Page 16 of 22 (January 2004 - March 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.
Easy Siem Reap to Bangkok (March 2004):
I travelled from Siem Reap to Bangkok on 21st March 2004. I waited 30mins for the taxi to fill up. I paid $US10 to have the front seat of the Camry to myself. Two bridges were down, so we used small detours set up through the fields by the locals. We had to stop three times for a little girl to throw up.
The road is bumpy enough to warrant getting the Camry over any other form of transport on that road. The whole trip to Poipet took 3hrs 15mins. Plenty of time to get a tuk-tuk (50Baht) to the train station in Aran for a relaxing train trip to Bangkok. It was a very easy day of travelling.
Koh Chang to Siem Reap in a day (February 2004):
We met some people in Ko Chang who had recently done the journey in reverse and claimed that it wasn't possible to do in a day, but we thought we'd give it a go and it proved to be pretty straight forward.
The five of us left our huts on White Sand Beach for the pier at about 8am, took the ferry to the mainland and then paid 30 baht each for a ride into Trat. We weren't really sure what our plan was from there but had considered trying to hire a minibus between the five of us to take us to Aranyaprathet if it wasn't possible to get a public bus. When the songthaew pulled into Trat a girl from the state bus company came to ask us where we were heading which was a real bonus as I'm so used to arriving at places in Asia and being lied to. We told her we wanted to go to Aranyaprathet and she asked the songthaew driver for us how much it would cost to charter him. We'd discussed paying 2500 baht for a minibus between us the night before as we were desperately short of time, so when the driver offered 1500 baht we took it. While I'm sure he would have gone lower if we'd pushed him he seemed like a nice guy and GB five pounds each seemed more than fair so we agreed. With just the five of us there was plenty of room and the breeze from the open sides kept us cool and in fact the journey was far more pleasant than the public bus from Bangkok to Trat had been a few days before. Great views of the mountains towards the Cambodian border, too. We arrived at the border in Aranyaprathet about three and a half hours later to be swarmed by the obligatory touts. We paid our driver who had been really friendly and after I gave him a small tip he pretty much told the touts to piss off and we were left alone.
We sat in the fast food place and a Cambodian in a shirt with very good English tried to talk to us. We tried politely telling him to leave us alone but I'm not sure being polite is the way forward with these guys. He actually followed us all the way into Cambodia (formalities were straight forward and fairly quick) but we just ignored him. In the end he'd overheard us saying we were heading to Siem Reao and started trying to get drivers for us. As it happens it had very little effect as we easily got two Camrys for 1000 baht each and paid the tout nothing, although the driver seemed to give him 200 baht. Poor guy.
Thankfully it had been dry and so the road wasn't in too bad condition up to Sisophon, but deteriorated after that. The journey from Poipet to Siem Reao took three and a half hours including one slightly worrying "checkpoint" where the car was stopped and searched by a group of blokes that looked like anything but police. We weren't asked for any money though, but our driver looked uncomfortable. Arriving in Siem Reap we had the usual shit with the guesthouse we wanted to go to (dirty, full, closed) but just laughed and insisted on going where we wanted. We arrived in Siem Raep well before dark and for the most part the journey had been a pleasant experience, and not too demanding on the wallet.
Like an ISO9001 compliance exercise (February 2004):
Note: our trip --
Bangkok-Lopburi-Aranyaprathet-Siem Reap (February 2004):
I wasn’t in a hurry to go from Bangkok to Siem Reap all in one day, also I planned to look at Lopburi and Aranyaprathet first so I allowed 3 days for the trip. I took the sky train from Sukhumvit to the Morchit terminal. The Lonely Planet guide says the sky train and bus station are close together. This website says it is not practical. They look close on a map and separated by a park so I decided to try anyway. It took 30 minutes carrying my rucksack through two nice parks. I think it was pure luck that I got there after 30 minutes as I could have easily gone the wrong way. All things said it’s not worth walking it.
I actually went from Morchit bus station to Lopburi first as I had something to do and spent one night there. Nothing to do with going to Cambodia overland but it might interest some that I worked out a way of getting from the north to Siem Reap without having to go all the way back to Bangkok. Leaving Lopburi at 11.00 am. I went first to Saraburi, then got another bus which joined the Bangkok - Aranyaprathet highway 33 as far as a town called Sa Kaew. From Sa Kaew it was another short bus ride to Aranyaprathet, where I arrived 6 hours after leaving Lopburi. Total cost B123 for one aircon and two non-aircon bus rides. I suppose this proves that it is possible to save a little time and money for anyone wanting to travel from Northern Thailand to Siem Reap and not have to backtrack to Bangkok. Get off a Bangkok bound bus in Saraburi, overnight there, take another bus to one of the towns on highway 33 and change to a Bangkok – Aranyaprathet bus. Though not everyone will think it’s worth the messing about.
On arrival in Aranyaprathet I took a motorbike taxi for B30 and checked in to the Aran Garden 2 hotel as recommended on this website. A pleasant enough hotel but a boring town. I’m curious about border towns but I won’t be coming back here. One event, outside my door on check in there was a green snake. I thought it was dead and kicked it - then it slithered away! I could have got bitten!
Next morning I was up at 8am and took a tuk-tuk to the border for B50. After looking around the market for a few minutes I had breakfast in the fast food chicken place. Two people asked where I was going and I refused to acknowledge them.
After breakfast I made my way to the Thai border checkpoint and got stamped out of Thailand quickly and efficiently. Walking through no-man's land, there were hordes of locals pulling carts filled with belongings in both directions, - a sight in itself. In no-man's land one tout asked me where I was going and followed me but after hearing so much I was determined that the notorious "Poipet mafia" should not get anything out of me and I ignored him
After reading so many bad stories about Poipet Immigration, I decided to get my Cambodian visa before I left Hong Kong (where I live) for HK$200 (about B1,000) as I thought getting my visa in advance would make it more difficult for them to get extra money out of me. I walked straight past the visa office to the Cambodian immigration building. I thought that at 9.30 am I would be the only Westerner at the border. Wrong, there were about 20. My visa was stamped without any hassle. At this point I was planning to take a Camry taxi and I joined up with two other British travellers and we agreed to share.
When we left the immigration building the one tout was still there and about four more joined him. We walked quickly, I didn't see any Camrys at the traffic circle, but because of the touts we didn’t wait around and just kept going. I asked the other two if they wanted to look for a pick up truck further down the road or in the market as mentioned on this website. The touts overheard me say "pick up truck" and shouted at us to follow them to "my pick up truck’, but we continued ignoring them. As we walked, a policeman on a motorbike pulled up alongside us and asked where we were going. He may have only wanted to help but a few touts were still following us and I wasn’t sure if I could trust him any more than the touts. I said "pick up trucks in market", pointed ahead and he went away.
The touts finally gave up on us as we got close to the market. At first we couldn’t find any pick-up trucks along the main road or around the market. We saw a few Camrys and asked the price to Siem Reap. They wanted B1400 so we kept looking and eventually found a truck that would take me inside the back seat for B200 and the other two on the back for 100 each. (Though we had to bargain to get that price). We were the first passengers and it took nearly 45 minutes before it was over-filled up. In the back seat with me were 3 other adults, a baby and my rucksack uncomfortably on my lap. The driver wanted to put my rucksack outside but I would not lose sight of it.
I forgot that trucks from Poipet only go as far as Sisophon, and when we arrived, we were transferred to another. But it didn’t matter as we were simply reminded by the new driver how much we were to pay when we arrived. That seemed okay as I had read from this website not to pay before arrival in Siem Reap. I was dreading the journey along this road. At first I didn’t mind, but after the first hour being squashed in the back seat nursing a big rucksack turned to near agony. I wanted to get out but endured it and finally arrived in Siem Reap feeling very sore.
I wanted to stretch my legs after that terrible ride, so after paying I decided to walk 15 minutes from the set down point to the highly recommended Red Lodge where I planned to stay. It was full, but the owner had one of his staff take me by motorbike to a couple of other places which were also full. I was finally taken to a place called New Millenium Guest House, US$6 for a clean room with fan and bathroom.
Siem Reap to Bangkok (January 2004):
I showed up at the Sokimex station about 0615. The day before, I'd bicycled by a couple of times to check things out. I think I saw the guy you call "a useless fat tub of goo" both the day before and this morning.
When I showed up I went towards the tail of the line of taxis to a guy who was sweeping out the back seat of a Camry, and asked him about going to Poipet. Too bad he just called for the touts to come over. Soon I was surrounded by a crowd of touts, one of whom said, "Come with me," and wrote 1200 on his hand. I took his pen and wrote 900 underneath, and he shook his head, saying something about Chinese New Year. "*I'm* Chinese," meaning, don't give me this crap about New Year, and waved my hand, turning away. Back by the cars I saw a driver wave me over, and I walked up to him. When I got to his cab he held up both hands, fingers spread. "Okay," I said, got in his cab, and slammed the door shut.
The driver got in his cab, pulled out his wallet and showed me a 1000 baht note, just to make sure. I gave him the "thumbs up" sign and we took off at almost exactly 0630.
It was a pretty uneventful ride, with a fairly sane driver. Most of the time he stayed under 80 km/h, and there were only a couple of times he hit 100, all on paved bits. And he was reasonably cautious when overtaking.
There was only one bridge that was impassable, which everyone detoured around easily across the dry streambed. At another point there was a road grader and a roller teamed up trying to fix the road. There was a noticeable improvement in the surface quality where they had passed.
We showed up at the traffic circle at Poipet at 0950, 3 hours 20 minutes after leaving Siem Reap. I handed the driver two 500 baht notes. He smiled, and we wished each other a good day. He seemed like a cool guy.
Going through the border at 1000 is a breeze, at least for me, a Chinese-American with a US passport. I was at the moto rank in front of the convenience store by 1020, having cleared both Cambodian and Thai immigration very quickly, and was immediately on a moto to the bus station. When I got off the moto I handed the rider two 20 baht notes which he glanced at then stuck in his pocket and rode off. I was at the bus station at 1027, got in the very short queue for tickets at the 999 company (the one on the corner), paid 164 baht, and got on their 1030 bus at 1029. The bus didn't leave until 1034, so it wasn't really that close.
We showed up at Morchit bus station at 1437. At Morchit there's also a city bus station, where I caught the #3, which stops by the Mo Chit and Saphan Khwai BTS stations (and the Chatuchak Park subway station, whenever that opens). I only take the bus because it stops literally feet from where I live. It's so slow (particularly at rush hour) you feel like you could walk faster. But at three and a half baht for the non-a/c bus, it sure is cheap.
You can't *quite* walk faster to the BTS stations but it's close; the #3 takes a wacky, roundabout route, going north before going south. If you're in a rush and you want to get to the Skytrain, get a moto or a cab. (Walking is something I did once just to see how far apart the BTS and the Northern Bus Station are. It's annoyingly far.)
So, overall, a nice, straighforward trip. Sokimex station to Morchit Bus Station in 8 hours, 7 minutes, for 1204 baht.
Bangkok to Siem Reap and motodops who lie (January 2004):
On January 10 at 4 am we got on the 164 baht bus. Took a tuk-tuk to the border. Actually the only slight problem on border was with Thailand officials - I had a one-entry Thai visa and I had to pay 1000 baht more for re-entry Thai visa. In Cambodia paid 1000 baht (the 20 dollars offer was declined) for visa and nothing more. Since I get off tuk-tuk the guy sticked to me and escorted me showing where to go and telling what to do. I paid no attention and didn't talk to him but was surprised when I found out that he had not gotten lost after I spent more than half an hour in Thai border office getting my re-entry visa. So he escorted me till Cambodia and asked where I would go.
I decided that I had nothing to loose and told him that I was going to Siem Reap. I told him that I would like to go by Toyota and there should be only two of us. He said the price. I tried to reduce it but he had little interest in it so I had little success. The final price was $32. I knew it was somewhat too high but agreed. He escorted me to Camry and asked something for him. I gave him five bucks and he looked very happy. [Gordon here: There is no reason ever to give any money to a tout, not even 10 baht.] I was somewhat uneasy about two police officers and one guy that asked me about where I go and talked to driver in Khmer.
Driver seemed not to understand English at all. So when we arrived to Siem Reap I got problem to get to the guesthouse that I had chosen by i-net. Finally we stopped at the place that seemed to be quite near to the guesthouse. The driver asked some biker about guesthouse. The biker came to me and told me that he knew where it is and we should go by bike. I told him that I would like to go by the car. He told me it was the last stop for the taxi and we should go by bike. I told him that I prefer this car. He said OK he would show the way. I asked him where we were - he said the farthest end of the town. I was surprised because I could not imagine how we could get so far from the center. Of course he brought us to the wrong guesthouse. If you don't like this place I will get you to your guesthouse, he said. I looked at the room and told him OK I like the place - to get rid of him, paid the driver and when they all were gone I left the guesthouse and walked to the place I wanted to stay - it happened not to be so far. And I was right - the guesthouse was 15 bucks cheaper, cleaner and more comfortable. This problem - to find the destination place in an unknown town and with misunderstanding driver - was the only problem in Cambodia.Bangkok to Battambang to Siem Reap to Koh Chang (January 2004):
1. In Bangkok we took the 7:30 bus to Aranyaprathet. This went very smoothly and took about 4,5 hours. In Aranyaprathet we took a tuk tuk to the border (50 B). On the way to the border, the tuk tuk driver tried to drop us off at an office that arranges visas. We told him to pass that office and head straight to the border. He didn't make any problems.
Getting the visa was easy, although it took 1,5 hours all together. We just handed over 2000B (for the two of us) and the photos. I was prepared for them asking more money because my boyfriend is Indonesian (but he has a Dutch passport). I had heard they sometimes ask Asians for more money but they were only (more?) friendly because of this. Telling him he looked like someone from Cambodia etc.; just chit-chat.
We then took a taxi to Battambang. I though it would be the same distance as to Siem Reap, so we were ok with paying 1000B. After a while in the taxi we discoverd it is about 40 km (?) less. We really tried to ignore the taxi-'mafia' and talk to a driver, but didn't succeed. Touts were everywhere on the traffic circle. 'Our' tout told us to pay in advance, which we refused. He then got a little angry with the driver, at the end the driver paid him something but I don't know how much.
I think it was in Sisophon that our driver stopped the car and talked with some other taxi drivers. Eventually, he told us to get into another car. That car was about the same as the first one, so we just got in and drove further to Battambang. Total trip took about 2,5 hours.
As we entered Battambang, some moto-drivers saw us (tourists) sitting in the car and followed us untill we stopped at our hotel. They first wanted us to move to another hotel (which we didn't do), then offered their service as a guide. We talked a bit about their guide-programme for the next day, they seemed very nice, so we arranged a trip for the next day. (Was really interesting, by the way)
2. The boat from Battambang to Siem Reap took 6.5 hours due to low water.
3. Trip from Siem Reap to the border by taxi costed us 1000B. Nice car, but MAD driver. From our hotel (Red Lodge: very good!) to the traffic circle in Aranyaprathet took 2 hours and 45 minutes (we left at 7:00). From Aranyaprathet we wanted to go to Koh Chang.
In Aranyaprathet we did find the office with a large sign that says 'minibus to Trat', but the man in the office spoke very bad English and could only tell us "Not today". I have no idea if there are days that there is a minibus to Trat, but anyway, not on December 30. We then took a local bus to Chantaburi. I think that took about 4 hours. In Chantaburi, we planned on taking the next bus to Trat where we would spend the night as we would be too late for the 17:00 h. boat. But as we stepped out the bus in Chantaburi, a man asked "Koh Chang?', and wanted to drive us to the harbour in 1 hour (about 90 km). He asked for 600 B, we agreed on 500 B. (I think we might have got it lower, but we didn't have much time to talk about the money, because it was almost 16:00 h., and had to be in Trat at 17:00 h.) Anyway, we arrived on time for the boat. Later, other people told us that there was another boat on 19:00 h., but I can't confirm that.
Late arrival (January 2004):
We started 14.12.2003 with a taxi to Morchit, then the bus to Aranyaprathet where we arrived at about 4.30 PM. We weren't sure to continue but an officer told us that the border closes at 8.00 PM, so we took a tuk-tuk to the border. There was a stream of people walking to the Cambodian side. After being approached by some children - for money - we arrived at the Thai immigration office. Here we met two young ladies from Australia and we agreed to share a taxi. At the exit of the building we were approached by your "friends", unluckily our ladies didn't read talesofasia but the Lonely Planet, so we had some new companions.
At the visa service we found two men that tried to fill out the the immigration papers, but we could do this by ourselves with no problems; then they took the passports and the papers to the officers saying 1.100 Baht. I said 1.000 Baht and "this is enough" and there was no answer, except some complaint.
After passing the traffic circle - crowded with motorbikes - we started the game with the touts. I haggled to 1.300 Baht from 1.500 and so we got a car. Every tout - four guys - tried to have a tip - 50 Baht - for providing the taxi. From SR to the border we paid 1.200 Baht. Okay, I paid more than I had to, but it was getting dark and we wanted to arrive in Siem Reap not too late.
In Siem Reap we stayed at the new Ivy Guesthouse, nice place and for my taste with a good kitchen - cuisine -. Also a nice place this Dead Fish Tower.
Another reason not to buy a tourist bus ticket (January 2004):
I was staying at the Popular guesthouse and decided to book a 10$ ticket through them. After getting there by pick-up I didn't want to go the same way back. The journey was supposed to start at 6.30 am, but I waited till 7.00 before being told that the bus was full and I would be put in a share Camry. Well, that was great as it was really fast and only stopped once for a toilet break. Definitely the best way to travel. Even though the Camry is a bit more bumpy than in a pick-up, it's certainly more comfortable. I shared with another person going to Bangkok also from the Popular Guesthouse.
Got to Poipet in only 3 hours and 15 minutes and was dropped off at a travel agency there and told to wait till the bus arrived. We were told it wouldn't arrive till 12.30 so had two hours to kill in Poipet. What a hole! That place has got to be one of the most polluted, dirty and noisy places there is.
We debated about making our own way to Bangkok from here, but since we'd already paid the fare decided not too. The minibus didn't arrive till one. It was totally full with people sitting in the aisle and everyone on it looked hot and exhausted. Comments susch as 'a journey from hell' abounded. At this point I was so glad the Popular Guesthouse was the last pick-up spot.
We were sheperded through the border and waited on the other side till everyone was through. Then we were marched to another small minibus with a truck next to it. They wanted us to put our bags in the truck and travel on the minibus but everyone refused so some of us went in the minibus and some on the back of the truck. They then drove us to Aran and dropped us off at a cafe with a big 'Information' sign very near the train station.
More games now - it was 1.45 and they told us the bus to Bangkok would arrive at 3.30 (!) and encouraged us to go inside and eat (commission here for sure). I didn't go in there despite protestations from the driver and one of the restaurant staff, but ate at a nearby stall with much more reasonable prices and better food. Everyone else was now getting very agitated and complaining to a seamingly deaf driver. The bus didn't arrive till 4.15. The bus itself was actually very good - a new double-decker, and we only had one more brief rest stop. We finally got dropped off near Khao San Road at 8.30 pm. A total journey time of a whopping 14 hours. Definetly a share Camry, tuk tuk, and Thai bus to Bangkok would have cost less, been far far quicker, and a way to travel without being surrounded by other tourists.
A typical story (January 2004):
My friend and I took the earliest bus out of Bangkok's Morchit station at 5:30 am. We were pleasantly surprised how nice the bus was and the trip to Aranyaprathet was a very comfortable and quick 4.5 horus.
We were dropped off in front of a convenience store in Aranyaprathet where we got some snacks, then took one of the waiting tuk-tuks to the border for 50 baht. Before we were even off the tuk-tuk, one young tout spotted us and came up to us, "You go Siem Reap?" I tried brushing him off, telling him we were looking around the market for a while. That didn't shake him, of course. We wandered the market for just a few minutes when another tout approached us and followed us, pointing us to the immigration station. I tried telling him we didn't need help, but he didn't seem to listen to that. He followed us all the way to the station. He gave up there, but the first tout waited for us at the exit, determined to follow us through to the other side. (On a side note, how is it that these guys can come and go across the borders freely without going though the checkpoints?)
Once we went through the Thai departure building, we found our way to the Cambodian immigration building. There was a sign posted indicating the visa cost 1000 baht, which surprised me, since I was expecting they'd try to squeeze out of me whatever they thought they could get. But there was very little hassle to it. I handed over 1000 baht and a photo. My friend had to pay 1100 since he neglected to bring a photo with him. We waited just a few feet away and minutes later, we had our visas. Once we walked through immigration, we were in.
Here, in addition to the tout that had followed us the whole way, we seemed to pick up about four more, one of which was pretty surly looking and very aggressive. I did my best to ignore them, but the surly guy followed us all the way to the taxis.
I was doing my best to just pick a taxi and go, which I pretty much did. I found a taxi and a driver, offered him 1000 baht and made it clear that it was only to be me and my friend in the taxi, no one else. He agreed to the price and the condition without hestiating. He even seemed eager to get going.
Despite my best efforts to evade the touts, the surly tout got very confrontational with our driver, exchanging a few words and putting on a very threatening demeanor. Not to us, but the driver. The driver got behind the wheel without looking at him or saying anything, but opened his wallet and handed the tout one dollar. That seemed to settle the matter.
(Why he was owed a dollar, I'd like to know. He did nothing to earn it. We did not "belong" to him. This phenomenon just really fascinates me.)
The whole process was mostly quick and clean. We were on the road to Siem Reap from Poipet before 11am.
The road to Siem Reap had pavement for the first part, although it was so broken up and mounded in some places, it took awhile to dodge the craters. After Sisophon, the road became dirt only, and very potholed. Most people would hesitate to take a 4x4 over this road at any speed, but our driver was flying over it in a Camry at 80-90kph. This was both amusing and gut-wrenching at the same time.
At one point we stopped for gas at one of the roadside pitstops, where the gas was being sold in one liter glass jars. We filled up (and our driver didn't try to have us pay for it like I had anticipated). He also put a container of gas in the trunk. From the nauseating fumes, we quickly realized the container was leaking. And our bags were in there with it. We weren't happy about the fumes, but we did ask to stop so we could get our bags out. Thankfully, it didn't seem like any gas had gotten onto them yet.
So, in just a little more than three hours over this road, we were back on pavement approaching Siem Reap. We asked to go to the Red Lodge (highly recommended, by the way), which he wasn't familiar with. After stopping for directions, we arrived there a few minutes later and were warmly greeted by Mr. Ren.
We had a great stay in Siem Reap and I look forward to going back.
We also returned to Bangkok overland and had a very similar experience, although on the return we had to pay 1200 baht, but got a much nicer taxi.
All the way from Malaysia (January 2004):
I started my trip in Kuala Lumpur on the overnite 8.10 Langkawi express to Hat Yai getting off at Alor Setar at 8.15 am (cost 38.50 rm - sleeper upper bunk). Alor Setar to Bangkok on international Express leaving Alor Setar at 4.17 pm and getting to Bangkok at 11.10 am. Cost 93 rm. Then caught the Aranya Prathet train at 1.05 pm. Wow that was one hot and crowded metal box. Maybe because it was Friday? Didn't get a seat for 3.5 hours.
Arrived in Aranya Prathet at 6.30. I think it would have been a lot more comfy on the bus and could have got off the International Express at Bang Seu to get to the bus station. Walked into town centre (10 mins max) and found the Aran Garden Hotel. 150 baht and quite ok. Seamed to be full of Thai students.
Next morning got a tuk tuk to the border (50 baht). Got there at 6.30 am and had to wait for 30 minutes till it opened. No hassle at all with anyone - maybe cos it was so early. At 7 I made the mistake of waiting in a line of Thais just before the departure building, but a Thai official came up to me and said I could go staright through to the building. The masses of Khmers coming across at that time is amazing and such a great photo.
Departed Thailand easily and thanks to your map found the Cambodian visa office staright away. Again I didn't notice any touts, just masses of Khmers crossing over still. Got the visa for 1000 Baht, wandered to the next building and stamped in fine. At the traffic circle a couple of offers for Camrys were made but nothing heavy. Just kept walking and found a pick up like you state, after a kilometre or so. This then got painful and I wished I had taken a Camry. Was squashed into the back with my rucksack on my lap and three others on the row. In front there were two sharing the passenger seat and two in the drivers seat. I couldnt move my feet or body from the neck down. But was even more astounded on looking out the back and seeing those folks in the trunk. 1 hour and 20 minutes to Sisophon (50 baht). Ok. I wasn't gonna sit so squashed again (I'm only 5' 8'' too) so paid 200 baht for two seats in the back. Didn't make much difference as the woman next to me just moved into my territory and I wasn't able to do much more than give her a couple of looks which she ignored. So squashed again, we finally made it to Siem Reap after about 3 and a half hours.
Walked down to the Popular Guesthouse, which I had seen recommended. Paid 2$ for a very bare box and shared scuzzy bathroom. It was fine though. Just didn't like the constant pestering of motorbike touts there etc.
One mistake - [very long] - (January 2004):
[Gordon here: Normally I'd edit down contributions of this size, but it's an interesting read.]
My trip didn't go as smoothly as the other readers', due to a stupid mistake. Female solo traveller, by the way. A small amount of censored profanity will follow.
Here's my recap:
The traffic circle outside the visa processing area was utter chaos. For some reason, I imagined a neat, paved traffic circle, perhaps circling around a bit of green lawn (it was my first time in SE Asia, not including a trip to Singapore). Instead, it was unpaved with swarms of cars and motos and pickups and dust and people with carts and touts and more dust. Utterly flummoxed, I went up to a group of motorcycles and said "Swai," per instructions, to a nice-looking moto driver. The other moto drivers hollered after me, in broken English, "you won't get to Swai if you go with him!"
I was taken down the road to a pickup. I said "two seats inside" in English because I couldn't remember the Khmer phrase supplied on the website. The driver kicked a Cambodian unceremoniously out of the passenger seat and motioned me in.
Northwestern Cambodia looks like a lot like southcentral Texas (where I'm from), but with some palm trees and stilt houses thrown in. I enjoyed the ride to Sisophon immensely. Four people were crammed in the back seat, including an old grandmother who kept nodding off. Everyone smiled at me. The sky was azure - not blue but azure - with not a cloud. The driver played mournful Khmer ballads on this tape player. We had a conversation of sorts, using whatever English he could understand and lots of gestures. The other riders tried to join in. When I winced from the sun, the driver stuck these little screens with suction cups onto the windshield to block the sun. They stopped for a pee break, pulling over to the side of the road. The men got out, stood maybe 15 feet from the truck and peed away. This was across from a schoolyard full of children playing.
I really recommend riding in a pickup. It's not as comfy as a cab, but the people are lovely.
After about 1.5 hours, we arrive at Sisophon. I paid the driver the 100 baht he was owed. Then, I f**ked up.
*** The Stupid Mistake ***
Well, it wasn't so bad, really, but here it is.
I should've just walked over to the trucks I saw parked around the lot. Instead, I allowed myself to get confused by a tout. I said "Siem Reap? Pickup?" or something idiotic like that. A moto driver said he would take me to a pickup. I got onto his motorbike. WRONG. He meant to take me all the way to Siem Reap.
I don't know why I did it. I was never very good at following instructions. Might I also add that I had very little sleep for three nights and had an eye infection, and it was my first time in SE Asia?
Or perhaps I am soft in the head?
Did I mention I am terrified of motorcycles?
Luckily, I had only one light backpack. I clutched the loop behind the seat with both hands. I had injured my left hand a few weeks back (I had chopped off the tip of my left middle finger while making Mexican mole sauce) and still had a bandage on it. Nevertheless, I held that loop in a death grip with both hands, injury be damned.
Then, the driver had the cheek to try to MAKE ME PAY FOR GAS after lying to me. We pulled over the side of the road at a shaded stand that had these large grubby soda bottles lined up in a wooden rack. I thought these held some kind of drink. No, they are full of gasoline, I found. The woman who owned the stall filled up the tank which was under the seat. I didn't pay for any gas - when he he asked me to pay, I gave him a blank look. He paid himself. At this point, I was cursing my stupidity.
Then, he told me that this whole deal would cost me US$15. F**KER! F**KER! F**KER!
I rode, terrified, on the back of this motorcycle for about one hour. My inner thighs were tired from bracing my feet against the foot rests, my arms sore from all the gripping.
Then, he pulls over and signals to a pickup truck. This pickup truck was driven by one of his friends, who spoke some English. I just sighed, wondering what the hell he could be up to now. His friend said the motorcycle wouldn't make it to Siem Reap and I should get into his truck. The back of it.
The driver says, pay the motorcycle driver $15. I sighed loudly and gave him a disgusted look. He then said, 600 THB. Right, like I don't know any arithmetic. I said, too much. I eventually talked him into 200 THB each, giving the motorcyle a**hole his share first, then promising to pay the other a**hole when we got to Siem Reap. I would have argued more, but I felt bad for the other passengers, who were waiting patiently.
The bed of the truck was filled to the rim with green coconut, which were covered with hemp tarp. We were perched atop. There was a German girl with her French boyfriend, a Japanese guy, and many Cambodians, including a talkative and inquisitive priest in orange robes and a woman with her newborn infant. The woman, who was sitting next to me, breast fed her infant at times during the journey.
First, I sat hunched upon the "floor" atop the coconuts. Then, I moved atop the German girl's huge backpack smack dab in the middle of the bed - the highest point in the bed, it turns out. I had to brace my legs, and whole body, the whole way. It was like butt surfing, or perhaps like chair surfing. It was quite a workout.
The one benefit of being in the back of a pickup is being amongst eveyday Cambodian life. I talked with the priest, who could speak English and Japanese to an extent, and the other travellers. We stopped once to help tow a van out of a ditch. We got packed closer and closer together as more people came on.
The road betwen Sisophon and Siem Reap is rocks and red dirt. I got covered in red dirt. I couldn't get it all out of my hair even after two showers. Anyway, as I endured the most uncomfortable, if interesting, ride of my life, I got angrier and angrier. I would NOT pay the driver 200 THB. I would pay him 50 THB.
At the edge of town, the truck pulls over and most of the Cambodians get off. The driver has a conversation with another Cambodian man who had been waiting at the stop. New Guy gets on. He speaks perfect English and starts talking to us foreigners. He tells us about Siem Reap. He then tells us about his guesthouse.
When we finally arrived, the driver took us to the guesthouse he and New Guy were taking kickbacks from. This explains the driver's behavior. Am I right in assuming that ordinary pickup truck drivers just take your fare, without haggling or trying to rip you off? [Gordon here: Yes, you assume correctly.] This driver, and the motorcycle driver, were working for some shady travel agent.
The other foreigners paid their money. The German girl and French guy paid 400 THB each. The Japanese man paid $5 even. It turns out that they arranged transport with the pickup with a travel agent in Poipet. The Japanese man had been using that travel agent for each of the five or six times he went to Siem Reap. He said the price had been raised each time. I told him about talesofasia.com. He was quite surprised at the prices on the website.
Anyway, I got off the pickup and snarled at New Guy that I already had a room.
Then, I handed over 50 THB to the driver and said CAMBODIAN PRICE. He got pissed - New Guy tried to reason with me, explaining that I had promised to pay 200 THB. Oh, geez, how would you know, unless you were in cahoots? I stalked off, still holding the 50THB.
The driver came after me. He called out to me. Rage burning with the fire of 1000 suns, I said 50 baht or nothing. He tried to block my way with his arm - I dodged around him. He took hold of my backpack. I pulled away and shouted DON'T YOU TOUCH ME in his face. Adrenaline was racing through my body. I again stalked off. He called after me and held out his hand for the 50 baht, looking pissed.
I had chosen to confront the driver after walking up the driveway of the guesthouse and gotten outside their gate, where there were many people. I didn't feel safe in the driveway - it was behind the gate and filled with the driver's cronies. A Cambodian couple, who had witnessed the confrontation outside the gate, was cracking up. They called out "hello"to me and waved.
I am glad I decided to confont that a**hole. I'm glad I gave him only 50 baht, even though it was still an inflated price, since I had been picked up an hour outside Sisophon. I felt I won a small moral victory of sorts, although I got ripped off 200 baht by the moto driver and made a dumb, dumb decision to go with that a**hole to begin with.
Never again will I allow myself to be confused.
Anyway, I loved Angkor - it was worth it all, even being made a fool of. I also had an interesting story to tell my friends. I also made good friends with the Japanese guy, who is one hell of an interesting character. The ride in the pickup was very educational and eye-opening, but I took a cab back. One of the owners of my family owned guesthouse (who was also my tour guide), told me that the travel agents were charging $45 for a taxi to Poipet. I told him I would find a taxi at the Sokimex. He accompanied me to the Sokimex, helped me negotiate to 1200 baht, and checked out the car and driver thoroughly. I would love to try the overland trip in a pickup again. Next time, though, I will follow instructions.
There and back (January 2004):
Me and my friend recently used your guide to go by land from Aranyapratet to Siem Reap and back again. Almost everything went exactly as you described. After immigration in Poipet, a tout approaced my group and immediately accepted my offer of 1000 baht for a Camry to Siem Reap. Our driver went pretty slowly, despite having a nice car, and the total trip took just over 4 hours including one rest.
However, getting back, I couldn't find any taxis willing to take us for 1000 baht (your page says getting one for 900 baht should have been easy). Our guide took us to the Sokimex taxi meeting area, where several "touts" approached us, but the best we could bargain down to was 1100 baht. We watched the "tout" keep 200-300 baht for himself, and then a bunch of drivers were fighting over who would get to take us (they were fighting over our luggage too, which made us nervous). [Gordon here: There is one particular loathsome character that hangs around the Sokimex by the stone bridge and if he gets in your way it becomes a bit difficult to get a price under 1100 as he takes from the driver almost everything over 900 baht. He's a useless fat tub of goo.]
Our return trip driver was INSANE, and we made the trip in just 3 hours in his beat-up piece of junk! He was probably in a hurry to Poipet to look for more passengers.
Thanks. Keep 'em coming. E-mail your story here
Reports Page 16 (Jan 2004 - Mar 2004)
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