Investigating Aranyaprathet, Thailand

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
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53
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Trip End Dec 15, 2005


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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The bus system in Thailand works rather well. I'm not sure exactly the inner workings other than if you can pronounce the name of the city you are going to, you will be fine. The stations are basically a bunch of parking spaces with a covered building nearby. We just tell someone who looks like they aren't a passenger where we are going, and they tell us which bus to look for. In fact, most of the busses have marked on the side which cities they run in between anyways. In this fashion, we made our way across 2 busses from Korat to the border town of Aran.

The border town we are in has a longer name (Aranyaprathet) but all of the buildings here just say "Aran", so I will call it Aran as well. Other than the block-sized Phi Phi Island, Aran is the first city I've been to without a McDonalds. If I wanted to live in a small Asian town, Aran is most what I would want it to be like. The streets are modestly quiet in the sense that "tons o cars" haven't reached here yet. Most of the people here seem friendly with only a smattering of tuk tuk's here and there. Most of all, I see children all over the place here.

It seems like an actual community instead of just another city. The bus 'station' and hotel are located at one corner of the town, and I walked more or less diagonally across it to the other side. Using a strategy of taking the smaller road first, I found some really back areas of the town where I even found someone picking through the trash (first time in Thailand). I found a school with a large field that kids were playing basketball and soccer on. I didn't venture any further into it because it seemed like I was at a gate and I don't like the idea of the only white guy in town wandering into a school yard. Speaking of which, it has been nearly 3 days since I've seen a non-Thai out on the streets. These towns have nearly no tourism and thus I get a lot of stares, mostly from children. Unlike their parents who look away when I return the glance, children will lock on and just bug eye me. Some of the boys say 'hello' as they go past on motorbikes or in the back of pickups.

The only sign of the outside is the scattered 7-elevens in town. For our first dinner we went next door where we had some good Thai food cooked up for cheap. Later that night, we found an interested nook to eat not far from our place. The man was so busy he only made it to our table after 10 minutes, and then only once after to drop the food and get the money. I had a beef-macaroni type of dinner. It was a welcome surprise to me that he had no struggle with English and it was clear he had not lived in this town his entire life. Very few people since Malaysia have spoken English without a significant effort. I'm afraid Cambodia will be worse, but we'll mainly be in the heavily tourist Angkor area.

Tomorrow we will take a tuk tuk to the border and walk across. From our research, the best method from there is to take a government controlled share-taxi into Siem Reap, the town nearest to Angkor Wat. Our 2 previous friends with whom we seperated are flying in and we should meet up with them around dinner time. From what we've read, US currency may be the most accepted currency in the places we're headed. Both the Visa and the hotel price we've read about were quoted in dollars. I'm not sure how in the world I am to withdraw US dollars from a US account outside of the US, but I'll probably just rely on converting my Baht back to dollars. Nothing like taking a hit twice. I do have a couple hundred notes that I may drop on the Visa. I've been trying to get rid of them the entire trip but so far nobody has been interested (well, they would have been but I haven't been buying motorbikes).
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