Originally I planned on leaving Siem Reap on Monday, April 4. I figured three days would be enough to get my fill of temples. After three days I wanted to see more temples but I also wanted to get started on my Thailand adventures so I booked a bus back to Bangkok. I booked the 8am bus to give myself some time to sleep in since I had a lot of early mornings. I was talking with a guy at the hostel and he said the 6am bus was better because it’s easier to get through the border earlier in the day. The last thing I wanted were problems getting back in to Thailand so I switched my bus to the earlier one.
The bus that picked us up was more of a glorified van than a bus, very different than the luxurious coach bus I arrived in. For the first leg of the trip, everyone pretty much fell asleep. Until the bus broke down an hour from the border. We had a bonding moment sitting on the side of the road while the driver looked at the motor and talked into his phone until another van came. They hitched up our broken van to the new van, and away we went. It reminded me of the time a year before when I was in the Philippines with my roommate Jessica and the boat for our island tour broke down so we had to hail a passing boat to tow us to the nearest island.
We got red stickers at the border so the people on the Thailand side would recognize us; the red sticker was our ticket for the Thailand part of the trip. Getting through immigration was really easy. The Cambodian immigration official took a long time looking at the passport of the person in front of me which made me nervous. However, I got through without a problem. I almost got lost on the road between the borders (there is sort of a no mans land from when you exit one country before you enter the other), I was turned around and almost started walking back into Cambodia before one of the other passengers pointed me in the correct direction. Entering Thailand was also a smooth process, they gave me the 30 day tourist visa without any hassle.
We all met up on the other side with our red stickers. The company loaded all eleven of us and our suitcases/backpacks onto a songtheaw which took us to a restaurant where we waited for our van. An hour or so later the van showed up. A few kilometers up the road from the border was a police checkpoint to check ifs and visas. The officer opened up the van door, we all waved and gave a cheery hello, they let us continue on our way. Most of us did not have any place booked in Bangkok so we ended up staying at the same hostel for the night. We were all going our separate ways in the morning. Three of the girls were headed to Koh Tao, same as me, and one of the guys had been to Koh Tao before Cambodia so he was able to point us to a reasonably priced travel agent. Everything worked out quite well.
Koh Tao, meaning turtle island in English, is the diving capital of the world. Scuba diving is cheaper there, and I heard they certify 1/3 of the world’s divers there. Needless to say, there are lots of diving options there. I knew I wanted to do my rescue certification and some fun dives but I didn’t know where. I asked one of the dive instructors from Mermaids (the dive shop I dive with in Pattaya), and he gave me the contact information of a dive instructor. She worked for a dive resort (a dive shop and bungalows to stay) called Crystal Dive. It took one phone call and she helped me set everything up.
The bus left at 6pm on Tuesday. It was an overnight bus but sleeping on a bus is uncomfortable, even if it is a cushy coach bus. The bus dropped us off at the pier at 4am, our ferry wasn’t until 7am. I ended up playing cards for three hours with some random people. We got to see a great sunrise. The ferry ride was three hours long, Koh Tao is about 30 kilometers from the mainland (so things are expensive there since it takes some effort to get them there).
Crystal Dive was a great place, their bungalows could use an update but I’ve seen worse. I met the instructor who I spoke with on the phone, she was a blast. She couldn’t have dinner with me that evening because she was having dinner with her boyfriend, but she passed me off to another dive instructor who showed me around a bit. I have yet to meet a dive instructor in Thailand who I don’t like; they’re friendly and have such interesting stories.