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Cambodia Overland

Travelers' Reports:
Overland, Bangkok - Phnom Penh

Page 4 of 4 (2002)

These are reports detailing experiences traveling independently between Bangkok and Phnom Penh by way of Koh Kong. If you'd like to share your own experiences, please e-mail them to me.

Overland to Phnom Penh (December 2002):

On Dec 1 I traveled from Klong Yai, (OK place to stay the night instead of Trat - allows you to sleep a little longer in the morning) to Phnom Penh. Motorbike Klong Yai to border 50 baht. The border officials stood firm in their demand for 1100 Baht for visa, claiming that the additional 100 baht was because the visa is now a sticker and not a stamp. (I tried to argue with them that that I should pay the same as crossing at Poipet, didn't bulge them though).

From the market in Koh Kong I got the front seat (double seat) in a pick-up truck for 500 baht. Didn't even have to bargain for it! Though I do speak Thai.

Took us 6h 45 min to reach Phnom Penh. And we still had to wait some 20 min for a Camry which had some problems going up a steep hill and we had a 20 min lunch break. We were lucky with catching the ferries right in time though. I left Klong Yai at 7.15, arrived in Phnom Penh (New/Central Market) at 15.20! Road is still closed 12.00-15.00, and it seems it will remain that way for some time.

Fun with Koh Kong visa fee scams (November 2002):

Went to Cambodia 23 November (Hat Let/Cham Yeam border crossing) and the cost for the tourist visa is now 1200 baht. Of course, the cost for the visa could have been increased after a decision from the Cambodian government, but I don't think so as the visa guys didn't want to give us a receipt or write on the visa stamp what the fee was so it's obvious they are pocketing the extra 200 baht. There is no way they accept US dollars any longer, they only accept 1200 baht. I complained a lot and tried to get away with paying 1000 baht but they were having none of it. I asked to see a superior but got the answer "sure, sure, but he's having breakfast and will not be back in an hour, but you can wait", knowing the minibus to Phnom Penh were waiting for us. Anyway, their 'superior' is probably aware of the scam so it wouldn't make any difference.... [Gordon here: Cambodia law is very specific, a tourist visa is $20 on arrival, presently about 860 baht and the superior, well, he's getting the biggest cut.]

In the end an English woman who spoke Khmer managed to reduce the fee to 1100 baht for me and the same for my boyfriend, but man am I angry with these visa guys. Yes, they probably don't earn masses but I hate when authorities are using their powers to rip people off. The English woman asked for the guys numbers and names but they didn't want to give it to her so they are definitely up to dodgy stuff. Bastards.

Oh, by the way: the road between the border and Phnom Penh is not too bad at all at the moment. There's holes in it and parts of the road has disappeared but the scenery is lovely and the minibus driver drove very safely (except when we had to tow a broken-down mini bus but I guess that is Cambodia for you!). Parts of the road is closed between 12.00 and 15.00 as theyare using explosives.

On the road, Sre Ambel to Koh Kong (October 2002):

For my road trip to Koh Kong, it was on September 30. It had rained heavily the day before, but prior to that it had not rained for 3 days. We took a mini-van, probably the least desirable means to travel the road, but we did have an excellent driver. By the end of the trip, we had broken the panel under the front bumper. Basically the road up to the first ferry was not bad and the road after the last ferry was acceptable. The other sections of the road varied greatly. Some sections were extremely sloppy and the mud quite deep, but vehicles were making it through. We were fortunate not to get stuck at all. At one section of the road it was so rough one of the van's rear tires came off of the road; we had to roll backwards to get both tires back on the ground so we could get traction back. If the rains stay away, it should remain passable with minor difficulties. However, if it starts raining again; well, I'd recommend you check with some one who has just come from the other direction.

From Sihanoukville to Koh Kong by land (September 2002):

There are 2 ways to go to Koh Kong from Sihanoukville. If you are in a hurry I suggest you take the boat. If you go by road I suggest you take a pick-up instead of a guesthouse minibus. I had the misfortune to take the minibus from one Sihanoukville guesthouse. The price was an outrageous 15 US$ but with the promise of being delivered to the border in a secure, comfortable and fast way and avoiding to stay in Koh Kong. The departure time was 7 AM in Sihanoukville and arrival time was 6 PM in Koh Kong ... The driver was incredibly slow and DELIBERATELY stuck the minibus in the mud and we were stuck for 3 hours. At 6 PM he stopped at Koh Kong and miracle it was, the guesthouse belongs to the minibus operator. It was too late to go to Trat (the border closed at 5 PM ). So we had to stay at this shitty guesthouse which by the way is used by the brothel's girls next door at night. This is Cambodia... They could make a good and reliable service and everyone will be happy, but instead they prefer to make 100 baht more today and lose all credibility for the future. The Mealy Chenda minibus departed after us and they reached the border before 5 PM (I heard they charge 12 US$), so I suggest going with them or using a pick-up.

A recent Phnom Penh to Koh Kong journey by mini-bus (July 2002):

First, we went overland by private car from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. This was arranged by our guesthouse for $60 US (total, for 2 of us). I was really surprised when we were offered this option as I thought the trip would take at least 8-10 hours. We were told it would take 4 hours and it took about 6. The road was paved in some places and very poor in others. We also saw some tourist minibuses along the way, though I suspect their trip was much longer (they were going much slower than our Camry driver) and I don't know the cost. We heard later from some people who had done the river boat trip on the same day that it took them almost 7 hours and they were wet and cold the entire way. The car seems to be a great option, especially if you have 3 people sharing, as the cost would be the same, or less than the boat, per person. I felt that for $6 (each) more than the boat, the car was wonderful, especially since it offers door to door service.

The new road from PP to Koh Kong was not that bad, though it would have been if there had been heavy rain. We booked a tourist Minibus through the Riverside Cafe, though the bus was operated by Narin Guesthouse. I was a little surprised this was available, since I hadn't heard about it anywhere on the web. We checked with many travel agencies in the area and they either told us they only offered the Sihanoukville bus/boat option to the border or nothing at all. One even told us that going overland was impossible.

We wanted to look into the share taxi option, but it seemed too complicated to figure out, and from what we heard, the cost would probably be about the same (if we'd bought 2 seats each). The minibus was $15 US per person and the trip took 8 hours from PP to the border. There were only 6 of us on the 11 person bus, so it was fairly comfortable. There were still 4 ferry crossings to make and the road was unpaved but graded and smooth the whole way. In fact, it was in better condition than most of the SR-PP route.

An amusing side note-some backpackers stopped our bus at the Sre Ambel crossroads and offered our driver 2500 riel to take them to the border!! He just laughed at them and said "400 baht" for the remainder of our trip (about 5 hours). They said, "for the 4 of us?". Apparently, someone on the truck they'd just taken had told them they could get a ride for 2500 riel. They did not get on our bus. For all we know, they are still standing there, the cheap bastards!

We met some people during a ferry crossing who were on another minibus coming from Sihanoukville. I asked them why they did not take the boat from there and they said it was because the boat might not get them to the border in time to cross and make their bus to Bangkok. Fortunately, we never got stuck in mud, nor did we have any mechanical problems. We arrived at the border around 3 PM with enough time to cross, get to Trat, and make the 5PM boat to Koh Chang Thailand.

The author has more stories at: http://www.wired2theworld.com

Helpful advice from a veteran traveler (June 2002):

1-I've never been asked for a vaccination certificate, nor paid more than $20 for the visa at Cambo immigration. Scams for the certificate and requests for 1000B seem far more common when entering at Poipet. But...I should add that upon initial contact with the immigration personal, I always casually mention that I am a doctor and they have subsequently never tried to pull any scams with me. I've never had to show any ID...so anyone can use the same ploy.

2-For those arriving in Trat too late to get to the border before 5pm, I suggest staying at one of the many guesthouses, located behind and just south of the night market. Rather than the Trat Hotel, I'd recommend the NP GH, cheap, clean and decent food (if you don't eat at the night market) at 70B/night & up and definitely avoid the Windy GH, which is in terrible shape and located on a sewage filled canal.

3-Motos from Cham Yeam to KKong were 30B, before the bridge was completed (last March) and I agree about the scumbag boat drivers had charged some Japanese as much as 300B to cross. I negotiated hard and went for 50B...but last year it was only 20B. However, now that the bridge is there (I'll be there and use it for the first in time late July), most of them had better take up fishing as they are virtually out of business. For those staying overnight in KKong, I'd suggest one of two places. For upscale, the Koh Pich is $10/night for a nice room (room with AC and refrig. is $15), and for the budget traveler Charlie's GH is the cheapest at 80B/night (basic bed, mossie net, fan, with squat toilet/shower down the hall). Charlies had good food which is both less expensive and offers larger servings than Otto's GH. Otto's also has rooms and is the meeting site for backpackers and other farangs.

4-Next trip, I'll likely avoid the road from KKong to Sre Ambel and take the ferry there and a taxi onto PPenh. It may help others if you also had taxi prices just for the leg from Sre Ambel to PPenh. [Gordon here: Price should be about 100 baht per seat.

Thanks. Keep 'em coming. E-mail your story.


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