Page 14 of 22 (October 2004 - December 2004)
These are a variety of reports detailing experiences traveling both independently and on Khao San Road-purchased bus tickets. If you'd like to share your own experiences, please e-mail them to me. There are also sections here devoted to all other overland border crossings as well.
More KSR bus nonsense (December 2004):
We travelled from Bangkok to Siem Reap on 18th December. We read your website day after purchasing our ticket using agent just off KSR road. Usual story, picked up later, instead of 6:30am it was more like 7:45am. No VIP bus instead a minibus to border. Arrived at border around 11-12 ish. Not Poipet border as confirmed by our travel agent several times and advertised but the Duang border. We had our visa already but others were charged 1500 Bht for tourist visa. KSR Connection Co took 500 according to receipt for services rendered. Waited hour and half for bus from Duang. From Duang told various stories why bus was late, changing tyre, cleaning bus. Had they not known we were arriving I asked, only to be advised that they do not understand what I'm saying English not good. Doubtful as I had previous conversations with them and they understood me perfectly well. When bus eventually came we stopped off for petrol for about 30 mins(!). I asked why we went through Duang border in first place, road conditions in Poipet are bad and so many tourists there that it would take ages to get through customs. Roads were awful, bus did not have ANY suspension so we felt every bump going. We were lucky we arrived in Siem Reap at 10pm, though tour guide' sitting in bus with us initially stated journey would take 6 hours from Duang. We left Duang around 2pm! He then went on to tell us that the previous few nights people had arrived in SR around 1am, 3am so 10:30pm was good.....Usual story taken to guesthouse (Beng Melea G/H). We had own hotel booking, asked for tuk tuk and given Beng Melea tuk-tuk driver. He wanted to charge us 2 dollars to take us 5 min ride down road! The thing is that I don't know why they have to do this as Beng Melea G/H looked like a nice enough G/H anyway. During the trip to SR I did ask the 'tour guide' on bus why they do this do they not realise that over time they will lose customers. He just laughed and smiled!
We did not complain to tourist police as we were subsequently informed that the police are actually paid off by these 'bus scammers'. So as a tourist you go to police they do take your complaint seriously, even giving you compensation of your bus ticket at times, but they do nothing with complaint as their pockets are lined by the bus scammers. We obtained this information from a very good source. So tourist goes away feeling he/she made a difference, tourist police look efficient and are happy with there extra income, and bus scammers carry on scamming. We are all happy? [Gordon here: I cannot verify or refute this allegation. I would point out however that the tourist police in Poipet control all transport in and out of Poipet and this is one of the reasons why Khao San Connection takes tourists through Duang - so as to avoid paying a kickback to the police there. This does tend to make one wonder how strong of a connection there is between the tourist police and Khao San Connection.]
Only way to stop this is to avoid using these buses in first place. However I doubt this will happen for a while. None of the other passengers we were travelling with were aware of the scam in the first place. I am referring all fellow travellers going overland to Cambodia to your website. Unfortunately for us we read it too late.
Way back we left around 8am and arrived in Bangkok around 7:30pm. Longer than expected. We arrived at Poipet border around 1pm but had to wait til 3:30pm before we left on our not-VIP bus as promised. Roads going via Poipet were definetely LOADS better than the Duang border.
Semi-normal independent return trip (December 2004):
Got bus at BKK 8am, no problem, even though the Thais bugged all the westerners on the bus for their passports at the checkpoint before the border, same thing on the way back... hummm… they where polite about it though…
Thai side, no problem, even though the line was very long, mostly Thais, Thai immigration their usual semi-arrogant selves.
Cambodia visa couldn’t get the visa for 20 bucks, even though we tried for like 20 minutes. In the end they just closed the window, so we gave up and gave them the 1000 baht…
Cambodia Immigration, no problem, no hassle.
And then into the maelstrom. The taxi guys jumped on us as soon as we got thru, had to bargain for a GOOD while, since they wanted 2000 baht, and I stayed firm on a 1000. In the end they would not budge from 1100 baht, so I figured this must be what it’s costing now, and 100 baht is not something to go crazy over. The ride was so/so since the cab driver was an asshole, and stopped everywhere, tried to get some “friends” in the cab, stopped 2 times to eat (?) and then after 4 hours got us to Siem Riep where he stopped on a corner full of touts, trying their hardest to get us to a guest house, and the cab driver wouldn’t leave, even though we kept telling him we were going to Molly Malone’s. In the end we had to close the windows, and sit back and stop talking for like 5 minutes before he gave up and dropped us off, and then had the nerve to ask for a 100 baht tip! Well, you can always try… ;) Total about 9.5 hours.
Back to Thailand was much easier except for the mess at the Sokimex station, where everybody wanted a cut, even the moto driver. In the end we ended up walking away, and they said ok, 1100 baht, even though they knew we were kinda screwed. What were we gonna do, walk back to Thailand? The guy was much nicer, didn’t stop, and took 3 hours. The border was no problem, 20 minutes and thru. Then bus back to BKK. Total 8 hours.
Bridges (December 2004):
We left Siem Reap at 8am on 3 Dec 2004. Around 11:30am about 12 km from finishing the second (unpaved) section, we came to a halt behind a long line of trucks, taxis, buses, cars and motorcycles. After 20 minutes when it didn’t move, I decided to walk up to the front of the quarter-mile line of vehicles, crowded Asian-style from one side of the road to the other side.
When I reached the bridge my heart stopped! Bear with me as this one is somewhat difficult to describe. A very long open-backed truck was parked with only a little of it on the bridge while a large crane parked in the middle of the bridge was busy reloading long bundles of steel reinforcement rods onto the truck. There was a large hole in the bridge from one side to the other. Apparently the over-loaded truck had broken through the bridge sometime in the early morning, the crane had eventually arrived, off-loaded the bundles of rods, got the truck moved nearly off the bridge and was attempting to reload the steel. The work was proceeding extremely slowly.
On the other side of the bridge was an equally long line of vehicles of all sorts all pointed in my direction on the bridge. I thought about the situation for a few minutes and realized that we had a disaster in the making. To finish reloading the rods, back up the vehicles on my side necessary to get the truck on its way to Siem Reap, get the huge crane off the bridge and back wherever it came from, repair the extensive damage to the bridge, then finally to get two massive traffic jams pointed at each other in order so that each side could continue on its journey would entail 7 hours at the least!
And here we were, along with many super deluxe air-conditioned tourist buses, trucks, jeeps, etc. all stuck out in the rice paddies with no toilets and little drinkable water. I quickly made up my mind then to walk across the bridge (there were two narrow wooden planks for pedestrians to use to get around the truck and crane) to the opposite end of traffic and find a vehicle that would turn around and take us to the Thai border. I knew from this website that the last good bus left Aran, 7 km on the other side of the border, at 3pm for Bangkok. The race was on! I quickly reached the far end of traffic and found a taxi with two jet-lagged Korean students who were attempting to do a fast side trip to Angkor Wat from Bangkok.
After some discussion they realized they had to do what I was doing, only in the opposite direction. After they headed off with their backpacks, I arranged with their taxi driver to wait for me while I went back for my wife to take us the 12 km to Sisophon, the town that lay at the end of the second section of road, the dirt section. When I reached my wife and told her the situation, she quickly gathered her backpack (we were very lightly packed for this 4-day stay in Cambodia), asked if anyone on the bus wanted to join us (none of the young backpackers there thought they should/had they only known!), and made our way to the other side.
This seemed a bit ironic as I am 65 and my wife 58! The taxi had left, alas! Just then two young kids on 125cc motorcycles cruised by and asked us if we wanted rides to Sisophon. “How much and how long?” I asked. “$1 each; 20 minutes.” I knew from you website that we could get Camry Toyota pickups where they pile everyone in from there to the border, so I quickly said, “Let’s go!” I wish I had taken a picture from my motorcycle of my wife with her hair flying behind, no protective helmet, backpack on, one arm wrapped around the kid holding her Burmese straw hat and the other hand grasping a plastic bag filled with food and water . An unforgettable sight!
Every time a vehicle passed the dust swirled up around us and we shut our eyes and hoped we wouldn’t topple over in the soft dirt on our side of the narrow road. Arriving straight at the taxi stand for the border we hailed one that was just leaving. Dismayed at the pile of humanity in the open back I hopefully asked if there were any places in front. Yes, two places, he told us, at 100 Thai Baht ($2.5) for the hour and a quarter ride to Poipet at the border. The pickup front was the double-row type and we were crammed into the second row. Still it had air-conditioning and felt better than the back end of a motorcycle.
After off-loading an entire layer of beer boxes that the locals had been perched on in the back, the driver took us to Immigration at the border. It took only about 5 minutes to get through Cambodian immigration since there were a few hundred tourists still back at the damaged bridge. 100 yards-walk across the no-one’s land, then the same amount of time to stamp us in to Thailand. We quickly found a tuk-tuk and shouted, “To the Bangkok bus stop in Aran as fast as you can.” As we piled out of the rickshaw, a bus man was motioning us to hurry. It was 2:58, two minutes to departure. I raced into the office as I heard the bus engine revving up, bought two of the last three tickets and we found ourselves on the wonderful, beautiful, exquisite 1st class, air-conditioned bus to Bangkok. We had been racing, racing ever since I went back to get my wife at the bridge. We were high as a kite and sat looking at each other wondering what world we had been in. There were three other tourists who, like us, had abandoned their transportation back at the bridge.
The bus ride to Bangkok should have taken only 3.5 hours, but took 5 hours, due mainly to the heavy Friday traffic starting from 25 miles outside Bangkok. It was the king’s birthday on Sunday, plus there was a graduation in progress, etc. We were at our hotel (booked and paid for before we went to Angkor Wat) by 8:30pm and we wondered when those poor travelers would ever reach Bangkok. I doubt if they would even make it to the border before it closed for the night . As for us, we were only 15-minutes walk from the fabulous Weekend Market, had a whole Saturday before us and could munch on delicious street fare like pork satay at 13 cents a stick on the way! What a trip to remember.
More fun and games with the tourist buses (December 2004):
We booked our bus ticket through a TAT office [Gordon here: There is no such thing as a TAT travel agency. There is however, an agency next to the train station in Bangkok that fraudulently claims they are a "TAT Agency". For more information read this, and in particular the piece entitled "TAT".] in BKK Hualumpong station. I asked fellow passengers, we paid 600, others 750 through that same office that promises two big buses, of course the second bus (border-SR) is a minivan and not a big bus.
Some people bought only a ticket to the border for 200 baht and they were offered a seat in the minivan for another 200 for border-SR, very good! Two other passengers wanted a taxi to SR and they were offered 200 for the minivan, didn't bargain, the driver offered 100 for two passengers, so 50 each... even better!!!
The bad thing is that the minivan is bad quality and overloaded by then by passengers. Two had to sit on others peoples' backpacks.
The good thing is, you can go for cheap...250 baht BKK--SR.
Even if you buy your bus ticket through TAT it still holds the same scams:
1. Two hours waiting before border at restaurant
2. Pressure to pay them for visa 'bus cannot wait after border'.
3. Pressure again after Thai immigration to buy the visa from them. We four didn't fall for it, the other two I told it to did.
4. Interesting - the price at official office was 1200 for tourist and 1600 for business (we wanted B visa anyway, and very good excuse NOT to fill in the scam forms). I asked 20 meters farther, turned out it is 1100/1500 without picture and the 100 is for picture... but the officials didnt say that!!! It's only when I said 'that guy there says its 1100-1500!'
So price has gone up 100 B for tourist visa to 1100 and another 100 probably if you don't know that you dont have to pay it because you DO have a picture with you.
5. One hour waiting after border.
6. Delivery to their Winter Guesthouse at 2300 hrs, dead cheap 2 US dollar, but against our principle... only 3 out of 8 people that I explained your scam advise were still able to escape their "oh its not us that made you wait and used your backpack as a chair, it's the big company which is very corrupt, we want you to have a good time, honestly' and find another guesthouse, NOT in the same street, because of course they're all full!
We took moto and drove on, around the corner is okay, we found Green Town Guesthouse was still open at midnight, good alternative.
1.Even TAT offices [Gordon here: Reminder, it wasn't really a TAT office.] sell scam buses which leave from Hualumpong station
2. You can negotiate for a seat 200-250B if you only bought ticket to border.
3 You have to be strong to stand your ground, I am not such a strong person myself, but I feel proud that we did find something else that night "Siem Reap is so dangerous, no taxis, everything closed, it's high season' and it could be that the Winter Guesthouse people are genuine, I hope they can pass it on to their boss, like: listen, tourists don't fall for it anymore, although they are tired by the time they arrive'.
Khao San Road scams are alive and well (October 2004):
We travelled on the 7th October. We bought our tickets from an agent
just off the Khaosan Road who assured us we would go via Poipet - luxery
coach/air con minibus.
I received the following several days after the original report above:
You may want to add this footnote to my previous mail:
My friend and I were advised to go to the tourist police by the owner of the guesthouse where we are staying. We did this two days ago and they treated our complaint very seriously. Not only did they take a statement for their own use but a separate one for the "corruption police" too.
Apparently the people behind Khaosan Connection Travel are well known to the police as they have been scamming and moving on for a number of years.
Some more people staying at our guesthouse also came down the same way. They also reported the problem to the tourist police.
Last night we were all invited to headquarters where we were each presented with 200 baht in compensation and assured that Khaosan Connection Travel had been told to stop ripping tourists off. While I think this was largely a PR exercise on the part of the Tourist Police, it does show that they are concerned about people who come to their country.
I would urge everyone who gets taken to this border and ripped off by Khaosan Connection Travel to go to the Siem Reap Tourist Police. If they continue to receive these reports, they will realise how much it is happening. I know some people are on a tight schedule of temple cramming when they come to Siem Reap, but if you can spare an hour to report your problems, it will help other fellow travellers. They are particularly keen to know about pressure put on people by local guest house owners when arriving in town.
A normal trip (October 2004):
We did just as you said and followed "on your own" tips. We took the public bus leaving the Morchit bus terminal on the blue bus at 7:30am for 164Baht. Then we took the large tuk tuk to the border and this is where we made a mistake. We paid 60Baht...per person. The driver was so happy but it was too late as we realized this while crossing the border. At the border, they would not accept the $20us bill and we had to pay 1000Baht. Then the SARS control.
The man put on his hat, put the yellow papers in our passports and informed that we have to pay 20Baht each for something to do with the hair. We said no way and walked away. The guy was shocked. We crossed the border with no problems and were attacked by a tout who just wouldn't leave us alone. Although he wanted 1000Baht for a taxi to Siem Reap, we kept on walking, as we didn't want to deal with this guy. He did not give up though. He walked probably about 400 meters with us. Finally, we gave up and took the Camry.
The driver was a very nice man who spoke English well. We found out that he had to pay the tout 50Baht. He was a maniac when it came to driving. We stopped at a local school as we brought loads of pens, pencils and markers to donate to school.
The driver dropped us off at a guesthouse for $10 per night (3 people in one room and 2 in the other). He told us that he would take us back to the border for 1000Baht, which we agreed to. We did however change the guesthouse the next day. We found a better one for the same money and we could not locate our taxi driver anymore.
What I have notice in Siem Reap is that when you agree to a price with a driver for Angkor tour, a trip to the market or whatever the case may be, the driver at first is very friendly and at the end of the trip, his attitude changes. We never found out why. We always paid what we agreed to and never asked for anything extra.
We found a taxi at the gas station by the bridge (looks like they all stand there) and agreed to $20us ride back to the border. All was fine, the driver would not even slow down for the massive bumps, until we got to Sisophon. A guy tells us that our car is broken (he points to something in the wheel) and that he will take us to the border. I didn’t believe this for a second. I believed that the first driver didn’t have a choice as this second guy wanted to make some money as well. I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with the car (I’m a typical tomboy and I know quite a lot about cars). We didn’t pay the first driver and hopped into the second Camry. The guy was slow and it took much longer to get to the border.
At the border all went smooth, we took a tuk tuk to the bus terminal (now we paid 60Baht) and purchased tickets for the public bus for 164Baht again. We were given different prices for the same bus ranging from 210 to 180Baht. We ended up paying 164.
The trip was great and uneventful.
Thanks. Keep 'em coming. E-mail your story here
Reports Page 14 (Oct 2004 - Dec 2004)
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