From border to border

So, this is the longest trip I have ever been. 6 countries in 13 days. Due to my jobless life, I could have the trip as long as I want 🙂 This kind of trip I have never been before. Doing a trip only with my brother is a luxury thing for me. As the youngest member of the family and having 5-12 years gap with the oldest made us living a life which we rarely collide each other. Jaman Ayah & Ibu saya baru punya 1 atau 2 anak mungkin frekuensi liburannya masih sering, seperti kebanyakan keluarga lainnya. Ketika lahir anak ke-3 frekuensinya mungkin sudah berkurang karena bawa 3 anak dalam sebuah perjalanan pastilah bukan hal yang mudah. Apalagi partner perjalanannya seperti Ayah. Haha. Dan giliran saya lahir sebagai anak ke-4, as long as I can remember, a holiday with full team only happened a few times. We’re not getting younger, that’s why having a great memories with your family is extremely important.

I think a lot of people doing the trip only with their friends rather than with their family, and each person has their own reason. I did the same thing too. This idea suddenly came up from my brother. Realizing that we rarely having moment together, so why not we doing the trip together? I said yes right away of course!

The process of making the itinerary is my favorite part. Doing a lot of research about the hotel, transportation, destination, food,  wondering what we’re going to do when we get there. It took days, even weeks, cause this idea came up a few months before the trip was happening, so we have a lot of time for preparation. This trip should be a great memory, so let’s not waste it with lack of preparation.

The trip was started after I watched Coldplay concert in Singapore on 31st of March 2017. I only bought one way trip flight to Singapore in the beginning. At that moment I don’t really plan how will I get back. Based on my previous experience, the trip will be much more interesting if we arrived and departed from different city. So you can continuing your journey without spending more time going back to the place where you arrive in the first place.

Tips: buy only one way trip flight then decide where you want to go next

Our goal is experiencing the land border between the countries. Later on we will compare it to Indonesian border. As a representative of a country, the border crossing having an important role. We could (at least) predict how the country situation based on the border (not only the building but also the officers). And along the trip I saw many interesting things in the border.

Singapore to Penang (727 km)

sg-penang

Using bus from Golden Mile Complex to Penang during weekend is such a long road. Based on the schedule on the web the trip will take about 10 hours, but in fact we’re in the bus for 13 hours! It’s because long queue in the border and also bad bus arrangement. Better booked online in the first place to get the lowest price and the best bus provider cause the one that we got (Qistna) is not recommended at all. Even though we’re arrived at the border around 9 PM, the queue is still long but I bet it is better than noon. It’s a 24 hours border so we don’t have to worry waiting in the border.

Arrived in Penang, we stopped at Butterworth Bus terminal then continuing using Ferry to the mainland. Very cheap! only RM 1,20 and took about 20 minutes but there’s no ETA so if you’re in a hurry it would not be a good suggestion. We’re using airbnb because we’re not gonna spend the night in here. Thanks to UBER, it make my trip this time much better! No need to worry how to get here and there, just order UBER and voila! I’m enjoying my quick visit in Penang.

 Lucky me, my travel partner is a great photographer. So I don’t need my tongsis or my tripod. He will capture the moment every single step that we made even before I ask. The best thing in life are not things, they are moments.

Penang to Ho Chi Minh

Took a night bus to KLIA then catch the first flight heading to Ho Chi Minh and arrived around 8.30 A.M. Welcome to Vietnam! When you walking out from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, beware of the scam! If you want to keep your budget low, look for a bus which stand by across the exit gate. Tell them where you want to go then pay for 20.000 VND. This bus provide free wifi, yeay!

Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh (280 km)

After having the signature dish of Vietnam, Pho, as our lunch, we’re ready to hit the road! Took a mekong express bus to Phnom Penh (USD 26/person), departed at 1 PM and arrived around 8 PM at the hotel in Phnom Penh. Mekong Express is a reliable company. I took this bus a few years ago and now they provide WIFI on the bus!

One of the border between Vietnam and Cambodia is Moc Bai (Vietnam side). When we got there, the building was under construction so the “office” should move to a dirty and super hot hanggar. As an ASEAN citizen, we’re suppose to be free to enter any ASEAN countries, but in fact, we have to pay USD 1 as a “stamp fee”. On the Cambodia side, called Bavet crossing border, we also pay the same amount to get the stamp. It’s a small building but not so bad. Outside the exit gate you can buy local sim card only for $2.

This day is a fancy day for me. Have a breakfast in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), lunch in Vietnam(Ho Chi Minh) and dinner in Cambodia (Phnom Penh). I feel so awesome!Haha..

kl-viet

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (321 km)

Originally we’ve plan to go to Siem Reap direct from Ho Chi Minh using night bus. But after doing some research what I found about night trip in Cambodian road is not safe. It’s kinda make sense since along my daylight trip I don’t see enough light facilities along the road. Yet the road quite small for big bus. So to be safe, I rather spend the night at the hostel and have a proper sleep before continuing the trip. Safety come first!

Yang menarik dari pariwisata Kamboja adalah simbiosis mutualisme antara bus provider dan supir tuktuk. Semua penumpang turun di tempat yang sama dimana para supir tuktuk sudah menunggu untuk mengantar para penumpang ke tempat tujuan masing-masing. Koordinasinya pun cukup baik. Ga ada istilah rebutan penumpang karena sudah diatur oleh petugas. Harga udah ditentukan dan semua bayar di muka, jadi semuanya clear. Biasanya, once kita dapet supir tuktuk bisa jadi selama kita di Kamboja kita bisa dianter kemana-mana sama dia. Disinilah kenapa mereka “harus” ramah. Harga sewa per hari sekitar 18-25 USD, tergantung dari tujuan dan waktu sewa. Sedangkan kalo cuma drop off ke 1 tempat biasanya 3-4 USD. Kalo supir tuktuknya berhasil bikin deal sama penumpangnya, means dia udah ada jaminan kalo besok dia bakal dapet duit. Nice, right? Nah kebayang kan kalo ga ramah, penumpang juga males kali sewa dia seharian. Being friendly and negotiation skill is a must!

Cambodia using USD as their currency as well as their local (Cambodian Riel). $1 = 4000 Riel. BUT, USD coins are useless in here. If it’s less than $1, they’re going to convert into local currency

Stay in Onederz Hostel, great place to stay. Located next to night market, great service, they even have rooftop pool! I love their lobby which always full of guests. So if you bored you can just hang out here and talk to the strangers. Highly recommended!

Angkor Wat, the largest complex religious monument in the world, become the main destination of any tourist who come to Siem Reap. Joining Angkor Wat sunrise tour is a good way to explore. This is my second time visiting the magic place. Bedanya, dulu harga tiket masuknya masih $20/day, tapi mulai pertengahan tahun 2016 harganya naik hampir 2x lipat $37/day. Kenapa harganya per day? Karena mereka menyediakan tiket terusan untuk 3 hari kunjungan dengan biaya $62. Emang ngapain aja sampe 3 hari? Luasnya aja sekitar 400 km2 dan ada puluhan candi di dalamnya, jadi kalo mau explore satu per satu bisa sampe 3 hari. Mungkin ada yang mau coba? Saya sih cukup 6 jam aja keliling-keliling Angkor Wat, itu aja udah gempor!

 

Since Angkor Wat is a world heritage site, so I guess it’s really worth to see. Tracking back to the past where life is not as easy as it now, witnessing the masterpiece of the history, made me more appreciate world’s history and things that I have now. Indonesia also have Prambanan and Borobudur temple (include in 7 wonders) which also have a great story behind it.

Siem Reap to Pakse (530 km)

cam-lao-thai

Finished with Angkor Wat, next destination is a city called Pakse in Lao PDR (People Democratic Republic). This is my first time entering Lao. Based on my research getting into this country by flight from Cambodia is very expensive (approximately) IDR 3 million by Bangkok Airways. I couldn’t find low cost airlines entering any city in Lao, so my last option is crossing overland. Penasaran juga sih pengen tau kaya apa kotanya. Mengingat negara komunis ini baru membuka diri terhadap asing sejak tahun 2004. Pengennya sih liat ibu kotanya, Vientiane, tapi karena keterbatasan waktu akhirnya cuma bisa sampe Pakse which is one of the closest city to the border. Not main tourist destination but this city could be good for transit before next destination.

We’ve spent 12 hours on the road to reach Pakse. It is include 2 hours break at Stung Treng, the last spot before border to Lao. This trip is quite crazy. Pergi jam 8 pagi, menempuh 4 jam perjalanan dengan mobil minivan warna putih yang kalo diliat dari depan berlogo Mercy. Tapi rupanya si mobil tidak dalam kondisi terbaiknya karena si supir berulang kali memukul-mukul speedometer, berharap si mesin ga overheat. Curiga sih logo mobilnya cuma sekedar tempelan. Haha. Setelah 4 jam kita sampe di sebuah daerah bernama Stung Treng, break makan siang dan nunggu mobil lainnya menuju perbatasan. Penumpang yang berada satu mobil dengan saya ternyata punya tujuan yang berbeda-beda, ga semuanya turun di Pakse tapi “searah” dengan Pakse. Jadi nantinya si mobil akan mengantarkan para penumpang satu per satu sesuai tujuan. Ini yang bikin perjalanan jadi lama. Kita pikir, seperti kebanyakan travel lainnya, untuk mencapai di tempat tujuan kita akan menggunakan mobil yang sama. But not this one, kita harus ganti beberapa kali, karena mobil yang melewati perbatasan biayanya cukup mahal. Jadi mobil yang pertama, Siem Reap – Stung Treng. Mobil kedua : Stung Treng – perbatasan  Kamboja. Mobil ketiga : Lao border – Pakse.

Lao- Cambodia Border

Beberapa ratus meter dari perbatasan Kamboja ada warung kecil dimana kita bisa isi form yang harus disubmit di bagian imigrasi. Ga lupa mereka ngingetin untuk bayar $1 per paspor. Kita juga bisa tuker mata uang lokal Laos (KIP) di situ dengan rate $1 = 7000 KIP (normalnya sih $1 = 8000 KIP)

Ini border yang paling sepi! Kita malah sempet bingung cari pintu masuk kantor imigrasi saking ga ada orang yang bisa ditanya dan signing yang kurang jelas. Cuaca saat itu lagi super terik (mungkin sekitar 35 derajat celcius, dan kita harus berjalan melewati jalanan aspal sekitar 500 meter. Gedung imigrasinya terlihat seperti gedung baru (entah baru dibangun apa baru direnovasi), not bad lah, cukup meyakinkan meski fasilitasnya minim.

DSC_2719
cambodian border
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no man’s land
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Lao border

Setelah selesai dari imigrasi Kamboja, kita harus berjalan kaki sekitar 600-700 meter untuk masuk imigrasi Laos. Literally passing through “no man’s land’ for 5 minutes. Saking sepinya tentu ga pake acara ngantri, bahkan ga pake acara cek barang pake X-ray. Alatnya aja ga ada!  Setelah beres, another white van already waiting for us. Bodohnya karena saya pikir akan menggunakan mobil yang sama, jadi 2 botol minum sengaja saya tinggal di mobil sebelumnya. Untungnya cuma botol minum sih bukan barang penting.

Finally we arrived at Pakse. Kota dengan gedung-gedung tua yang ga terlalu banyak penduduknya. Sepi padahal baru jam 8 malem. Bahkan di jalanan utama nya pun ga banyak mobil yang lewat. Kita langsung check in hotel yang ternyata hotel tua, Alisa guesthouse. To be honest, I don’t really like it. Tapi berhubung cuma sekedar numpang tidur semalem jadi ya sudahlah. Untungnya ga jauh dari hotel ada restoran halal jadi gampang kalo mau makan.

Pakse to Ubon Ratchatani (134 km)

After Lao, we want to go to Thai, and the easiest way is crossing through Ubon Ratchatani (the closest city from Pakse). Using bus provided by Thai government which actually served from Pakse to Bangkok (15 hours trip overland and only 1,5 hours by flight). But on that day, the bus schedule is Pakse to Ubon only (2,5 hours). Arrive at Ubon Ratchatani’s bus terminal at noon then we’re heading to Ubon’s airport using taxi to fly to Bangkok. We’ve decided to have lunch at the airport, even though our flight is still 5 hours away. We don’t know where to go and we decide to wait at the airport. You know what? the airport is so small and there’s no proper restaurant to have lunch. They only have coffee shop and stalls selling snacks. We’re starving! We skipped lunch and can’t wait to have a proper dinner in Bangkok.

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Found an interesting thing when we got to the airport. An exhibition about world on a bike. What a crazy story!!

It’s Wan and Mou, the first Thai couple to cycle around the world – Thailand’s world diplomats on two wheels. Wan Orawan Hauwadhanasul Othong and Mou Charoen Othong, are a love story of a city girl with a regular bloke from Thailand’s south, both set out hiking together and fell in love. Inspired by the round the world solo pilot – Tom Claytor, Wan and Mou set out a plan to cycle around the world. For 5 years 11 months and 1 day, they cycled through 43 countries in 6 continents, covering more than 40,000 kilometers. Starting in Asia and ending in Asia, they set out in Bangkok Thailand in 2001 along the southern peninsula to Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, New Zealand. The route was picked across the world’s southern hemisphere in Chile (2002), South America, to Mexico and North America then Africa, Europe and then back to Asia, ending with a welcoming home ceremony at the Thai-Cambodia border in 2007.

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HELLO AGAIN, BANGKOK!

Spending weekend on Bangkok, the main destination must be Jatujak weekend market. When I got there, the previous day was Coldplay concert in Bangkok, so many people went to Jatujak wearing the Coldplay t-shirt, I guess either they really want to shopping or just killing time before catching the flight. Spending a day in Jatujak is never boring, exhausting but interesting.

No temple tour this time. We rather go to Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) which only few steps away from our favorite place to stay in Bangkok, Chao Hostel. We really enjoy our time walking around BACC. Great building, quite and clean. They have a lot of workshop held weekly. I am not a big fan of art, but I like what I saw in here. From what I heard, the previous King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, really into photography, that’s why Bangkok has a great building for photography exhibition.

Few times visiting Bangkok, usually I only using the BTS (Bangkok Train Sky) but this time I want to try using the MRT. Turns out it is less crowd. I stopped at Hua Lamphong station (the railway station) to continue the journey using the train. And again, I didn’t make any online booking and it caused me a little bit hard to find the ticket. Due to Songkran holiday ahead (which I’m not aware about it), the train ticket that I want is full booked. Airplane is not an option due to high price. Beside, I really want to have an experience using this sleeper train since Indonesia doesn’t have it. Anyway, I love Hua Lamphong train station. They have a ticket office for foreigners. So it’s easier for the non-thai tourist to communicate and get the ticket that we need. The office was quite busy, many foreigner looking for the ticket but they only have 2 officers. I keep asking them about the ticket from Bangkok to Hatyai, and finally after 30 minutes waiting suddenly 2 tickets available. Yeay, it’s our lucky day! Fiuh..

bkk hatyai

And here we go..18 hours journey by train from Bangkok to Hatyai (948 km)

It was fun though, watching what happened inside the train before and after dark. It was a regular chair on the afternoon, and magically become a bed after dark. I posted a video so you can see how it goes. The officer will do the magic thing, you don’t have to worry about it. You can see it here. Also, no worries about food, especially when you can eat everything. You’re gonna find a lot of food seller keep coming back and forth in the train. If you are Indonesian, ini semacam tukang jualan cangcimen (kacang kuaci permen) yang suka ada di bus antar kota, tapi jualannya cemilan lokal dan nasi plus lauk yang beragam. The train is safe though even many stranger selling their food, the train has cctv and the officer always standing by. Me and my brother were sleeping on the upper side, couldn’t see anything, really close with the air conditioner and it was freaking cold, even though I already wearing 2 blankets, a jacket, and socks. Oh ya, they provide you a pillow with a new sheet and a blanket which it sealed in a plastic before they served. Not a fancy one but not bad as well. It has a curtain each bed, so we still get our privacy. We really enjoying this trip. Hoping that Indonesia would have this kind of train one day.

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The journey supposed to be only 15 hours but the train keep stopping along the way so it got delayed for 3 hours. It caused me lost my bus ticket to my next destination cause I booked it online. Once I booked online, I couldn’t hop on to the bus because the train! Ugh! I thought Thai train was on time! 😦 Terpaksa deh beli lagi tiket bisnya.

Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur ( 531 km)

hatyai kl

Few hours from Hatyai, we’re entering Thailand border (Sadao Border & check point) then continuing to Malaysian border (Bukit Kayu Hitam custom & immigration).

Finished with the border, a few minutes later we’re having lunch break. Reaching Kuala Lumpur from Bukit Kayu Hitam needs 8 hours. So, we have lot of food to be eat along the way. One of the highlight during the trip, Malaysian toll road was fascinating. Very smooth, wide and no traffic at all. With a great view, especially when we’re passing Ipoh, we wouldn’t mind sitting in the bus for 8 hours. Another wish for Indonesia to have the toll road as great as Malaysia’s. Bayangin, mereka punya 12 negara bagian di daratan Malaysia Barat dan semua negara bagiannya terkoneksi dengan baik melalui infrastruktur yang sangat mendukung. Kalo negara sudah memfasilitasi dengan baik, bukankah pertumbuhan ekonomi idealnya akan jadi lebih cepat terjadi? Saya amaze aja, daratan sepanjang kurang lebih 826 km bisa terintegrasi dengan sangat baik. Kalo Malaysia bisa, harusnya Indonesia pun bisa!

Arrived at Kuala Lumpur, finally we can have a good rest in Container Hotel.

Finally, after 13 days, 6 countries, 10 cities, 3.471 km overland, it’s time to pack up the bags and flying back home. It’s been such an adventurous journey! I’ve been so grateful! Hope me and my brother (also with other siblings) will be able to have another adventurous journey ahead!

 

 

 

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