. Enjoy your stay!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Travelers' Itch

As someone who considers herself a traveler, I relish the ability to see new things and explore REALLY old things, travel to off-the-beaten track gems, or take in a well-known-for-a-reason hotspot, but Cheongju is not any of those things. It has its charms, and as far as teaching in Korea goes, it's a great place to save money, and it's even really central so you can go anywhere you like in three hours or less.
For me, however, that doesn't help so much. There is nothing new to see here after a couple months, there is certainly nothing particularly old here (or really in Korea, it's all been destroyed), and while not many tourists come to Korea (and thus it's a bit off the beaten track), in my opinion it's for a reason.
Because of this, I've been thinking: I need to get out of here. Or, at least part of me does.
Many people are drawn to Korean culture, to Korean food, to Korean language, history, or any of a number of other things which are distinct about this country. Still more are drawn in by the pay, especially for the inexperienced. Nowhere else in the world, that I've seen, can a fresh-out-of-uni teacher save so much money while going out every weekend, traveling when possible, and generally living a middle-class life on their own.
*One exception may be Saudi Arabia, but the lifestyle mentioned would not apply there.
To me, the major bonus of being an expat is immersing oneself in an awesome culture, and Korea is just not a place that appeals to me in that way.
Don't get me wrong, the money is great. For someone just out of university, the ability to actually build myself a savings is not something I take for granted in this economy.If possible, I would stay here for a few months past my year contract to save up some more $$$, but once I have a bit of padding I'm moving on to greener pastures.
Where are these greener pastures? you ask. On the other side of the fence, of course. Honestly, I know that everywhere looks better than here right now because where I am is here, right now. There has to be some way to choose, though, and so I've been doing some thinking.
Right now, number one on the list is Turkey, specifically Istanbul. For me, the culture is much more intriguing, the history much richer (and still visible), and I've heard some great things about it.The money is the worst in Istanbul when compared to elsewhere in the country, but I'm hoping that with a year of experience under my belt I'll be able to get a better-paying job. Still, the thought of not being able to save money is not so exciting. Other blogs I read discuss the lack of savings.
At this point, I really don't know what I'll be doing at the end of this contract. Five months is a long time. Part of me wants to stay to get the money in the bank, but I feel like I've been in Korea long enough to know that its not for me.
Hopefully I will be able to achieve the while-in-Korea goals I had set for myself before this year is up, but as much as I would hate to not meet my goals, that wouldn't keep me here.
And I just keep daydreaming of getting back to the Middle East!