updated January 21, 2011
These are reports detailing experiences traveling independently between Thailand and Cambodia by way of Anlong Veng. This crossing is about 150 kilometers north of Siem Reap and opened to foreigners of all nationalities in November 2003. This can be a convenient border crossing for those who wish to travel between Siem Reap and Laos (Vientiane, Luang Prabang) and northern Thailand (Isaan, Chiang Mai). If you'd like to share your own experiences, please e-mail them to us.
Border tensions (January 2011):
We just did the Si Saket/Surin ---> Anlong Veng Crossing from the Thai side. The border is known as Chong sa-Ngam spelled in several different ways, this can make it difficult. From Cambodian side it is know as Choam. Because of rising tensions between Thailand and Cambodia following the arrest of several Thai civilians presumably spying around Chong sa Ngam the border is difficult to reach from the Thai side. At least on a budget this is the case. Under normal circumstances there are buses from Si Saket bus station to the border (in the morning) for 60 Baht. The buses stopeed running so we had to take a taxi, which wouldn't take us for less then 1250 baht due to risks (and of course because there was no other way for us of getting to the border). The bargaining started at 1800 baht, so expect as bargain competition as long as tensions are around. The road on the Thai side is good until the last 15 km from the border when it gets bumpy. The lack of Thai-Cambodian trade was very present at the Thai side, the market was very desolated. Still there was some traffic amongst other things one Thai tourbus(!) and no feeling of any danger in the air.
The ride from Choam to Anlong Veng was easy arranged on moto (100baht each) with two friendly guys of which one spoke a little English. So far so good, after this we got into some unsuspected trouble. We wanted to go to Preah Vihear from here and aranged it with the same guys for 30$ for two person on a moto, in my opinion a good deal. The things was that for reasons I wont go into right know we didn't have a lot of cash on us. We thought we get some in Anlong Veng, but contrary to some reports there is no ATM and the local bank only accepts VISA cards (we have Mastercard and Maestro card). There was a possibility for Western Union but that didn't work for us.
Instead of going to Preah Vihear (the reason we took the crossing in the first place...) we ended up going to Siem Reap to an ATM. We took the moto with the same guys, because they drove us through Anlong Veng for more than one hour (bank---> internet----bank etc) and we didn't want to blow them off after their great help. We ended up paying 30$ (with a extra 10$ tip) for the ride to Siem Reap on two motos.
The road to Siem Reap is awesome, Beautifull, good road. Ended up being a cool ride it took us maybe 2.5/3 hours with lunch. The taxi is probably cheaper and more comfortable, but with a good driver a moto ads something extra (especially because the road is entirely empty and not dangerous). We'll head up to Anlong Veng again in a few days (share taxi from Siem Reap around 8$) and take the same guys for the trip to Preah Vihear (indeed a modern day pilgrimage, you have to put some effort in it.).
Thailand to Cambodia and NW road reports (January 2009):
My crossing was made a week or so after the two Cambodians were killed in the clashes over Preah Vihear. The only changes in proceedure from past crossings was that 18 km from the border there was a Thai army check point. They wanted to know where I was going but once it was established that I was going to Cambodia there was no problem.
By bicycle (July 2008):
We were a bit concerned about the state of the road on this route because we did this journey during the rainy season but the road was actually in fairly decent shape most of the way and we had no major problems.
First the crossing itself. Everything was straightforward and formalities on both sides took no more than 20 minutes to complete in total. The Thai side was very quick and the officer even filled out our departure card for us. On the Cambodian side, we were first directed to a hut labelled 'visa service' where an officer pasted two tourist visas into our passports. We paid $20 U.S. for one visa and 1,000 Baht for the other as we did not have enough U.S. currency for both visas. No extra money was demanded and if we'd had the foresight to pick up more American money beforehand we could have saved ourselves $10 bucks. Then it was just a case of getting the visas stamped in and filling out another form. None of the other officers asked for money for 'overtime' or anything else. We were only the third and fourth visitors through that day and this was after midday so not a busy crossing!
The inital track through the village at the border is dirt but after just a few hundred meters you meet the paved road which is in good shape all the way into Anlong Veng, about 15km. In Anlong Veng we stayed at the Monorom Guesthouse, which is charging $8 U.S. for a fan room and $15 U.S. for air conditioning. The room was clean but the TV was a bit flaky. Not a big deal. Staff in the restaurant were very friendly and spoke some English. The food was nothing special but good for what it was (fried noodles and beef). There are several other guesthouses in town to choose from and you can change money in the market with any of the jewellers. We had no hassles in Anlong Veng. A couple young men offered us rides on motorbikes to Preah Vihear.
Leaving Anlong Veng, there is a short stretch out of the town that is dirt and quite rutted but still passable without much trouble on a bicycle. Just dodge the potholes. After that the paving returns again for another 15km or so. For the following 60km, it's dirt roads of varying quality but all quite ridable. The worst we had was some slightly tacky mud. We could feel the bikes slowing down but no mud stuck to the tires. The dirt road was well graded, usually hard packed and free of potholes. Even so, we managed to be covered in a fine layer of red dust by the end of the day.
There are some communal water pumps en route, provided by various international organisations, and these are key stops if you're on a bicycle for a chance to wash off and splash some cool water over your body. You rarely go more than 5km, often much less, without seeing at least a basic shop so picking up a drink or snack shouldn't be a problem. The only real restaurants are in Srey Noi, almost exactly halfway between Anlong Veng and Siem Reap.
Throughout the length of the road, three or four paving crews were at work. It seems it won't be long before the whole road is finished. All of the bridges aside from the short unpaved stretch leaving Anlong Veng were concrete.
About 30km before Siem Reap the asphalt returns again and it's an easy run into the city. So, in short no problems although if there was a lot of rain (while there was a rainstorm the evening before we started out, overall it had been rather dry in the previous days) perhaps the middle section could be a bit messy.
Doing the whole stretch in one day on a bicycle is a long haul but possible if you're willing to spend 7-8 hours in the saddle. We didn't see any guesthouses in Srey Noi but we didn't look very hard either.
Bus to Anlong Veng (May 2008):
At first the intention was to cross from Siem Reap into Thailand via the Samrong/Chong Jom border crossing. It turns out that this route is a pain in the butt - doable if you like long waits in places like Kra Lanh and long dusty and bumpy rides on the back of an open pickup truck. Been there, done that once too often. Both Cambodians and reliable expat business owners (Gordon Sharpless of Tales of Asia and Two Dragons fame) told me that even locals go to Samrong via Anlong Veng, and do not take the seemingly more direct route via Kra Lanh.
The good news is that there are direct buses from the bus station (I forget the name) in Siem Reap (moto costs US$ 2.00 to 3.00 to get there from downtown S.R.) Only a few ticket agents in S.R. advertise that they sell tickets to Anlong Veng - so, look around.
There are 2 bus companies to choose from, both leaving at 1330 hrs - I chose a GST bus, old but serviceable. There was no early morning bus when we were there in Feb. 2008. My guess is these buses leave in the morning from Anlong Veng and return in the afternoon.
The fare is $ 5.00 - we bought ours directly at the bus station about 45 minutes before departure. The bus had no mechanical problems or flat tires and we arrived after about 4 hrs. in Anlong Veng, a bit dusty but not too bad.
The biggest surprise was the road to Anlong Veng. The yet to be surfaced road had undergone widening and extensive grading. No more potholes. All along the road construction was going on, putting in new culverts and bridges, real concrete bridges. For Thai tourists from Isaan ?
We stayed at the new Monorom Hotel in Anlong Veng, $ 7.00 with toilet and fan. They also have a large, clean and okay priced restaurant attached. The owner spoke some English, the staff in the restaurant didn't. I spoke with 2 German cyclists that evening who had just exited Thailand from Surin via Chom Jong and had cycled the 70 km from the border to Anlong Veng on a good dirt road. They confirmed what we were told in Siem Reap - the road from Samrong going south sucks - don't take it.
From Anlong Veng it is 15 km, the last bit uphill, to the border village of Choam, we took a no hassle moto there for $ 3.00 each. Unlike some places in Cambodia, A. Veng was a non-hassle town. The Monorom Hotel also has a large car park, were you sometimes find empty tour buses parked overnight. Ask the owner the evening before if one or more of the tour buses will go to the border to pick up a Thai tour group - he can arrange a "free" ride for you (though I suspect that the bus driver will expect a tip, fair enough).
Getting stamped out of Cambodia was easy, no "surcharge" requested, walk over to the Thai side and get stamped in. The elderly immigration officer not only was well dressed and super polite (a polite greeting in Lao certainly helped), he even filled out our arrival/departure form himself. All we had to do was sign Welcome to Thailand indeed. The stamp in our passport called this border post Phusing, even though Phusing is further inland and not a border town.
From here on your onward transportation options are a little bit thin on the ground. The immigration officer told us that the many Thai songthaews parked along the dirt road came from Phusing and other surrounding towns early in the morning to trade with Cambodia, and would head back to wherever in the early afternoon. So, just hang out and wait until something moves and flag it down.
We were very lucky. While we were chatting with some animal control officers at their post (a good place to wait for a ride) we were told that two of them would be going to Kantaralak shortly, and we could have a ride if we wished. Bingo, our ride to K. was exactly what I needed to visit the ruins of Praeh Viharn (see that border crossing story for detail). And surprisingly, the two turned down our invitation to an early lunch and just dropped us off at the Kantaralak bus station and then drove off. No charge.
From the border post you have several options - depending on where you want to end up in Thailand. Best is to take any ride that gets you to Phusing or highway 24 where you can catch a bus to Kantaralak (sometimes spelled Gunterlak). The town of Khukhan (not to be mistaken for nearby Khunhan) has a bus service to SiSaket. A decent map of the area will help you to orient yourself - don't expect to find many English speakers, or Thais who can read maps.
By bike (February 2008):
The road to the border on the Thai side is now paved. There is a resort on the Thai side maybe 10 km from the border. At the border the proceedure is very simple, I get stamped out of Thailand then walk over to the Visa shack on the Cambodian side. There is one guy working and three hanging out. They give me the form which I fill out and give them my passport. One of the guys not doing anything says that the visa fee is $25.00, so I give them $20.00. The guy processing the visa takes the $20.00 and gives me my passport with visa. The guy that asked for $25.00 asks me how I knew that it was only $20.00. I tell him that I've been through there before, and I read the internet.
Across the path to get stamped into Cambodia. As the guy was giving me my passport back he looked like he wanted to ask me for money, or at least had the look on his face of give me money. I didn't.
The road to Anlong Veng is now paved from the border to the city. There are 2 or 3 new guest houses that are much improved from my last visit three years ago.
Road work is also going on on the road to Siem Reap. The On the way to Samroang I passed a section that had already been paved.
I took the road west as far as the turn for the Thai border at Kap Choeng. It was in good shape for a dirt road. The road from the border to that intersection was in less good shape.
Exit Cambodia at Kap Chong there were no problems at the Thais did not ask to see a ticket leaving the country. They were very friendly in fact.
A visa run from Thailand (March 2007):
I recently did my first visa run at Chong Sa-Ngam Border. Surprisingly smooth venture. I reached Chong Sa-Ngam around 9am and there were not many people around. No problems at all at the Thai office. A very friendly Thai officer in his 40s promptly stamped my passport with a smile and invitation to "Come back to Thailand soon!". In and out of the Thai office in less than 5 minutes.
I then walked over to the Cambodian side. A Cambodian officer stopped me soon as I crossed over and asked for my passport. After flipping a few pages, he led me over to a tent where there was man (not in uniform) sitting at a table with piles of paper (looking like forms and transport schedules). I had to follow him as he had my passport. I was questioned in a mix of Khmer and a little English about my destination and mode of transport to Cambodia. They refused to give me back my passport and kept pressing me for answers. But after a fruitless 10-minute 'talk' with me shaking my head with a smile, indicating my non-understanding of their questions, I managed to get away from them, soon as I got my passport back. I think they were trying to sell me transportation to Cambodia.
At the Cambodian office, 3 officers spent about 10 minutes trying to ascertain my visa-free status (Singapore), searching through documents and confirming with one another constantly. Finally convinced that I do not require to pay for a visa, they gave me the entry stamp. However, when I handed the passport back to them requesting for an exit stamp then, they certainly did not look very happy when it dawned on them that I was on a visa run. Two of them immediately showed a black face and walked out of the office. The remaining officer reluctantly stamped my passport. Though unhappy, they did not give me any trouble at all.
Then it was back to the Thai side for my entry stamp, where I was warmly welcomed by the same officer :"Hello! You're back already! Good, good." We had a nice chat after my passport was stamped. A very smooth visa run at a relatively quiet border.
Speed demons (May 2005): [Note: Though I received this in late May 2005, the information contained in this item dates to January 2004. The author has also asked that I include a link to his site and some photos from Anlong Veng. Happy to oblige: http://www.irish-guy.com/2004_01_20_archive.html.]
Tuesday, January 20th, 2004
I stayed at Pirom's House in Surin for 1000 baht. The guesthouse owner had given me a list of times of the buses to the border. They start at 5.30am and there are about a dozen until 4.00pm. I was up a bit late at 6.18am and was surprised to see it very bright outside.
I walked directly to the bus station but was late so I paid a moto-driver 10 baht to take me half the way (the end half). I was in time to take the 6.50am bus for 30 baht. You can take a mini-bus for 100 baht which goes directly there. The border crossing and bus destination is called Chong Jom. It is approximately 80km from Surin.
It took over two hours to get there but there were few stops and starts. The last bus stop is the border itself and you only have 15 yards to get checked out of Thailand. As ever, the Thai border authorities are pleasant and efficient. Now for the notorious Cambodian officials.
It was 9.15am. When I crossed over there were about 4 cocky teenagers with old older guy in this twenties to welcome me to Cambodia. They all had pretty good English and were keen to direct me to the official waiting 10 yards away. This was a clean, efficient bunch who actually wore their uniforms with pride in contrast to the slack jawed yokels down in Koh Kong wearing string vests. The guy who gave me the visa wanted 1100 baht and even when I told him I only had 20 US, he didn’t believe me. They are meant to take US only but get a good cut out of baht. I gave him 1000 baht and he was happy. The guys down in Koh Kong start at 1400 Baht as there usually half a dozen of them to keep happy as they swarm around you.
The second official who stamps you in said he would do it for 100 baht. I smiled and didn’t pay. He didn’t press the issue.
Next was how to get to Anlong Veng. Its about 80km away along a bad dusty road. The areas around the road have yet to be cleared of land mines. The cocky lads (who had moto bikes) started at 700 but after a chat would not go below 400 baht. I told them I would check out the taxis and get something to eat at the duty-free market which is a 7-minute walk towards Anlong Veng. At that they said they would meet me down there. They went directly to the taxi guys (I could see them) and now the taxi price was 600 baht. I went to the market and the boys waited outside.
The market was busy and is a good place to eat. There are moto drivers all over the place for the local routes. I went to a group where there was one English speaker. I mentioned 300 baht as an opening (far too high) and three lads jumped at the chance. I picked a shy looking chap with a new bike. He had no English and seemed too shy to speak Khmer. He went off for a helmet. I reckon these guys would do the trip for 200 baht. Off we went at a hell of a pace. A few minutes in and the driver looks around at a beeping horn. Its like mad Max. Hot on our trail was the older guy in a taxi (passenger seat) followed by two of his buddies on bikes. They stopped us and had words with me and my driver.
My driver didn’t say one word (told you he was shy) and the older guy wanted 50 baht from me because he waited for me and another guy wanted 100 baht because he helped me at the immigration post (he lent me his pen). I told them no with a smile and they sulked off.
It was meant to take two hours but this guy was a speed merchant bar none. Too bloody fast on bad roads. Every time we hit a pot hole, I rose off the back seat, creaking my neck and hurting my bum. It was a red dusty road and every time an oncoming truck passed us, we were devoured by dust. It took only 1.5 hours to get to Anlong Veng. It was 11.30am. When I was paying him he made it look like he wanted 400 baht. The boys from the border must have told him he was being cheated and the foreigner price was 400 baht. He wasn’t that sort though and accepted the 300 baht with a smile.
It is a tiny one street down full of dust and land mine warnings. I saw many newly discovered mines and unexploded ordinances (UXO) on the road to Anlong Veng. They have a sign saying mine and they put stakes and red tape around the object. I saw at least 20 such mines identified just beside the road we were traveling. There is no way any sane person would walk off the road to go for a piss or to take a photo.
There were also teams of Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and military carrying out slash, burn and mine search along the road.
They were cutting down all vegetation about 15 meters in from both sides of the road and were using detectors to search for mines. The worrying thing was that they were searching for mines ON the road as well.
Anyway there are three guesthouses in town. They have set a 3 US price which they wont budge from. I tried the centre one but it was dank and dark. The third one on the way out of town was called border Success and it was nice. they accepted 100 baht for a second floor room. it has a big bed, big window and mosquito net. You can swing on a hammock in the balcony and have a beer.
it was noon and I asked a moto driver to take me to see Pol Pot's cremation site. He started with 10 US but took 4 US without argument. It only took 1.5 hours round trip. it was interesting and I am glad I took this trip.
On a bicycle! (January 2005):
I did this trip by bicycle from the Khun Han, Thailand on 20 January, 2005. I think there is a town closer with a hotel but it worked out OK. After 80 KM or so the I came to the turn off for the border. The sign indicated that it was 18 KM to Cambodia. The first 2 km were on a nicely paved road with plenty of place to get water and food. Then you turn off onto a dirt road that will take you the rest of the way to the border. At the time I thought the road was horrific, at least until I got to the Cambodian side. There are no signs or stores whatsoever on the route but it is impossible to get lost. Buy water at the store at the turn off because unless the army post you pass through gives you some water you will have none. The road for the most part is an uphill climb but nothing very steep. There are a couple of steeper downhills that are in a very dusty condition. I had no idea how far I had travelled, but now having done it, when you cross the slick rock creek bed you have 15-20 minutes left.
The border was kind of confusing as there were 6 or 8 huts set up on the Thai side but nothing to indicate which was the one to go to. Finally the Immigration guy called me over. The Immigration guy was a very nice person. He works here five days then goes to Kap Choeng for five days. We chatted for a while as he processed me out. He gave me water which was badly needed at this point.
After I finish with the Thai's, I walk over to the Cambodian side. A group of five, I guess Immigration guys, looked at my passport and small talked for a bit. Then they told me to go see visa man. The visa man was set up in a small shack but we sat outside at a picnic table while the visa was processed. It was very pleasant, there were hundreds of big black butterflys all over the place. I filled out the form. The man made up the visa and placed it in my passport. He then said "now you pay money." I pulled out a US $20.00 and gave it to his partner, who seemed much less professional than the visa man. But they took the $20.00 and pointed me over to the Immigration booth where I was admitted to Cambodia. The whole Thai/Cambodian processing time was maybe 20-25 minutes.
Once admitted the fun begins. It is straight down that mountain. The dust is real deep in spots, there are jagged rocks everywhere, but when I went down very little traffic, one or two cars. At the bottom the road widens and its a pretty quick shot into Anlong Veng. Once on the bottom it took me a while to figure out that traffic here drives on the right side of the road, I had to ask some kids on a moter bike.
I was told that it is 15 km from the border to Anlong Veng and that seems about right. Pretty close to the traffic circle are two guest houses, and maybe there are more in town.
If you go in the opposite direction, you're going to do a lot of bike pushing to get up to the border.
Read more about the author's adventures here: http://eastbaybob.crazyguyonabike.com
Siem Reap to Thailand with a detour to Preah Vihear (April 2004):
I had occasion to go from Siem Reap north to Anlong Veng and then into Thailand last weekend, testing out the fairly new border crossing just outside of Anlong Veng.
The trip to Anlong Veng was easy enough from the transit hub about 1.5 km east of Psar Leu Tom Thmei. We took a share taxi (avoided paying for an extra cabin seat for our bags in a pick-up). I am sure we were over charged at $8 for 2 seats (The others in car got out and paid 25,000 riel for 2) but it was still OK by me. The road wasnt in great shape past Banteay Srei, but not terrible either. Not nearly as bad as the Sisophon-Siem Reap road was when I took it back in December.
We decided to go to Prasat Preah Vihear from the Cambodia side (didn't want to have to worry about what they might try to charge if we enter from the Thai side). We searched around and the cheapest prices we could come up with were $15 for a round-trip moto and $40 for a car. Note that either of these would only have gone to the bottom of the mountain. Then we were fortunate to run into Verha and Dick who arrived in Anlong Veng on dirt bikes. We hitched a ride out with them the next morning.
I am happy to say the road between Anlong Veng and the base of the mountain was 100 km of excellent graded, level dirt road. Fantastic by Cambodian standards I think. Hardly any ruts or potholes and not very dusty because it rained the previous evening. Unfortunately it may not last that way for long with the rains coming, but the road sees such little traffic it might hold up pretty well through the monsoon. The drive took 1.5 hours (probably would take 2 hours on a normal moto) to arrive at the base of the hill. The road up the mountain was in decidedly worse shape - rocky, gravelly, steep, and gutted and rutted all over the place. The bikes went up without us on the pillon but we road down without much trouble.
Anyway back in Anlong Veng the next day we went for the Thai border, officially called the Anlong Veng - Sa-Ngam Border, which has only been open since November. We were told later that most of the pickup trucks leave Anlong Veng at about 6 am to take border-market workers, smugglers, and porters up to the border. A seat in the cabin costs 3,000 riel and in the back is 2,000 riel. Of course we weren't up that early and managed to get a lift from a nice guy who ran a restaurant near Pol Pot's house and was in town to buy some New Year's supplies. Its about 20 km to the border, first on a level dirt road with some potholes, but them up the same ridgeroad towards Pol Pot's old house. That road is still rocky and in miserable shape and I wouldn't recommend doing it with a motodop when you are wearing a big backpack.
The Cambodian border guards were very friendly and quite well organized, and the nice head officer on duty spoke decent English, didn't demand any tip, and even complained about being stuck there when he had previously been posted at the airport in Phnom Penh. We crossed over to Thailand to find things uncharacteristically in disorder. Half the huts didn't have anyone working in them, no one seemed interested in stamping us into the country, and they were especially confused that we had come FROM Cambodia at the time we did (about 10 am). Finally we convinced them to give us a stamp and let us go on our way.
Transit from the border to town is tougher. We were told there were buses at 8 am, 10 am, 2 pm, and 4 pm. Since we had missed it the District Commissioner offered us a ride when he went down the hill about 1 hour later so we agreed. For others who miss the bus, there were plenty of pickups and trucks going down the hill after delivering their goods, so a ride can certainly be had, but to where I don't know.
The district official told us that the road to the border, currently a solid graded, level dirt road was being replaced by a new paved road which would be ready next year. He even asked our advice on how to let tourists know about the new border and how to get them to come through his district (and spend money of course)! Anyway the trip down to the crossroads with highway 24 took about 45 minutes..
For those wanting to go the other way, I can't say where to catch the "bus" from but I can tell you the junction was at a town called Khukhan where Highway 24 intersected road 2201. We waited a long time for a bus headed to Khorat from there before we got fed up and just had the police sitting across the road help us flag down a passing vehicle that would take us down the highway. Khorat is about 242 km away, Surin about 150 km and Si Saket only a few dozen kilometers north from that junction. Going the other way it should be easy to catch a bus to Ubon Ratchatani for the Pakse border into Laos.
Overall it was a fun and adventurous trip, but people shouldnt delude themsleves that this is comfortable terrain to travel on, at least not yet! ;) Happy travels.
One PS about the border. On the Cambodian side there is a new, well-labelled hut that said "Visa Service". Since we went the other way I would have no idea what kind of price they will charge for this service, or how much their "tea money" might be.
Thanks. Keep 'em coming.
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