We started the long journey to Bangkok with a minibus ride to the Thai - Cambodian border at Koh Krong. (We had chosen the southern route as we had been to Ankor Wat before.) The ride was in a 12 seater minibus - except that there were19 people inside and 1 on the roof - plus lots of luggage. The drive was spectacular - along a new road that went through the national park. There were adverts saying that the park had wild elephants, tiger and deer - needless to say we saw nothing just lots of nice scenery with rivers through the jungle. We arrived in Koh Krong to be met by lots of motor bike riders saying they would take us to the Thai border. 'No we have an agreement with the minibus driver to take us there' was our response. 'No you don't' was their response. We just politely declined, they were insistent and the driver just smiled. However after eventually dropping everybody else off, the driver drove the 7km to the border.
For the Thai immigration, we had prepared ourselves with copies of exit plane tickets following our discussions with the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, if you fly in and out you are given a 30 day visa but only 15 overland. However, when we got our visa, we only got 15 days despite pointing out the advice from Phnom Penh and pleading - rules were rules he said and the embassy in Phnom Penh was wrong. This means we will have to get an extension to the visa at great expense.
We arrived in Trat mid-afternoon and were taking an overnight break here. It was a nice little town with a very lively night market. Thailand seems a world away from Cambodia and Vietnam - good roads, driving on the left, no old overloaded vehicles, much less poverty and clearly more money around.
We left Trat for Bangkok at 8:00 the next day on the express bus. Some things don't change - the bus seemed to be very slow and still stopped frequently to pick up more passengers. After 5 ½ hours we reached the outskirts of Bangkok and the bus pulled over, the engine stopped and the driver looked into the engine compartment and was worried. All this way and our 1st breakdown. It didn't hold us up too much as another bus arrived fairly quickly (already full with passengers) that took us to the depot and a replacement bus. We were due to meet Victoria and Dawn (Victoria's friend) in Bangkok this afternoon. We arrived at the hotel at the time her flight was supposed to land. As we waited, we got frantic text messages and calls as the taxi driver had dumped them at the wrong hotel and they couldn't work out where they were or where they were going. (all this despite having detailed instructions and maps). She has her mother's directional genes! At least she had the sense to get herself to the metro station where we could meet them.