AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Nong Khai to Manila

The train left Nong Khai at 18:15. We had arrived at the station early and spent almost an hour sitting in the carriage. Each carriage sleeps about 36, but for most of the time there was only about 6 other people in the carriage. Lucky us we were thinking, a nice peaceful journey back to Bangkok. Only one thing disturbed us as we sat waiting to depart and that was an overwhelming stench of super strong pee. Someone had been to the toilet and left the door open just a crack, that was enough for the truly horrible smell to make its way down the carriage.

Minutes before the train was due to leave a large group of Japanese tourists appeared on the platform, we could hear them through the sealed window. They personified chaos and confusion. We immediately had a gut feeling they were going to be in our carriage and sure enough they made their way down the platform towards us. The noise they made when they entered the carriage was deafening, they talk at about the same volume we shout at. The kids just ran riot, they climbed on every surface, swung on everything they could, pulled every curtain near them, jumped on the seats and ran around. And shouted too! Great! Luckily they went to sleep after a couple of hours and were no more trouble.

Unfortunately, yet again neither of us slept properly and we arrived in Bangkok at 06:30 feeling tired, sweaty and sticky (spending the day sightseeing then taking the overnight train without having a shower is a recipe for bad smells).

Getting to the hotel was easy, the MRT links the train station with the Skytrain in Sukhumvit. We had booked a hotel about a 1 minute walk from the MRT station. Unfortunately the road around the station had been blocked by protestors as had the walkways over the road. This made the route slightly longer to the hotel, maybe 2 minutes instead of 1. At 7am there were very few people around anyway so wandering through the protest area with huge rucksacks wasn’t an issue.

The hotel told us we couldn’t have the room until 2pm, so with everywhere still closed and lack of sleep kicking in we just sat on the sofa in reception. Annemarie started to doze off and I sat reading the news on my phone. After 45 minutes either the receptionist felt sorry for us, or the sight and smell repulsed her and she gave us a room. The catch was the room was at the front of the hotel, in the direction of the protestors. In the short term this was fine and we were able to grab a quick shower and a few hours sleep.

The rest of the day consisted of going to a great English pub to have a full English breakfast. (Surprisingly, the English breakfast is the only meal from home that we have eaten on this trip, and we’ve had quite a few of them during the first 3 months of travelling). The breakfast is amazing, for about £3.80 you get a huge plate full of food, enough to last most of the day without wanting any more food. We then went to the shopping centers (Paragon and Center) to buy shorts and T-shirts, both of which we need more of as the weather has just got a lot hotter and we can’t get away with wearing the same clothes for as long when sweating this much.

The next morning we took the Airport Link directly to the airport. This kind of public transport is great, air conditioned, quiet and cheap, the perfect way in and out of the city. The airport was good, getting through security and passport checks took 10 minutes, the fastest of any airport we’ve been to. We ate a sandwich (6″ sub) and some chocolate before boarding the plane because we weren’t sure if there was going to be any food on the plane (the flight was only 3 hours).

The plane was an Airbus A340 operated by Kuwait Airways. Annemarie has now developed a fear of flying, mostly due to a really bad flight back from New Zealand a few years ago, but on this flight she was pretty calm. I think it was because this was a big plane so it was quieter and smoother on take off. And the flight was very smooth which also helped. The poor guy sitting next to Annemarie (in the middle of the set of 4 seats) was absolutely terrified though. He was shaking, really badly, for the whole flight! He could hardly fill out the immigration and customs form or eat the meal. I’ve never seen someone shaking that badly before. But credit to him, he did it. The only bad bit about the flight was the food, everything except the salad and the drink was horrible. Another reason why we usually eat before or just after flying. After just over 3 hours we landed in Manila. The flight was very good, so smooth and quiet.

We had a taxi arranged to collect us at the airport and take us to our hotel. Unfortunately, he didn’t know where the hotel was and getting lost in downtown Manila is a very bad situation. The center is full of one way systems and is usually gridlocked. It took a while but he finally found the hotel with the help of many locals. That was when we discovered the hotel was in a very bad area. I hadn’t read all the reviews and the location I’d seen had been inaccurate. We were in one of the poorest areas of the city.

The hotel itself was great. A decent room, well equipped, very clean and comfortable. On par with the best we have stayed in on the trip. But the location was so bad it wasn’t safe for us to walk around. Other reviews had mentioned about been mugged on the street, many reviews about pickpocketing. We ate in the hotel then booked another hotel for the following few nights with the plan of getting a taxi first thing in the morning to the next hotel. With the hotel booked and a plan for the next day we slept, first night in country number 12.

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