Day 361 – Tuesday April 15, 2008 – Bangkok, Thailand
After reading online about the problems people encounter at the Thailand/Cambodia border at Poipet, we decided that it would be better to get our Cambodian visas ahead of time instead of just showing up and getting them there. To find the Cambodian embassy’s location, I looked at our guidebook and did a quick search online to confirm the information. Everywhere I looked listed the same address, so we were quite confident upon setting out. Thanks to a map in our guide book, I figured the embassy to be a thirty minute walk away. Better yet, it was in a part of the city we hadn’t seen yet, giving us even more incentive to walk.
Before setting out on our trip to the embassy, we shot over to the MBK Center mall across the way from our hotel to get some passport sized photos taken for the visa. Just outside the mall, we took a few minutes to watch passersby leave tributes at the outdoor shrine before getting our photos taken inside. Luckily the process from beginning to end was very quick, although the photo processor did a lot of airbrushing. While it was nice to look pretty, I don’t think altering the way you look is smart in a visa photo!
The walk from the MBK Center to the Cambodian Embassy location took a little longer than I had thought and the fact that 90% of the route ran beside a skytrain line didn’t help either. Despite our frustration, the walk wasn’t too bad, even given the heat. (Around 36 degrees Celsius with 70% Humidity) After passing the street several times and then asking a door man from an adjacent hotel complex if he knew where the embassy was, we found out that it had moved.
When the door man told us the bad news I still had to go see for myself, so we walked over to the area where the embassy was supposedly located. We even saw an official street sign that read “Royal Cambodian Embassy” with an arrow pointing to where we were standing. Unfortunately, all we saw was a rather run down old building and no embassy.
Dispirited, we hailed a cab for the five minute drive back to the hotel. I did some more research and still didn’t find a new address for the embassy, so we decided to pursue another option, the E-Visa. You might be thinking to yourself, “Why didn’t they just get an E-Visa in the first place?” Well, I wanted to have the visa in my passport as a memento. Had the embassy been difficult to get to or far away, we would have just done the E-Visa, but it appeared to be close, so we tried for the normal version.
The E-Visa process was rather simple as the Cambodians have a top notch visa processing website. (Not to be confused with their embassy’s website which didn’t load!) It took me an hour to take our photos, resize them and upload them to their website. Once that had been completed, I filled in some information and was told it could take up to three days to process.
With that bit of business taken care of, we decided to visit Chinatown in an effort to stay away from the water gun toting maniacs that were still all over the city. At the hotel we asked the receptionist to write Chinatown in Thai so there wouldn’t be any confusion with the driver. This worked out great and the cab dropped us off on a busy street in Chinatown.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is usually a bustling traffic and smog filled part of the city. On our visit, we didn’t find much sign of this, probably due to the holiday. This part of the city is home to several markets that are set up along small lanes and back alleys. While many of the street vendors were open for business, almost all of the shops in these markets were closed for the Songkran Festival.
Perhaps the most interesting places we found in Chinatown were the Chinese and Buddhist Temples that are scattered along just about every block. Passing one of the Buddhist Wats, I saw a group of young monks pinning money to a tree. For a moment one of them peered back and smiled at me. This was enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
As we wound our ways through Chinatown’s confusing streets, the three of us were careful to dodge the crowds of crazy partiers. On just about every street corner we saw groups of kids and adults sitting around waiting with buckets of water to throw on people and the occasional tuk tuk that passed by. Today we just didn’t want to get soaked. On one street we passed a group of drunk college aged men who demanded I take their picture. At first I resisted, but they threatened to drench me if I didn’t, so I gave in.
We spent nearly two hours enjoying the almost serene Chinatown. While we won’t get a change to revisit it on this trip, I hope to maybe come on another day when we return to Bangkok, so that we can get a feel for the full character of the place. For some reason a quiet and peaceful Chinatown just doesn’t seem right.
Following Chinatown we headed back to the hotel for a night of relaxation. Wednesday was going to be a day of indulging that roller coaster itch that I get so frequently and we wanted to have plenty of energy. All in all, Tuesday was just another typical day of travel. We took care of some business and did some sightseeing. No more and no less.
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The Coomer Family