Transportation of Travel
Getting around Southeast Asia was surprisingly easy. I was expecting miserable chicken buses completely over packed with smelly people while finding myself trapped for hours without restrooms or on ferries which threatened to sink at any moment.
Thanks to movies and online narratives I had a vision of Asia as this impenetrable warren of street signs and transportation systems that would leave me lost, confused, isolated and at risk.
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Getting around, be it via regional buses or inside cities, was straight forward and cost-friendly. Add to that, the cheap price for a SIM with data, and the ability to track your location via GPS, and suddenly even the most daunting bus ride becomes straight forward. In truth, most horror stories from Southeast Asia likely result from one or two bad pockets. Chief among them? Bangkok’s tuk-tuk drivers and their gasoline stamp/suit shop stop scams or the “metered” taxi drivers that won’t make meter-based trips.
Even without a SIM, a cached version of the city with WiFi enabled + GPS tracking, is a great, if largely unnecessary, way to cross check where you are. Vehicles may be a bit run down and not the nicest, but in general are usually fully functional and decent.
One thing I loathe is long-duration bus trips. When it came to long-haul trips, I ultimately opted for several to save money. Some were up to 14 hours and included everything from buses to sleeper trains. In general, as deeply unpleasant as I found the long-haul runs, there was always still a functional restroom on board, the seats were clean, and the vehicles were in good shape. Some of the other long and mid-haul vehicles were super easy, clean, modern, and relatively spacious. For those where there wasn’t a bathroom on board a quick shout to the driver inevitably led to a restroom stop within a few minutes—something that a number of locals took advantage of.