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Cambodia Overland

Travelers' Reports:
Overland, Bangkok - Siem Reap

Page 20 of 22 (January 2003 - March 2003)

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.


You can do it faster, but not much more easily for the price (March 2003):

We got a bus to Mo Chit in Bangkok at 6.45am near Khao San Rd and got there by 7.30am. We didn't rush for the bus as we wanted some breakfast but this meant we ended up on the slower, more expensive bus at 8am. It took nearly 5 hours to get to Aranyaprathet. We shared a tuk tuk with another traveller with no problems. He took us via a friend who we told we didn't need any help. As there were three of us he didn't have the option of jumping in.

The border was very quiet. No hassle and we went straight through. Only one guy asked me where we were going and I said "Cambodia". Once through immigration a couple of touts started following us through the traffic circle. After 3 months in India this seemed very lame and they were easy to ignore. We made the mistake of thinking we needed Riel so walked up the road to the bank (our first mistake). It was a long way in the heat with a rucksack. Still we ignored them. When we left the bank a full looking pick-up truck pulled up and once we asked the people in the back if they heading for Sisophon the touts knew where we going too and thought they had some kind of hold on us. They asked for 200 Baht each once we'd got in and we refused saying we'd pay 30 Baht each only. Our second mistake was to get out of the truck and keep walking. After what seemed a long time trying to ignore the touts and a lot more walking in the heat the touts seemed to disappear and a pick-up appeared and offered us a ride. It looked a bit empty and we thought he would turn round to get more people but eventually we got in and had a great ride as far as Sisophon.

Once there we had a bite to eat before getting a second pick up to Siem Reap. We thought that we would be clear of the touts here but there were loads of them. Once we were in a pick up one of them concentrated on us and tried to get 100 or 200 Baht each from us again. This time we did what we should have done the first time and just ignored him. I told him I would pay the driver when we got there the same as everyone else. He tried to convince us we shouldn't be in the back as all the locals were thieves and pickpockets and not to be trusted. They were of course the nicest people in the world and when we finally got going we had a great ride despite having to drive through a thunder storm!

So we got both pick-up rides for the right price eventually and it took only 12 hours from getting on the bus to Mo Chit to arrival in Siem Reap.

I'm sure we'd have paid a lot more without your website.

Siem Reap to Bangkok, quick advice (March 2003):

Did the trip yesterday (March 12th). Everything as you described. Hired taxi at Sokimex station. Trip took 3h (taxi was driving rather slow). Some 'road construction' was going on, seems they're getting serious about HW6. Saw three guys coming from Poipet by MOUNTAIN BIKE! The (1st class) bus Aranyaphrathet-BKK goes by the airport, you can jump off.

Fun with the taxi mafia (March 2003):

Fortunately, my husband and I found your website and the invaluable information on the best way to travel to Siem Reap. We left for Cambodia on March 1st. We were staying at the Asia hotel and decided to go to Siem Reap before touring any of Thailand. We had been warned to use only metered taxis, so when we checked out of the hotel and told a driver we wanted to go to Morchit station and did not want a tour or anything else, he waved us away! Another was waiting just in front, and we got in his taxi. The driver tried to haggle over the price to the bus station! He had a metered cab, so I put my foot down and made him turn it on. Of course, he couldn't just take us to the bus station, he had to take us to a travel agency. They were pretty upset we weren't buying "anything." [Gordon here: For taxi service in Bangkok it is wise never to use a taxi that waits in front of a hotel but rather it is better to flag down a moving car.]

In any case, bus to Aranyaprathet was fine, took about 4 hours due to a lot of stops. Tuk tuk price was no problem, but he also delivered us to a "travel agency." They were pestering unmercifully about our destination--so I lied and told them Battambang. That, and I threatened to get out of the tuk tuk, so they finally delivered us to the border, although the driver kept on about visa, help, Siem Reap, you name it.

Border area was just as you said, but easy to get around visa touts--except I kept hearing Battambang behind me all the time. I was trying to find other tourists to go in on the Camry ride all through the borders, but everyone was on a KSR bus. We got stuck awhile at the Cambodia entry point waiting in line--but it was only 30 minutes or so. We knew with a Camry we would get to Siem Reap before dark. I talked to a few of the backpackers and they were surprised to hear we weren't with a "KSR bus" and would get there a lot sooner. [Gordon here: The naivety of backpackers never ceases to amaze me.]

By approx 2:15 pm, we were in the traffic circle. No Camry's in sight, and started walking...again, we waved everyone away, wouldn't tell them where we were going, but then, a mafia tout steps in front of me and says "Battambang, yes?" We were tailed all the way from the tuk tuk apparently! Could not get passed the mafia to the Camry's, and could not get the price below 1500 baht. So we finally accepted. The poor driver was given hell. He spoke no English, but we could easily see he was being harrassed. Mafia wanted money up front, which I adamantly refused. The mafia wanted their commission bad, and they wanted quite a bit it sounded like. They had the police taking down the license number and getting the driver's name.

Mafia tout got in the car and we drove half a mile or so, then he stopped again, tried to get us to pay him extra! I started to get out of car, and he finally let up, but he made the driver get out and they haggled or fought for at least 10 minutes. I was actually getting nervous at this point. Again, I got out of car and told them to forget it...at that point, the mafia let us go.

We stopped shortly after for gas, and had to pay for it, the touts had taken almost all of his money. He had this tired, harrassed look about him, so we knew he wasn't lying or trying to get one over on us. He seemed easier after that and drove like a bat out of hell. The road was very very busy. He got us to Siem Reap in 2 hours 15 minutes. We paid him-- minus the gas--and then tipped him 100 baht, because we felt bad about the mafia. I knew they took a big chunk of the fare. He thanked us profusely.

On the way back to BKK, I stood firm and we paid 400 baht to get to the border. Although we had to work the issue for about 30 minutes at the Siem Reap gas station. Siem Reap was wonderful, everyone seemed very honest, and really helpful. I felt more comfortable there than anywhere in Thailand (due to the numerous touts and pressure to do tours, taxis, buy something, etc). The Cambodians were eager to talk, whether you bought something from them or not. We spent several hours a day just talking to all the kids. In just a few minutes, you'd have a crowd around you all listening in. I must say before reading your site, I was very wary and tentative about going to Cambodia at all. Now, I can't wait to come back some day and see the rest of the country.

Short and sweet, a do-it-yourself journey (February 2003):

I made the trip on 12th Feb. 03. I was well prepared because I printed out all 23 sheets of paper from your website in advance at home (Germany). Everything worked as you described. Sukhumvit Rd. to Morchit by Sky Train, then Motorbike taxi to bus terminal. Got the Bus from BKK at 8, 180 Baht. I've been the only one farang in this bus. Arrived at the border at 1, ignored the touts. Visa no problem, 1000 Baht. I asked some farangs at the border if we could share a taxi. After the border I took a motobike taxi away from the traffic circle so I was not hassled there. Found a taxi to Siem Reap for 1300 baht a few hundred meters away. Maybe a little bit expensive, cause I travelled alone and could not go share the price - but much cheaper than by air and it was more interesting cause I saw a lot of the countryside on my way.

Short and sweet, a Khao San Road bus journey (February 2003):

Arrived in Siem Reap about 7pm. The trip wasn't nearly as bad as expected as far as all the shenanigans that we thought might be pulled. They didn't really pull anything, other than attempting to get us to give them 300 baht to process our visas. We did not do that. No problems arose.

Another successful ride (February 2003):

Made the BKK-SR Trip "on my own" today (25.2.03). Thanks to the info on your site, it was a piece of cake. Everything went as described.
Taxi from Khao San Rd. 20min, 81B
Bus from Morchit 4:30am,168B.
Tuk Tuk to Poipet, 50B w/o discussion.
Tout jumped on board just before the border, but was not aggressive and after telling him I have visa already he jumped off a little disappointed. At border at 8:45am. Lots of people here at this time. Visa and stamps no problems. Got almost unnoticed to the traffic circle (hiding amongst a group of french tourists).

Once at the traffic circle, I saw some Camrys standing on the right side, but w/o driver. So I told one tout I need 2 seats in a Camry to SR for 300B. He took me to a driver and then told me it was 400B. OK. But after I had my backpack in his trunk already, the driver demanded through the tout to be paid 200B right now. I send "No", and after some arguing I ended up taking my bag out of the trunk and telling the tout to look for another driver. Which he did after acting a little pissed-off, but the new driver was not too happy with 400B either. Probably because of what the taxi mafia charges for commission. So I offered him (the tout) to take the whole cab for 1000B (which I had contemplated anyway), and finally paid 1100. The driver seemed to be quite happy now. I watched what would happen now, he definitely didn't give any money to "my" tout, but to another guy, but he also bought some snacks over there so its hard to tell what for. But before we left, a policeman walked over and the driver handed him some notes. The driver didn't speak any English, so I couldn't ask him how much he had to pay to the mafia. I had asked the tout (who spoke surprisingly good English) and he told me he doesn't get commission. Lies? [Gordon here: Yes.]

Do the touts work together somehow and then share the commission amongst them? [Gordon here: Likely only when another one sees him get money.]

OK, great ride to SR w/o complications, was at my guesthouse at 13:00pm, I think the drive didn't take much longer than 2.5h. Although I paid at the top end of what you've mentioned, [Gordon here: Not really, 1100 out of Poipet is a very good price.] I'm quite happy about the fare, given the depreciation the driver did to his car by hammering through the potholes at 80-100km/h (I was praying we wont hit any kids cycling on the side while in the dust clouds.)

One funny thing happened: a bridge was being worked on, and we couldn't cross, so we took a bypass through a field. Kids had set up a roadblock there: 2 guys holding poles diagonally across the driveway, one kid collects 5B from the driver. Hillarious! They start to learn early here (but c'mon, if people were driving through my yard at home I'd probably collect some money from them, too) A tourist bus took the bypass as well, but couldn't get back on the road because it was too steep, so another advantage of camry/truck here.

Siem Reap to Bangkok by way of Battambang (February 2003):

We travelled last week from Siem Reap to Bangkok via Poipet and Battambang and getting a 164 baht 1st class bus saved a lot of time...

The Ferry (Siem Reap to Battambang)
Its still $15 but pack in a waterproof case - the river is very low at the moment (Feb 12) so they are using very small speed boats (a couple did our trip) each holds about 6 people and not a lot else. They dont seem to fill up though as I think the approach is to get another boat if a lot of travellers arrive (the boats to and from Siem Reap were packed though so book early and arrive early to grab a space).

The Battambang boats are open and you get wet. Bloody wet. The problem is the time - the river is so low that it took us 7 hours compared to the 3 in the dry season. In a small speed boat this was a bit less than fun and you need a lot of patience to consider the trip right now. The boat will get stuck in mud about once every 3-5 mins and it feels a bit like sensory deprivation or being in a lift. Plus it will break down!

However, once it's done it's fantastic and Battambang is well worth seeing. Plus you really feel like you have arrived!

Road to Bangkok
We did the first bit from Battambang to the border in 2.5 hours (our driver was a wee bit mad perhaps). We found the car at the ferry 'port' but they also drive around the major hotels looking for people. You may not need to go looking for a car at all but if you dont find one at the port, the central market is where they hang out from about 7am on. Ours had found another passenger when he picked us up but we had to bargain for the rest of the car as he was dead set on waiting at the market for two lucky people to take the front seat.. as there are a lot of cars doing this route, it seemed like this would take an age so we just paid a bit more. We left Battambang at 7.30 and by 10 were in Thailand. Taking a Camry is the only really feasible method unless you are a masochist. It cost us $8 each but we had the entire car, with air con and only three people in it. A LOT better than the pickups.

The road was ok for about 60% and the remainder was very rough, in the dry this was fine and it seems that there is a bit of work on it - people were filling in the bus sized craters leaving only car traps. I don't think that a bit of rain would matter so much now as maybe it did in the past or on the Siem Reap route - the road was mainly tarmac or rocks, not mud. Also, it seems that there are more and more organised coaches on the road - we passed three or four IndoChina tour buses on the route which seemed to be going to Battambang. These were luxury coaches and had backpackers. Unfortunately, no one knew about these in Battambang maybe at KSR they will know about them. [Gordon here: I know of no bus service between anywhere and Battambang. I can only assume the writer was between Sisophon and Poipet and was seeing the buses that travel the route between Poipet and Siem Reap. If I'm wrong, then I hope to know soon.]

However, because we arrived so early at the border there were no mini buses going to KSR. They are also expensive - a guy wanted 2500 baht for a car, 3500 baht for a mini bus and it would involve a lot of waiting.. there were not many people heading overland to Thailand, probably due to the riots.

Total cost for me from Siem Reap to Bangkok, door to door was $8 car, half of a 50 baht tuk tuk to the bus station, 164 baht bus to Bangkok and half of a 125 baht taxi to KSR. Or $15 all in. Did take two days though!

Another satisfied customer (February 2003):

Instead of the scheduled arrival of 6am, the train I was coming by from Chiang Mai was expected to arrive at the train station in BKK at about 8:30 am (delayed due to some reasons). However, as soon as I realised that the train was passing close to the Morchit Bus Station, I left the train at the nearest train stop (don't remember the name - about 2 stops before the final stop at the Hualamphong station). This definitely saved me at least 1 hour! A motobike ride for 50 baht from this place took me to the Bus Station (~10 min). From there I took the next first-class airconditioned bus (at 8:30, 189 baht) and after an uneventful 5-hour trip I arrived in Aranyaprathet. Then, everything as you described: a 50 baht tuk-tuk to the border, a complete mess at the border with thousands of people (I think you should stress this more explicitely on your web-site: I really didn't expect such a mess!). Also a few touts. But, having read your instructions (and being a Russian) I pushed aside all the touts - though, I should admit, there were only a few of them and definitely much less than I expected from your stories. No problems at all with Thai officials. A tout in front of the Cambodian visa department wanted to 'help' me with my visa, but was also sent away. I payed 1000 baht and got visa in 5 minutes. At about 14:00 I entered the CIRCLE and was surrounded by about 10 touts. Surprisingly, as soon as I mentioned that I needed a shared Camry-taxi, I was taken to a car with 1 empty seat at the back which was only waiting for the last passenger. We immedeately agreed on 400 baht, I jumped in the car and we left! All in all there were 4 passengers and a driver - quite a comfortable ride. As I understood other people paid much more as this taxi was specifically waiting for them as a part of an organized tour. I was lucky to be taken in this car - just to fill the space left! No hassle, no problems at all. The road was reasonable, but we got a flat tire, which was repaired in Sisophon (I think this was the place). All in all, we arrived to Siem Reap at 18:00 and I was delivered to my hotel. I liked the trip and I would recommend to everybody to do it once.

Photo fun in more ways than one (February 2003):

This journey took place on January 25, 2003.

Following your advice on avoiding the Khao San Road Bus and going it alone, my wife and I decided to take the Bangkok-to-Aranyaprathet bus and find transportation on the other side of the border.

In Bangkok we met another couple who also wanted to visit Cambodia, so we teamed up. We took the 7:30 am bus from Morchit Station in Bangkok and arrived in Aranya shortly after 11:00. Tuk tuks and touts were waiting for us. I didn't even bother to haggle: The tout said "You go border?" and I said "Fifty baht!" and he immediately took us to some tuk tuks which we boarded - one couple per tuk tuk. A man jumped into our tuk tuk and as we drove to the border, the driver slowed down by a travel agency and the man said "This is my company. Do you want to book a tour?" We simply said "No, take us to the border", and we arrived there shortly. As we got out of the tuk tuks and paid our fifty baht, a number of touts and beggars approached us. We went into the convenience store to cool off, stock up on food and water, and prepare ourselves for the events to follow. The touts and beggars did not enter the store; apparently they are not welcome there.

Then we walked to the border, straight into the place to get our Thai exit visas stamped. Once there, we entered the no-man's land where we were followed by a few touts and beggars, but it wasn't as bad as I had feared.

We arrived at the Cambodian visa office at 11:25, just as the visa personnel were having lunch. So we had to wait in the shaded waiting area for about half an hour before we could submit our applications. We filled out our applications, stapled our photos to the applications, and placed the application along with 1000 baht into our passports and an officer handed them through the window.

Then came the hitches. The visa officers did not like the photos our friends had submitted - apparently they only want them on proper photographic paper, instead of photo-quality computer paper. So they each had to pay 100 baht extra. The next hitch: one of our travel companions had only one completely empty page left in his passport, but he had plenty of other pages with empty squares for entry and exit stamps. The visa officials refused to place the Cambodian visa on that page, claiming that they could not do so because the page did not have the caption "Visas" on it. The officer said that if my friend filled out the application again, wrote his nationality as "Polish" and paid US$10, the problem could be solved. Well, we did not want to go back to Bangkok, so we gave in, and the $10 was paid. He got his visa.

Then we went through immigration (which lies just beyond the casino with the aerial walkway being built over the road) and formally entered Cambodia. There we were greeted by the infamous Traffic Circle touts. "Where you go? You go Battambong? You go Siem Reap? You go Phnom Penh?" they kept saying. We walked past them, completely ignoring them, and walked onto the dusty cobblestone road that is the highway. After a few minutes of walking, the touts and drivers stopped following us. We walked the kilometer to the "station" where the pick-ups and Camrys were. At one point during the walk, a cop motorcycled up to us and demanded to see our see our passports. We showed them to him, and he checked them and returned them to us, apologizing for the inconvenience.

We found the driver of one of the Camrys and negotiated a 1200 baht fare to Siem Reap for the four of us. He would not go lower than 1200 baht. For our trouble we were given a speedy, pleasant, air-conditioned ride to the guesthouse of our choice. The driver did not speak a word of English, but he was very friendly and pleasant. The entire Camry ride, including a stop for gas and a stop in Sisophon for the driver to make a phonecall, lasted from 1:15pm to 4:00 pm.

Then that evening we went to the E-Cafe in Siem Reap, and who of all people should we run into? You! My wife was the one admiring your photos that were on display there.

Linda Tours (February 2003):

My partner and I did this trip on 19 December. I must say I printed out your instructions on crossing the border - all 17 pages - and read and reread them as I was somewhat apprehensive about the crossing.

Everything was just as you said, we crossed the border with no hiccups at all - I even had produced my own "vaccination certificate" in case I was asked for extra money.

Once we reached the traffic circle we were approached by touts, but nothing too serious. We kept saying no and kept walking. Eventually we had a few people following us, at which time we started to bargain. After not too much trouble we organised 1250B for a Camry. The man then told me he was with Linda Tours and was very keen to get his name, and good reputation on the internet and he understood the power of the internet. He promised a car in 10 minutes and was good for his word. We told him we were coming back the same way and he promised 1200B for the return.

The trip took approximately 3 hours and the only problem was when we arrived the driver couldn't find the right address to drop us.

We did arrange through Linda Tours to come back and they provided a driver but this guy was a pain. First of all wanted payment in advance, then wanted some money for petrol, even wanted money to phone the company. Refused all requests and said if he didn't want to take us tell us now and we will find someone who does. No more problems except he went like a bat our of hell and we were in Poipet in 2.5 hours. Did manage to find 300B in his pocket just outside Poipet, I presume to pay the taxi mafia.

Just again to let you know your notes and advice were invaluable and I'm sure gave us more confidence in handling the trip, and I'm sure this came across in our bargaining as being knowledge and in control.

A band of brothers (January 2003):

We had an uneventful passage to Siem Reap.

However a couple of points to note:

1) Taxi from KSR road to Morchit took 1hour and 30 mins!! we were stuck in heavy traffic (at 7.10am) before getting on the fast pay road, in fact we were 13mins at one set of traffic lights. Total cost of taxi was 161 baht plus 40 for the expressway, this was on the meter, most taxi drivers quoted us 300 baht for the fare. We caught the 9am bus arriving at Aranyprathet at 1.10pm.

2) The tuk tuk was happy to take 3 of us for 50 baht, however a tout jumped aboard and we stopped just over half way to the border at a roadside cafe were he told us this is were we get off to get transport to Siem Reap, after about 5mins of telling him we didn't want his transport we eventually got to the border (I guess this is where the KSR road buses drop off as there were about 30 or so back packers already there). [Gordon here: correct observation]

This 'tout' followed us across the border and was no bother, he didn't ask us for any money and we offered him nothing. He did show us where passport control was, etc, but it was easy enough to find.

We left Poipet at 2.10pm (exactly 1 hour after getting off the bus from Bangkok and arrived in Siem Reap about 5.30pm, this would have been quicker except we had to make 2 stops for the Camry to be repaired (slipping fan belt I think), which was no problem as it gave us 10mins to stretch our legs and get a drink in Sway.

The taxi driver did stop on the outskirts of Siem Reap when his 'brother' said he was pleased to join us and he would show us to his hotel, an offer we declined, saying we wanted to go to the Ivy, however it did not stop the driver from taking us to his brother's place. Eventually we got dropped off at the Ivy, but it was full so we ended up walking around town looking for somewhere to stay, followed all the time by the taxi drivers 'brother'. As we were unable to find anywhere and it was getting dark and we were getting disorientated we eventually gave in to him and went to look at his place which turned out to be excellent, a clean new guest house for US12 a night (15 if you wanted the unnecessary A/C) called Home Sweet Home (pretty naff name but it was good, although not owned by the brother, surprise surprise.

What he did have though was another two brothers who could take the 3 of us around Angkor Wat on bikes for US7 a day, during which he tried to sell us other add-ons like visits to shows etc etc, all of which we declined.

We got the same taxi back to the border at the same price we paid going out (1300 baht) the first asking price was 1400 (I must say we didn't haggle very hard). The mechanics at Sway must have done a good job as it was less than 3 hours back to Poipet and we on our way to Bangkok on the 10:50 bus.

All in all in was a piece of cake, it might not have been without your website, we did try to support your sponsors.

Travel, guides, and food (January 2003):

We took 3 hours 40 minutes to travel from Poipet to Siem Reap on 24/12/2002. It included 2 brief stops. The trip was worth it for the scenery, as it looked a like Burma to us.

We had our 5-year-old doing this trip with us, so we were a little anxious about getting through the border. The crossing took one hour, including a toilet stop at the Casino (great, clean toilet!). For travellers who have been to India or Nepal, the border presents no problems as these travellers will be used to touts chasing and hassling them. Your 50 baht idea for the tout seemed to work well. We actually lined up two taxis for 1200 baht each, as we had two families of three. We weren't trying for rock-bottom prices as we realised that it was peak tourist season, and with a five year old and a ten year old between our two families we didn't want to "fiddle around" for too long. We have also found from past travels that with taxis you don't always take the lowest price as you can get problems later, such as wanting a commission at the hotel, etc. We stayed at Green Garden Home in Siem Reap at $17 per night - it was very clean and comfortable, with a lovely garden in a good location.

We kept the taxis for the next three days at $20 per day and paid an extra $5 for a day trip to the outer temples. The taxis also took us back to Poipet for the same price of 1200 baht. (28/12 -took 3 hours 15 minutes, including 3 quick stops while the border crossing took only 35 minutes).

We also found it very worthwhile hiring a guide for $20 a day shared between the two families. Our guide taught us a great deal about the Cambodian people, as well as the Angkor temples. As for food, we found it to be excellent, with a big variety of restaurants. The food however, was expensive compared to Vietnam and Thailand. You have to expect this though, near one of the wonders of the world where must food must be transported in.

Easy ride, but 1500 baht is more than you need to pay (January 2003):

As me and my wife were spending some days in Thailand, namely Bangkok (from December to January) I decided to investigate if it was feasible trying to go by land to Siem Reap, as the plane ticket - as you must know - is ridiculous expensive. I read a lot (most of it scare warnings) but it was when I found your page the day before I left to Bangkok (the 25th December) that I got some hope of doing it.

We went on our own on the 29th, following closely your instructions on how to deal with touts, reference prices, etc. and we managed to make a very good trip that took us "only" something like 2h40m from Poipet to Siem Reap (by taxi Camry). We didn't have a single problem: no queues at the border, no scams with health cards/visas, etc. and as our budget was not that tight, we rented a taxi just for us and an American guy we had just met for 1500 baht and in less than 5min. from the border we were on our way to Siem Reap (the border took us just another half an hour or so).

The trip was nice (considering other reports) and we only had to make a small detour while passing an under repair bridge (as you said it would, 2 days after when we came back it was already repaired). On the 31st, when we returned, we decided to call the same guy to get us to Poipet (we asked the hotel attendant to make the call, since the driver didn't speak English). Apparently he was in Poipet that day, but we went with one of his friends and everything went fine. This trip was even faster (something like 2h30m...).

Nervousness (January 2003):

Before leaving I felt a bit nervous (going alone, not knowing how the road from Bangkok to Siem Reap works, and generally after reading a couple of things from embassies and as well in guidebooks...), so I started to look for information on the net. Reading your information about Poipet did not make me feel like the happiest person in the world, but at least I knew what was going on - and so it calmed me down. I had a bit of hassle there, but it worked out quite easily and I had a quite nice trip (including an incredible driver, considering the awful state of the highway).

Liking the train (January 2003):

I made the trip on 24 December and it was easy. The time was 3h30 Siem Reap - Poipet including 20 mn stop to change a wheel and 10 minutes for petrol. The only incident is that the driver tried to make me pay $10 for the petrol (I was alone), which I refused of course. I just want to stress one point: if you arrive in Aranyaprathet about noon, the 13h35 train to Bangkok is really a pleasant option, the third class is quite comfortable, there are fans, clean toilets, food on board, and the view through the open windows is really nice, particularly at sunset.

Two and a half hours, Siem Reap to the border!! (January 2003):

I'm telling you the God's honest truth that I did the trip in a Camry from SR to Piopet in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes on the 31st of Dec. We didn't even feel like we were going as fast as we did going the other way on the 27th when it took 3 hours so I guess the road is improving every day. Come to think of it we had to stop at a part they were grading but it was nearly done on the way back.

Your directions worked well. At Poipet I met up with 2 Americans and we managed to get a Camry to ourselves (even though we were happy to share) for 800 baht. That was after about an hour of stuffing around, though further on from the traffic circle. The weird thing was it ended up being through a tout that we couldn't get rid of and after we agreed his boss came out of a travel agency and asked for the money. We said 'no way, we'll pay at the end' and that was fine but he asked us to pay at his office at Friendly Guesthouse when we got there and then the driver would take us to where we wanted to stay, but under no circumstances were we to pay the driver. This seemed cool and the following trip was fine. But, we got to the guesthouse and no-one there knew anything about it. There wasn't even an office downstairs as stated so we were stuffed. The driver spoke no English (or Thai) but we had a card from the travel agent guy and so asked him to ring and sort it out. Of course he couldn't get through. We thought fuck it, we'll just give this to the driver and be done with it but he wasn't accepting it! No-one wanted our money! Then he starts writing down 1700 baht on some paper which brought a few laughs from us. I had had enough at this stage and pretty much just shoved the money at him and walked away. This left one of the Americans with him trying to sort it out. As far as I was concerned it wasn't my problem. It was a shame too, as the trip had gone great guns until then. The only issue was that with 3 of us at Poipet, we couldn't get it through to the drivers that we wanted four seats (I wanted to pay for 2) and they could fill the rest up. They all presumed we wanted a car to ourselves. The touts of course understood but we were trying to avoid them which didn't work in the end anyway. Luckily I speak ok Thai and could tell any wankers to piss off fairly promptly which was a big help at the border.

The way back was cool and quick. The main issue was when I got in the bus to Bangers at Aran I got the only bloody seat that didn't recline. The thing was full too so I couldn't change, so sat bolt upright for 4.5 hours.

All in all, going both way was about 9 hours each and pretty much a piece of cake if prepared, which everyone should be with a web site like your floating around.

The first report of the year (January 2003):

Just returned from our trip to Isaan, Angkor and Trang Province. Your information about how to get to Siem Reap proved to be extremely helpful and 100 % correct. Were we prepared!

We (the 2 of us) decided to do the trip on our own, like we always prefer to do. We took the first class bus in Bangkok which took us to Aranyaprathet in 4 hours. Once in Poipet the place turned out to be rather quiet - we arrived early December. Getting the visa was a piece of cake. The official handing out our passports whispered that he wanted a tip, which we ignored with a smile. Of course the touts were there, but they didn't behave more aggressively than touts around the world. We've seen worse. For 50 Baht a tout got us what we asked for: a Camry with all 6 seats (because of the bad road we wanted as much space as possible, including allowance to smoke, since we're old world smokers). We got it for 1200 Baht, although they asked 2500. It helps when you let them know that you are informed about the actual rates. Our deal was actually great. We also arranged for transport in Siem Reap and for the back trip to Poipet, so we didn't need to worry about that any more.

Without any delay the whole emigration/immigration procedure and arranging for a car took about 1 hour. The ride took us 5 hours, including a thirty minutes delay in Sisophon because the car was leaking gas. That was fixed within half an hour and in the meantime we got our first glances of urban Cambodia. Several times we passed minibuses packed with tourists, either slowly driving or parked. Later we heard people complaining about the long ride and unnecessary stops that took them to Siem Reap around midnight.

At the Poipet immigration office we'd grabbed ourselves a flyer giving information about cheap lodgings in Siem Reap. Some fancy travel agency! We decided to try it and it turned out to be wonderful: The Red Lodge, a new, white neo-colonial 2-storey building with a very nice courtyard at the sidepath of a dirt road, with clean double rooms, all with private bath and fan, for just 5 USD$. Breakfast for 50 cents (fresh baguette, still warm from the bakery, yummy yummy) and coffee and tea for free. Actually the guy who runs the place enjoyed giving things for free. The best thing about the place is that it is very quiet amidst the hub of Siem Reap, even though only 5 minutes walking from the Old Market. (The Red Lodge, end of road to Chantier Ecoles, side street of Sivatha Boulevard, dirt road to the left just before the Zanzibar-bar, redlodge_angkor@hotmail.com, 012-614689).

Our driver in Siem Reap was a very nice young guy from Phnom Penh, who took us anywhere we wanted to and was always waiting for us. His name: Meun Korn, 012-836186. Daily rate 20 USD$ plus extra for trips to Banteay Srei and Tonle Sap (not included was a boat trip for 15 USD$ per person, which was way too expensive, but worth it).

The return trip was even better. Good Camry, fast driver, waiting for us at the guesthouse at the appointed time. We made it in 3,5 hours from the guesthouse in Siem Reap to Poipet. Once again emigration/immigration took 1 hour. The touts just waved hello.

For all travellers: be prepared for the extremely bad and very bumpy road. It shakes your bowels and your brain - and your breasts if you're a woman - for at least 3 hours, though 4 is more probable. It's an ongoing rollercoaster trip in slow motion, but very much worth it. And when you're prepared as we were by taking the time to carefully read Gordon's tips in advance, it all comes as a pleasant surprise. [Gordon here: road is rapidly improving now]


Thanks. Keep 'em coming.



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