The time had come to activate the next 90 days on my visa so on Thursday morning at 4.30am I jumped a GrabTaxi to Tesco Lotus at On Nut where a company called Thai Visa Service operate a daily run to Ban Laem on the Cambodian border.
I’ve used the company many times in the past as it’s cheap, hassle-free and the drivers aren’t (usually) part of a Wacky Races team.
The first two vans were full and off they went leaving the rest of us to wait on the backup arriving. Van man showed up about 5.10am. We took our seats, mine being in the front next to the driver, and waited to depart.
We waited and waited until finally at 6am we set off, almost an hour late, which meant van man had time to make up and he wasn’t messing about.
Lane hopping down an already busy Sukhumvit Road he almost took out an old lady who was taking her chances. I thought little of it knowing we’d be on the highway soon enough.
To make up time we didn’t take the highway, instead opting for the free nose-to-tale rush hour roads meaning we had even more time to make up. So drive at high speed we did when there was some open road.
The roads were quiet, all dual-carriageways and event free until we had to make a diversion because of a crash. I later read seven were injured in the coach versus minivan accident.
Seven people including a Taiwanese tourist were injured when a speeding minivan collided with a pickup truck and tour bus in Muang district on Thursday. – Bangkok Post
Van man was keen to tell us no one had died as he’d been on the phone, again, to his buddy.
After passing the accident you’d have thought he’d would ease off the gas but quite the opposite and the problem now was the road that takes you on the final stretch to the border becomes a bendy single carriageway with lots of slow trucks and tractors on it.
How we lasted to just 1km away from the border without hitting anyone was a miracle. We came close maybe five or six times as van man took stupid chances overtaking and then it finally happened.
A white pickup was stopped on the left. Van man seen him and pulled over to pass. We were flying down the road at this point.
Then as if in slow motion the pickup starts to turn right over the road into an area where there’s a truck parked and workmen on the tools installing new street lights.
We were only maybe 25m away from him when he pulled out and we were hitting that pickup 100%, it was just a question of how hard as van man slammed his foot on the brakes.
There were screams from the back of the van as we slammed into the side of the pickup. Praise someone my seat belt was actually working and I only took a small bump off the dashboard.
No-one spoke or moved but I’m thinking we only filled this thing up with gas less than an hour ago and I can see clearly in my head the van from last week that went up in flames with several people trapped inside, burning three of them alive.
I try my door and it’s jammed. I ask is everyone okay, they are and they slide the door open and get out. Van man is rooted to his seat and I tell him to get out the van. The pickup driver hasn’t moved and I’m thinking this guy needs help.
Thankfully there was no fire. By the time I climbed out the minivan the pickup driver and his two passengers had been pulled out the wreck by their workmates on the side of the road. They were shocked but unhurt.
None of the passengers in the minivan suffered any injures other than bruises and scratches. One Filipino woman had a sore foot but it didn’t seem serious.
Time for some photos and a look at the mess as we waited on the police to show up. Two cops were on the scene within two minutes. Quickly followed by some plainclothes police then two important looking uniformed officers arrived.
A lot of talking, a lot of photos and give them their due, they asked everyone who had been traveling in the minivan several times were they okay, was anyone hurt.
20 minutes pass, then 30. Everyone has sobered up and are back to thinking about visas. A fixer from the visa company is on the scene and then three motorbikes arrive to take us to the border checkpoint.
Stickboy isn’t a happy camper. At this point I’ve no idea how far away that checkpoint is and more importantly, I don’t do bikes, less so with three people on each and not a helmet in sight.
Mr Fixer points and shouts to me, “You, come on.” to which he is told in my finest Thai, “No bikes for me, find me a car or pickup.”
I’m ignored of course and he just moves on to the next passenger. Then one of the workmen taps me on the shoulder, points to his pickup and tells me to come, he’ll give me a lift.
Top man. It turns out he was the foreman and it was someone else driving but nice gesture all the same. Off I go and just as I’m about to jump in a cop calls me and points to his pickup. He’s now the taxi driver giving me and three remaining passengers a lift.
After passing through Thai immigration I met up with the German owner of the visa run company who sits in no man’s land between Thailand and Cambodia. He proudly announces this is his first crash in three years.
By now the woman with the sore foot is limping badly but instead of the boss asking is she okay, he laughs at her and tells everyone he has a sore knee too.
He didn’t give a shit if the truth be told. He was more concerned at the 4,000 baht he’d have to fork out for another van to take us back to Bangkok as van man was stuck at the cop shop trying to iron out his mess.
All the passports were handed back in record time and we were told a replacement van would be ready and waiting for us when we crossed back into Thailand. Which of course it wasn’t.
We sat in the sweltering heat for 90 minutes waiting during which time the fixers told us the driver of the pickup was drunk.
When the new wheels eventually did arrive we had the delights of another imbecile behind the wheel who had his phone in his hand for at least 70% of the journey, either chatting or texting.
The man should not have been on the road. A first class fool who was driving slow when the road was quiet, then putting his foot to the floor to race other minivans driven by his mates when we caught up with them.
He also had no clue where he was going and instead of the direct route he took us on an extended tour of Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsao provinces adding hours to the trip.
So that was my trip to the border, one which I’ll never being doing again and not recommending to others either after the shitty attitude of the visa run company owner – who admitted he knew some the drivers he was using to fill his daily needs were below par.
Some passengers were talking about a discount at the very least, I wasn’t fussed, just thankful to be okay but I was seriously pissed off no help was offered to the poor woman who did get injured.