With my heart full of joy from my elephant time, we headed back to Bangkok to pick up our visas for Vietnam and try to figure out how to spend the rest of our month in Southeast Asia.
The train ride south was one of the more pleasant 15-hour journeys I’ve enjoyed.
The scenery along the way was beautiful, and the drop down beds were surprisingly comfortable. I liked settling into my own little cave for the night. (Let’s get real. I felt like a hobbit, which made my heart burst with hobbit and elephant joy.) I also loved that when they played the national anthem around 8 p.m., everyone stopped what they were doing, stood, and sang along. The song ended and the world around me resumed.
We got out of the train station and easily found our way to our hostel, the aptly named Cozy Bangkok Hostel, where our room was ready even though it was hours before check in.
The parade and events honoring the king meant we hadn’t been to some of the tourist stops on our last pass, so we planned to check out the palace and then wander with a friend from the hostel. But it turns out the palace is pretty expensive in comparison to other exhibits, so we just took a photo outside and called it a day.
Plus, the coolest thing we saw in Bangkok was the reclining Buddha, which was just big, and wow.
The most important thing was we needed to get to the Vietnam Embassy to pick up visas between 4 and 5 pm. No earlier, no later.
Susan wasn’t feeling well, so I grabbed a motor bike taxi and headed over on my own. I checked the price, gave the driver the address, and then held on tight. Zipping in and out of traffic was simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I loved it.
He dropped me off at the embassy. I picked up our passports after a bit of a wait, double checked all the dates and info, and spent the evening exploring before heading back to the hostel.
I had planned to try to make it to a Couchsurfing meet up, but instead, we spent several hours chatting with a woman at our hostel who was on her way back to the UK after spending a year teaching English in Cambodia.
We had just sat down to try to come up with a general plan, since the original fell apart on day one. (A loose plan at least, since post-Peace Corps me is way more game to just wing it.)
Anne heard us talking about possibilities and in the end, she helped us design the next several weeks, starting with Cambodia.
She had recommendations for sites, food, beer, and contact info for the best tuk tuk driver in town, who had been a student in her adult classes. And then Anne went a step beyond and introduced us to another Peace Corps Volunteer who happened to be at the hostel too.
He was about to start his third year in the Philippines, and was taking his extendee leave. (Peace Corps pays for a trip home for a month if you sign up for an extra year.)
It was fun to compare posts, food, families, and like classic PCVs, we were on poop stories within 15 minutes.
Just before midnight we remembered that we had to be back at the train station around 5 a.m., so we wished him luck and finished repacking for the next country. Next stop, Siem Reap in Cambodia.