First class cinemas and an overnight bus

One of the things I am learning about travel is that there’s more to a country than the usual guide book destinations. Countries modernise and change over time. Cycle rickshaws are replaced by car taxies. Street stalls are replaced by coffee shops. Crowded buses are replaced with budget airlines. And airconditioned shopping malls are built.

While we enjoyed the islands and beaches of Phuket, after just three nights we are missing Bangkok and places that feel more like the “real” Thailand. We can’t get a cheap flight back to the capital so decide to experience an overnight bus. But that means we have a day to kill while carrying around our backpacks. There is a shopping mall not far from Phuket Town so we catch a songtow up there to hang out in the Temple of Air Conditioning.

After my wonderful cinema experience in Indonesia, I am keen to check out what the cinema is like here in Thailand. American Sniper is showing in the first class cinema. I had read about these first class Thai cinemas online so we decided to pay the 700 baht ($25) each to experience modern Thailand. And what an experience it was. The pre-movie lounge offered mocktails and canapes. We were given delicious salty popcorn (you could also chose sweet popcorn) and a drink inside the cinema. The seats inside the cinema were plush and reclined right back. And did I mention that they give you a blanket. The funniest part of the experience was when the King’s song was played before the movie. Everyone has to stand up. It’s a rather odd experience for me but hey, when in Thailand.

American Sniper was an interesting movie. It was very American and raised some interesting points about war, soldiers and how we define heroes in today’s society. I am not going to much more about it because it’s a topic that creates much tension and conflict between people. But let’s just say that I am not an American and that colours my view of the film.

After our trip to the cinema and some dinner it was time to head to the bus station. Bus Station 2 is quite a way from Phuket Town and the major beaches. We took a taxi there but you can catch a songtow from Bus Station 1 there too. While taxis can add up for travellers who use them frequently, they are relatively cheap compared with taxis in Australia. And we only use them when we really need to, preferring to walk almost everywhere we go. So, for the convenience of knowing that we will be at our bus on time and in comfort, we catch a taxi.

I’ve been admiring the big luxury VIP buses that get around Thailand. They look amazing from the outside so I mentioned a few days ago to Paul that I want to go in one, even if just for a short trip. Well, here we are now at the bus station ready to board such a beast. And it really is not such a bad way to travel. The seats recline all the way back, you are given plenty of food and beverages during the trip, there’s a blanket for warmth and they dim the lights so you can sleep. There are even two or three scheduled stops along the Phuket – Bangkok route so you can stretch your legs and use the bathrooms. We watched some more episodes of Game of Thrones that I had uploaded onto my laptop from iTunes and both fell asleep, waking on time to see the sun rising over Bangkok. Another tick on my list of desires done.

The bus station in Bangkok is a long way from the city. And it cost us almost 300 baht in a taxi (with meter) to get there. The traffic at 8am was terrible and we sat still for much of the drive (and the taxi driver dropped us off about 2km from our hotel because he didn’t know where it was or was too lazy to try). In hindsight, we should have asked the taxi to take us to the Thonburi Station ferry terminal and caught a ferry into the city from there but that’s one of the things you learn with experience. And now we have also experienced Bangkok’s infamous traffic (which actually is not so bad given that we are from Brisbane where commuter traffic sits still for the last 30km into the city from each direction every morning).

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