Page 13 of 22 (January 2005 - April 2005)
Eight hours (April 2005):
Me and my girlfriend travelled over the border at Poipet between Bangkok and Siem Reap on the 22nd of April. We had absolutley no problems and having read the website we were well prepared for what we needed to do.
We set of from Rambuttri at about 4am and got a taxi on the meter to Mo Chit for 125 baht. We actually had a deal with another driver for 100 baht but turned him down in favour of the metered vehicle, but nevermind. Arrived at Mo Chit in heavy traffic at 4:45am and turned down the help of the official staff as we thought we knew where we were going. Eventually we asked for the right counter and they happily showed us the way. Bought a ticket at 4:50 for the 5am bus for 164 baht each and set off with no problems. Once we got to Aranyaprathet we got straight in a tuk tuk for 60 baht and arrived at the market in one piece. We drifted through the crowd, fended off a few touts and found Thai passport control. The queue was to the door for both Thais and aliens but we were through in about 20 minutes. Stepped across the road that looks like a Honda and Toyota co-sponsored version of an Asian Mad Max film to Cambodian control and filled the forms in ourselves, paid 1000 baht and got a visa which said 20 dollars on it. At this point we were herded to the SARS desk but laughed at the guy behind the desk and said we were from the UK which isn't a risk and wouldn't pay the 20 baht so he waived us through.
Got a few more stamps and passed through customs with the first guy to approach us about a taxi which was offered for 1100 baht. Took his offer, got in his Camry and had our insides liquidised by the road for the next three hours. We eventually arrived at our guest house at 1pm (only eight hours from leaving Bangkok) and managed to get a decent sleep and all the other things we needed for the following days. I can't imagine any worse torture than trying to make that journey either later in the day or from Poipet to Siem Reap on pickup trucks. It was bad enough in a car and so unless you're desperately short of cash, get in a car and try to enjoy the ride
Happy Holidays (April 2005):
We woke very early on Wednesday, 13/4/05 in anticipation of beating the Songkran crowds at the bus stop, we arrived there at 3.40am to find that some ticket lines had up to 100 people in them and most lines had at least 20 people in them. We eventually bought our tickets at 4.25am for a 5.30am bus to Aranyaprathet. Took the 164 baht government bus from ticket booth 25.
The trip from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet took just over 3hrs 45mins, so I guess we were quite lucky particularly since it was the start of Songkran in Thailand and the Khmer new year in Cambodia.
Took a 60 baht tuk-tuk from Aranyaprathet to the Thai-Cambodian border and joined the queue to depart customs. This was where things got hard... Because it was the start of such a major holiday the amount of people wanting to get into Cambodia for holidays, gambling etc was extreme. It took us 3 and a half hours just to clear immigration (departure stamp) on the Thai side. What also didn't help this influx of people was the fact that the Thai immigration are upgrading two of their immigration-lanes computer systems at the moment so they take twice as long to process a passport.
Once over to the Cambodian visa section and we filled in our forms and attached the photos. The guy asked for 1000 baht as usual, I showed him a visa from about 14 months ago that was stamped "$20 USD" (From when I flew in Phnom Penh with friends) in the top right hand corner and he looked embarrassed but it didn't change his resolve. I paid for the visas and he told me our passports would be ready in 5mins. We went across the road to the convenience store and bought water and by the time we walked back he was holding them out for us. A very painless experience.
Walked through the Cambodian immigration (Poipet) and got the visa stamped in under 10mins. I figured 90-95% of the people crossing the border out of Thailand were going into Cambodia for gambling.
As we walked out of the Cambodian immigration we were instantly swooped on by touts, all selling the same thing- transport in different shapes and sizes to Siem Reap. We were told the going price was 2,000 baht from Poipet to Siem reap because of the Khmer new year. I found it interesting because I have taken many long trips in Thailand and usually when negotiating a price, these kinds of reasons are never given (maybe because of the severe over-supply of taxi's in Bangkok). After 15mins and hard bargaining (trust me it wasn't by choice), the price was down to 1,800 baht. Still, I found it to be too expensive so we went back to Poipet to have a drink and a snack make enquries at hotels as to whether they had taxi services to Siem Reap or not. Unfortunately not. Back out there and we had exactly the same people hassling us again. This time I was a little bit more firm and eventually got the trip for 1,400 baht. I know some of you are probably thinking that I overpaid by 300, which was my original thought but sometimes time is worth more then money and we had already lost a lot of time that day (unfortunately forfeiting a sunset at Angkor, which was the original intention). [Gordon here: They do indeed increase cab fares during major holidays and 1400 baht during Khmer New Year is a fair price. The writer did not overpay.]
We had an old Camry which was falling apart (obviously due to the roads and the way the guy drove it). The trip was quite an adventure in itself. Fantastic scenary with cattle regularly crossing the road, an amazing sunset, and some fantastic landscapes particularly on the all-dirt road closer to Siem Reap. The driver was quite comical laughing every time we hit a large pothole and our we were lifted out of our seats, he didn't speak a work of English or Thai either which was surprising after what I've read. He was quite good in taking us there but kept hassling us to take us to a guest house, after I'd said "no" in a firm but nice way the 3rd time he got the message.
On the return trip we decided to split the travel over two days so we wouldn't be overly tired for work on monday morning and I was really sick and didn't want to be stuck in Siem Reap/Poipet on the Sunday. We left Siem Reap late on saturday afternoon in a Nissan mini-van (all that was available at the time) for an exhorbitant fee of USD$40 which, I was told was also due to the fact that nobody was working because of Khmer new year. I was too sick to bargain further and just wanted a nice clean room/hot shower/easy journey for the following day.
We stayed at Poipet Casino & Resort which has nice, clean rooms for 1,000 baht, so that worked out well.
The next morning we bought some duty free alcohol from the Grand Diamond Resort across the road (its extremely cheap if you like Johnny Walker). Just for brief comparison purposes, 1 litre of Johnny Walker green is 1,500 baht at Don Muang international airport and at Poipet it costs 1,150 baht for the same thing. We got stamped out of Cambodia and crossed the border at about 10am and by about 10.30am we were looking for a mini-van/taxi/bus. We approached a taxi driver who had just dropped someone off at the border from Bangkok and he agreed to a price of 700 baht!! Almost makes up for all the other times we overpaid. He was a fantastic driver and we found out that he was happy to be making any money at all from the return trip. It was good to be back in Bangkok, I admit, but we really did have a fantastic trip to Siem Reap. I would recommend doing it the "On Your Own" way, it really is the only way to go
Pick-up truck (April 2005):
We took the Skytrain from the Sukhumvit area to Morchit station and from there you can take bus number 3 or 77 to the Morchit bus terminal, so we took a 77 (a small green one) and they wanted 3 baht 50 each. Then first class bus to Aranyaprathet, 164 baht, no snack but a ride. At the pre-border-checkpoint three guys, one woman and a baby had to leave the bus. 60 baht tuk-tuk to the border post, but unfortunatly after a couple of busloads, so one hour waiting to get stamped out of Thailand. Cambodia-visa on arrival no worries, just the 20 bucks came flying out as I put them in, of course he took the 1000 baht without any worries, but I didn't really try hard at all to make him take the 20 USD. Two touts walked through the traffic circle with us, one gave up pretty soon, the other one kept walking with us for quite a while, but as we (me and my girlfriend) did not talk at all (not even to each other) and just kept on walking he reached the point where he was really unsure if we even understand his three or four phrases of English and finally gave up. We walked down the street for quite a bit but couldn't see any trucks but just before we started to get a bit worried a full truck drove alongside us and offered a ride to Sway, so we hopped on and off we went, paid 30 baht each, the guy wanted more, first did not want to take the 60 baht (for both of us), then I gave him a sort-of-serious look and he finally took it, next one was quite full (about 20 ppl in the bed) and we rode to Siem Reap for another 50 baht each, very nice and easy. If we wouldn't have known the prices we would have been fucked, so thanks heaps for this info, really appreciate it a lot! The only info that you could update/add to your website is the bus # 3 / # 77 link from Morchit bts/mrt station to the bus terminal as that cuts down costs a we bit more if someone really wants to go very-tight- budget ;)
Going to extremes to save $ (April 2005):
I made the crossing on 28 March, 2005, waking up at 4:30 am and arriving in SR at about 5:30 pm.
From west Banglamphu, I took the bus #3 from Pra Arthrit road just outside where the Chao Phraya boat pier is located. I flagged down an Aircon bus which arrived at 4:58 am, and I had to pay 18 Baht to cover my backpack as well as me. Arrived at Mochit terminal at 5:31 am, secured my 164 Baht bus ticket on the 6 am government bus, and grabbed some food from the 7-Eleven, which was quite necessary as they only gave us 3 cookies and a cup of water on the bus. The comfy bus arrived in Aranyaprathet at 10:05 am, took a mototaxi to the border. I did not haggle with 50 Baht asking price.
At 10:20 am, I got in line for Thai immigration exit stamp, and didn't get out until an hour later. I have no fricking idea what takes them so long. It was just a 10 second affair for me when I got to the counter.
Walked to the Cambodian visa office and ended up playing some high stakes brinksmanship with the officials there, successfully paying $20 for my visa. I don't recommend that others do the same as me unless they're ready to take some heat. I did it out of 1) dislike of corruption, 2) budget reasons, 3) stubbornness, and 4) curiosity to see what's really happening there.
They asked for 1000 Baht. I said, no it's $20. "1000 Baht." I don't have 1000 Baht (which was true, I had 700 Baht on me). "Change money over there." Then I told them I was only in transit to Vietnam and wouldn't stay more than 5 or 6 days in Cambodia (which is true). "1000 Baht." Then I offered $20 plus 200 Baht, which is pretty damned close to 1000 Baht. "1000 Baht." So then that pissed me off and I started playing hardball. I started asking for the name of the reception guy and the tourist cop next to him, both of whom participated in asking for 1000 Baht. They refused to tell me, so I started writing down the names off of their nametags (or a facsimile thereof as I don't read Khmer). They got nervous and told me to see the guy at the window. I went up there, and window guy told me 1000 Baht, and we went through the whole $20 routine again, and then I told him I don't want to pay for corruption. He then started getting angry, and accusing me of wanting to steal his money. He proceeded to take off his (nice) watch, cell phone and wallet and put it in front of me, mocking me to take it. His answer to the corruption is that Cambodia was his country, not mine. I told him I didn't hate him and offered to take him for a tea afterwards, which disarmed him a bit. But he wouldn't take less than 1000 Baht, so I started writing down his name from his nametag. When I told him what I was doing, he closed the window in front of me. I opened the window again and restarted writing. At that point, the head of the office, a much mellower fellow, called me over to his desk. He said he didn't want window guy upset, and I had to explain soothingly that I did not dislike him, only the bribery. The bossguy then said very calmly, that their office had the power to deny me a visa. Of course, that's the ultimate insult: they were threatening to deprive their poor country of $20 out of spite simply because they couldn't extort $5 out of a tourist who knew the laws. I then told him, just as calmly, that I would be happy to report the situation to Phnom Penh and if everything their office was doing was legal, then there would be no problem at all. I started writing down his name. He then authorized my visa for $20. The reception guy who finally delivered my passport with visa to me was visibly pissed. I tried to engage him in a conversation about how I had been in Cambodia in 1996, before the end of the war, and loved the country but he wanted no part of that and stormed away.
At the Cambodia entry booth, which took 3 minutes, I met a Korean girl who had come from Bangkok as well. She had paid only 100 Baht for a gambler's bus from Sukhumvit road to Poipet. It departed at 6 am and she claimed she was there in 3 hrs, and the casino even fed her lunch for free.
We waited for other travellers to join us for a share taxi, but nobody showed up in 20 minutes, despite what the very nasty taxi touts assured us. They are every bit as vile as you describe. I had told them firmly that we would only pay 250 Baht per person maximum, despite countless attempts by them to up the price. They wouldn't leave us alone and wouldn't even let us speak to each other private. They sneeringly told us that we could only get that price by taking a pickup. After the 20 min waiting period, with nobody showing up, we decided to do exactly that and started walking toward the centre of Poipet to get a pickup. The touts kept following us and harrassing and screaming at us, and one of them drove around his pickup (empty of course) with promises of 50 Baht fares. We tried to ignore them and then they cut us off with the pickup. I slammed the door of the pickup hard with my hand and started yelling back at them to get lost. They eventually all drove away, yelling obscenities at us ("fuck you!" etc).
Once in town, we hailed a passing Sway pickup (30 Bahts) and in Sway changed to a Siem Riep pickup (100 Baht for an inside seat). Touts and competing pickups were pretty aggressive in Sway too, grabbing us and trying to push us onto their favourite pickup, but they didn't have that nasty streak like in Poipet, and we fought our way eventually onto the most filled pickup. We waited 45 min for it to fill and finally it departed at 3 pm, arriving in Siem Reap at 5:30 pm or so. The $5 I saved on the border bribe paid for my transport to Siem Reap plus my dinner.
Complaining about the visa (April 2005):
We caught the faster bus from Bangkok at 4pm and overnighted in Aran. The following morning we headed for the border. There were only a couple of touts as we got off the tuk tuk asking us where we were going, etc. A bit of a wait to get stamped out of Thailand.
At the Cambodian visa counter I saw people paying money to get "help" filling in their form. We were just handed forms and filled them out. We handed over 1000 baht each for the visas and waited in the sitting area. Shortly thereafter we were handed our passports. I noticed the space on the visa where you can fill in how much it costs and pointed out to my boyriend that is was blank. I mentioned to him that the true cost was $20US (he hadn't understood that before). So he went back to the counter with our passports to try to get the man behind the glass to fill in how much we paid. This wasn't the best idea since the man at the visa office ripped out the visas and handed back the money and passports to my boyfriend! After much apologizing, the man at the visa office re-attached the visas. We were immediately approached by someone saying they could get us a camry for 1000 baht, and off we went. The trip was quick (about 3 hours).
Much better than the KSR scam bus (March 2005):
I acted as if I had made the trip multiple times and no one bothered me at all. I got on the 5:30am 1st class bus from Bangkok (164 Baht) which took about 4 1/2 hours. Then, got into a tuk tuk for the border. I never asked the price, but just gave hime 40 baht when I got out and he seemed fine with it. I arrived well ahead of the Khao San Road crew, but got stuck behind some Korean package tourists. The whole process at immigration took about an hour. The man at the Visa office was persistant on 1000 baht. I tried handing him $20 and 100 Baht hoping to win him over, but he didn't want anything to do with it.
After getting stamped in, I did get hassled by some touts for a taxi. It seemed everyone was set on 1100 baht for a taxi to Siem Reap, so I agreed and off we went. I think the taxi driver was trying to set a personal record and we made it in 3 hours. Not so bad, I got to Siem Reap around 2:30pm with plenty of time to see the sunset!
Short but to the point (March 2005):
If buying a ticket from Siem Reap to Bangkok, do not use ATS or 'Amazing Angkor' tours. The bus was a tiny minibus without air-con or suspension, the bags were piled down the aisle and people had to sit on them, the windows had to be opened which meant we got covered in red dust from the road. The seats were so cramped and the bus so spine-jangling that we had sore backs the next day.
People on the bus paid either 5, 10 or 16 dollars for what was a 7-hour journey in intense discomfort. Avoid at all costs!!
Visa silliness in Bangkok (February 2005):
Got my first Cambodian visa last week. Got it at the Cambodia Embassy here in Bangkok. Asked for a business visa. Was asked for $30. I replied, "Sir isn't it $25?" He said $30. I said (lied), "But my friend got a business visa yesterday and it was $25." He replied, "$30." I handed him 1000 Baht. He said, "1500 Baht." I said, "Please write 1500 Baht on the receipt" and I paid the man.
Well, he gave me a receipt for 1500 Baht alright, little did I know that I needed to surrender that receipt a few hours later in order to have my passport returned to me. Yeah I got the business visa sealed to a page in my passport... the top right-hand corner reads, "Fee 25 USD" when in fact it received the equivalent of at least $37.50. (Actually with the shitty rate my ATM card gets me, it costed me $39.45) I'm sure the receipt was destroyed shortly after, so there is no proof, anywhere, that I did in fact pay more than $25. It's conceivable that if this occurs often enough, that official "earns" more this way than he does via his paycheck.
Straightforward on your own (February 2005):
I caught a cab from my hostel to the train station (60baht) and then booked a ticket on the 5.55am train. The 3rd class ticket cost 48baht, the only 2nd class carriage is the last one on the train and you can upgrade your ticket by boarding this carriage and paying the extra 113baht to the conductor on board (you cannot buy a 2nd class ticket at the ticket booths), which I did as I had not slept at all the previous night and I wanted to sleep in peace and comfort (no probs as there were only 5 other people on the carriage with me) so I could keep my wits about me during the overland crossing. A tuk-tuk driver got on the carriage on arrival at Aranyaprathet insisting I use his services, I negotiated a 60baht ride from his initial 80baht offer. On arrival at the border 4 guys with trolleys and 2 children with umbrellas chased my tuk-tuk until it came to a stop and they all swarmed around me grabbing at me and my bags. I was very firm with my 'no thank you' and after storming away from them (and my rude tuk-tuk driver who tried to get a kiss for me instead of a tip) they seemed to get the message and left me alone.
No probs at the border, aside from surly officials, having to pay 1000baht instead of $20 for my Cambodian visa, and having touts stand over me as I tried to fill in my immigration form. Getting my stamp out of Thailand took approx 25mins, getting my Cambodian visa took approx 40mins (no major queues but most of the staff were sitting about having lunch), getting my stamp took approx 10mins.
Further to your report, it might be worth adding here that at Thai immigraton, I saw a black man with an African accent get asked for his passport, asked to leave the line and then taken to the office after the booths where you get your exit stamps. The whole time the man was asking what the problem was and then asking for his passport back, but the official kept on asking him to wait and the man was getting more and more agitated and then they both went into the office.
After getting my Cambodian stamp I left the immigration office decided to wait and see if I could find any other westerners to share a taxi with. The tuk-tuks just wouldn't leave me alone despite the fact that I was ignoring them. As luck would have it, I waited no more than five mins when three other people came out of the immigration office all looking for a fourth person to share a camry taxi into SR. We shared two tuk-tuks to further down the road where we picked up a camry for 1100 baht which made 2 stops (one for petrol and one toilet break) to SR. It's a dusty, bumpy ride (I highly recommend wearing a sports bra, ladies!) but we all got to our guesthouses with no dramas. I arrived at my guesthouse at 5.15pm.
To Battambang (February 2005):
1) The road from Battambang to Sisophon is in VERY good shape now. It took 65 min this morning to cover the entire distance, mostly at 90-110 km/hr. The only reason it took as long as it did was that a truck had fallen through a bridge. They seem to have learned how to pave roads (not one single pothole or sinkhole the whole way), but the bridges still need some engineering work.
2) The boat to Battambang from Siem Reap can no longer get through due to low water. We had an 8 hr boat trip, followed by 1 hour waiting, and a 1.5 hour ride packed on the back of a pickup. Other tourists did much worse: We met the boat coming from the direction of Battambang at the halfway point. Those tourists had to wade through the mud up to their waist to push the boat through. Not fun! The day before, the pickups failed to show up and the trip took 13 hours (as per pissed-off tourists in Battambang)
3) There is a Camry parking area at the Poipet traffic circle, about one-quarter of the way around(on the right, just behind the moto drivers, as you enter from Thailand and follow the traffic around the circle). That makes it very easy to get a taxi now. Very few touts. In fact, none approached me at all at 7:30 am, even when I became confused at the traffic circle. Finally, one single one did show up. He got 20 baht from the taxi driver.
Comfortable (February 2005):
I did a few things differently, but that was for my comfort more than anything. First, I got my visa at the embassy in Bangkok. As it is close to Ratchadamri BTS station, it was convenient to go there, but I would advise an early visit as they are only open from about 0930 to 1200. Regardless, I had to go back in the evening to collect my passport.
I chose to stay over in Aranyaprathet on the way in. I was not sure what time I would get away from Bangkok and I had to book accommodation in advance, so I built in a buffer day just in case (sometimes travel can be a bit problematic physically for me).
From the time I left the hotel in Aranyaprathet until I was in my taxi and on my way in Poipet took about 50 minutes!
I got met by a tout on the Thai side of the border. I talked to him briefly but he wanted 1500 baht for a single occupancy taxi to Siem Reap so I gave him the cold shoulder. Anyway, he followed me thru the border and eventually I did deal with him. Taxi eventually down to 1200 which seemed fair based on your comment about petrol prices. Anyway, the price was kind of confirmed on the way back when my guest house booked me a taxi for 1200 baht.
The return journey went fine - 10 hours exactly from hotel (SR) to hotel (BKK) but that would have been quicker if the underground had been working.
Almost there (January 2005):
We hit the road from Bangkok to Siem Reap on January 17. While still in Bangkok, I met a guy that I knew from a previous trip and who lives in the City of Angels for years. When I told him that we were planning to take the bus from Morchit, he told us about another bus. No, not the Khao San ones, but the casino buses that the Thai gamblers take to the Poipet. Supposedly, you hand over 100 baht and go straight from Sukhumvit (where we were staying) to the border, thus saving the trip to Morchit bus station and the tuk-tuk ride from Aranyaprathet to the border.
Sounded great, so as we were running late in the morning, we hopped into a taxi (instead of the planned subway ride) from Sukhumvit to the Lumpini park corner across from the Rama statue, where the buses are leaving from. That was a mistake as the taxi got stuck in a nice, steaming morning traffic jam and we missed the 7:15 am bus by a couple minutes. We found two Thai ladies already waiting for the next bus that leaves at 9 am. One of them told us that they exchanged 2000 baht to casino chips and then the bus is free. As I had no intention to gamble and change anything to chips, I chickened out at this point that handling over 100 baht won’t work (although according to my friend who recommended it and who uses this bus for his visa runs, it works great) and I will get stuck at 9 am on this part of the journey, so we just hopped on the subway and headed straight to Chatuchak Park which is next to the Morchit Skytrain Station. It’s a 15 baht ride.
We were lucky as about 2 hours later they had a subway accident that injured a hundred people. By that time, however, we were on the 8:30 bus heading towards Aranyaprathet. Everything went according to the script; I sat there with my TOA directions printed in my pocket sipping the water we got with our 164 baht tickets. On the bus there were five more tourists beside us, struck up conversation with one of them and learned that he is heading to Siem Reap as well and we decided to make the trip together.
Three of us took a tuk-tuk from the Aranyaprathet bus station to the border (60 baht). The tuk-tuk took us straight to the Khao San bus company office where a guy would have jumped into the tuk-tuk if it had any space. I had to be a little nastier than I usually am and had to scream at the guy to go to hell. It worked, he backed off and the tuk-tuk continued to the border. My wife was cracking up next to me and told me that she didn’t know that I am that assertive. Well, this was not the place to be shy. The American guy traveling with us gave me a strange look and I had to reassure him that otherwise I am a nice guy and he should read your TOA guide.
The tuk-tuk pulled up at the border and the fun began. Teenage boys asking to carry our luggage, ten guys asking “Sir, where’re you from? Going to Siem Reap!?” We told everyone that we are from Mongolia and we are headed towards Ulaanbaatar. This may have discouraged some fellows but there were still a few of touts following us. After reading your site I decided that I didn’t want to deal with one more annoyance at the border and we got out visas back in the States. It was very convenient. I mailed our passports to the embassy in Washington with $20 each, paid about 7 bucks for the postage and got our visas 10 days later. It paid off here: we checked out of Thailand, and walked across the bridge to check into Cambodia, got our stamp, everything went smooth.
As soon as we came out of the Cambodian immigration booth again we were surrounded by touts offering rides to Siem Reap. We ignored them and insisted that we are going to Ulaanbaatar, walked to the traffic circle and saw no taxis at all (this was around 1pm). We weren’t sure what to do so we walked past the circle towards SR, but couldn’t find any taxis. There were two touts following us and it looked like those couple of taxis that did pass by were afraid to stop. We kept walking and eventually the two touts disappeared but there were still no taxis and I was getting concerned that we were gonna get stuck in that craphole town. We bought a couple of bananas for lunch and eventually walked back closer to the traffic circle when the same two touts showed up with a taxi. The taxi driver agreed to the 1000 baht fare right away and we didn’t even bargain.
One of the touts kept asking me how much we agreed on. I told him to piss off and looked at the driver. The fear was visible on this poor fellow’s face, so I am sure the touts, unfortunately, still got their share from the driver. The driver made a turn to a side road which scared the hell out of me as I was sure that that’s not the road towards Sisophon, he stopped at some building and told the guy there (I don’t speak Khmer, so this is just an assumption) how many people he has and where he is going. It looked a bit like a police station, or maybe it was the local taxi mafia, I am not sure, although the two are probably one and the same anyway.
After this interlude he hit the road (sometimes quite literarily due to the pot holes) and arrived in SR about 4.5 hours later. The road needs no introduction here. I counted two collapsed bridges along the way but being dry season this posed no problem. One thing that posed a problem was that once in Siem Reap the driver had no idea where our guest house was. This was very confusing as I wasn’t sure if he is playing stupid in order to get us into his commission paying GH or he really doesn’t know.
We drove around for about 45 minutes and eventually someone pointed us to the right direction. Now I am convinced that the driver honestly didn’t have a clue where to go and I may have been too harsh on him. So please judge people, except the ones in Poipet, favorably. The guy had a cell phone, I had the phone number of my GH and I don’t know if his phone was made maybe only for incoming calls or is he didn’t know how to read or didn’t know how to punch in the numbers, but at one point he stopped another Khmer on the street trying to get direction and trying to get that other local to dial his mobile. It didn’t work either. Whatever the case, at this point, after traveling the whole day, it was a mutually frustrating experience.
We spent three days in SR; on the way home we took a taxi to Poipet which ran considerable more than in the other direction: we perked over $40 for the taxi ride back to Poipet. As we were waiting for our re-entry visa to Thailand one of those little kids running around begging at the border was run over by a truck on the bridge. So be careful and walk on the pedestrian side of the bridge (which of course is full of beggars). Fortunately, we didn’t see the kid because he was immediately surrounded by locals. We didn’t go over there because I figured that we can’t help much anyway and there were plenty (perhaps too many) people around him. It was shocking to see, however, that there was no hurry, no sense of urgency, no doctor, and no ambulance. About five minutes later we saw a policeman walking over with a mask on his face. He didn’t look like he was in any hurry either. Another deeply repulsive thing we saw was a tourist jumping on top of the truck to film the boy lying on the ground. Creating an “entertaining” tourist video of Cambodia, the kid lying in a pool of blood, I wonder what he is going to do with it. Show it around the coffee table to his friends? I was surprised that the locals didn’t lynch him, and I hope that next time he will step on a mine thus providing visual entertainment to fellow idiots.
Once in Aranyaprathet we made a mistake by taking the train to Bangkok. The ride was cheap ($1.25), long and uncomfortable. It was the season when the Thais are burning their rice fields and the ashes and the smoke was pouring in the windows for hours. By the time we got to Bangkok we looked like we cleaned a chimney. I am glad they let us into our hotel the way we looked and that my wife was grumpy only for one night afterwards.
Normal ride on your own (January 2005):
Headed to Mo Chit bus terminal by taxi on the morning of the 5th of January, got there just after 7am (the taxi driver offered to drive me all the way to Aran for 2000 baht if I was interested, a bit rich for my tastes). Strolled up to the ticket counter, snagged a seat on the 7:30am 1st class bus without a worry. Bought some snacks for the trip and then onto the bus. The trip to Aran wasn't the quickest, ended up arriving pretty much right on midday.
Grabbed a tuk-tuk to the border, gave her 60 baht which she seemed pleasantly surprised about (certainly didn't raise any objections, that's for sure! ). Entering Thai immigration and the queue's were basically back to the door for both Thai's and foreigners. Took 45 minutes to get through, then the quick stroll for the Cambodian visa, 10 minutes and 1000 baht later it was off to Cambodian immigration, another 10 minutes or so to wait for entry, then into the expected maelstrom.
Surprisingly up until this point I hadn't been approached by touts at all, and then even more surprisingly, as I walked into the taxi circle, past the first Camry, the touts were offering the ride for 1000 baht, driver standing next to them, keys in hand. All I can guess is they needed to get some boxes to Siem Reap quickly, because they filled up the boot with boxes as I slid into the taxi, and it was off we went.
The trip to Siem Reap took about three and a half hours, with a brief stop in Sisophon to offload some boxes, and a slight detour around a bridge that was broken just outside Sisophon (fortunately some enterprising locals had constructed a replacement roadway across the dry river bed). Getting into town the driver took me pretty much straight to where I was staying (the FCC Angkor) though I was the one that had to give him directions, he had no idea where it was, even when I showed him on the map.
For the trip back from Siem Reap, I checked out of my hotel at 7am on the 8th of January and strolled across the bridge to the Sokimex (the FCC Angkor is definitely conviniently located in this aspect). One of the drivers asks me if I'm going to Poipet, I say yes, he offers a price of 1100 baht. I counter with US$25, and he's happy with that. The driver made a couple of brief stops along the way to the border, about five minutes each time to exchange things with friends along the way. Arrived in Poipet just after 10:30am.
Getting out through Cambodian immigration took about ten minutes, then it was about a twenty minute wait to get back in through Thai immigration. Even by the time I was leaving (just after 11am) the queues behind me were starting to expand rapidly. Then it was jumping into a tuk-tuk, 60 baht and a smile later I was deposited right outside the 1st Class bus ticket office, in time to buy a ticket on the 11:30am 1st class bus back to Bangkok. The trip was pretty smooth until we hit Rangsit, then took almost an hour from there to getting into Mo Chit itself, just after 4pm. Finally battling the throngs at the taxi stands out the back of Mo Chit and I was off and away to my hotel about 15 minutes later.
So I think it's fair to say the guide given by you certainly works a treat, and I can't imagine why anyone would be contemplating the KSR experience in comparison (especially if there's multiple travellers to spread the cost of the taxi from Poipet). The area around the border at Aran-Poipet certainly isn't a scary one (Ciduad Del Este on the border of Paraguay/Brazil definitely left me much more concerned about my personal safety).
Thanks. Keep 'em coming. E-mail your story here
Reports Page 13 (Jan 2005 - Apr 2005)
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