Page 21 of 22 (June 2002 - December 2002)
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.
Five hours, Poipet to Siem Reap, with a diversion (December 2002):
I took your advice and found a taxi, on 18 Nov 02 at the circle, what a place! Yes, our driver of the Tuk Tuk had notified his contacts, yes they wanted 2000Bt, I could only get down to 1400Bt but as you said the road is BAD, it took 5 hours.
We stopped at a village to check the engine, whilst this was going on some local children came over and spoke to us in halted, but very correct English, wanting a pen and paper, we only had one spare pen and very little paper which we gave, soon more kids came around and spoke to us we felt sad that we had no more to give, the village name sounded like PLANK, it has an English school.
Siem Reap to Koh Chang in a day (December 2002):
We did the trip from Siem Reap to Poipet in 3,5 hours (including a 5min toilet stop)! We started in the morning 7 am and finished the trip on the same day on Koh Chang island at 9pm! We used a private car (40$ = 20$ each), because we did not want to pay 140$ for the flight to Bangkok. Our driver drove very fast - he overtook/passed all the cars, buses and trucks on the road.
Road description: We started 7am. After 40min the road becomes very bad. If you have motion sickness you will be lost. 9am we passed some road workers, then the road was quite good until 10am. The last 30 minutes until Poipet was again terrible. It was easy to cross the border in Poipet with your map and find a tuk-tuk to the bus station in Aranyaprathe (50 Baht).
Every one or two hours there is a bus from Aranyaprathet to Chantaburi (80 Baht). We had lunch near the bus station and took the 1:30pm bus to Chantaburi. We arrived in Chantaburi 5pm. From there to Trat there is a bus every 30 minutes until 7pm. We took a pick-up directly to the ferry to Koh Chang and catching the last ferry at 7pm (130 baht each)!
Important: When you buy the ticket for the ferry (120 Baht return) you should also book your first night room there. We had problems finding an available bungalow. The ferry took 30 minutes. On Koh Chang we waited for a pick-up, which brings you to your bungalow (30 Baht, 50 Baht after 6pm).
I think, the private car is the best but most expensive solution between Poipet and Siem Reap. You can also use a pick-up (our hotel offers this for 8$), but you wait for the local people up to 2hours. So I would recommend a mini bus (our hotel offers this also for 8$), which needs 5-7hours for Siem Reap to the border.
Exploring your options (December 2002):
We ran into a couple who spent 9hrs on a bus between Poipet and Siem Reap and so immediately jumped on the internet to check talesofasia on our options. Many people were taking the boat to Battambang to avoid the road, but I just could not work out why, as it cost $15 each and only got you 30km closer, and for the same price (for 2) we could get the taxi all the way to the border. Personally I think the cobblestones between Sisophon and Poipet were the worst part of the trip anyway!
As advised we ended up wandering down to the Sokimex near the river and organised a cab to pick us up from our hotel and take us to the border the next day ($30). 4hrs later, after a bumpy, but otherwise enjoyable ride we followed your instructions through the border and found our way to the bus station and Bangkok - too easy!
Another positive solo journey (December 2002):
copied and pasted the information from your website into a Word document
which I literally read in the taxi to Morchit. By the way, I was really
frustrated with the taxi drivers in BKK this trip (I have been to Bangkok
about ten times). I walked out of three cabs that would not put on meters
during my stay. Although a good many of these cabbies are ok, there are
a substantial amount of scumbags. Plus the moaning about the traffic and
having to drive in it is getting very stale. C'mon -- sheesh this is Bangkok.
One thing about Tokyo (where I reside), the cabbies do not whine and are
super honest. But anyway I got "ripped off" going to Morchit.
I had attended a dance contest at Nana the night before and was running
a little later than planned (wanted to leave at ~6AM but was not ready
until about ~7:30). Could not find a free cab. Finally got one but when
he heard that I wanted to go to Morchit -- well the fireworks exploded
and 300 baht and 20 minutes later I was at the bus terminal. OK I was
ripped off $3. Fucking Bangkok. Stuff like that happens now and then.
Only time on this trip actually so I can not get to bent out of shape.
But an auspicious start.
a tuk-tuk with Peter (guy from Slovakia) as instructed - 50 baht. Acted
like I knew the routine and there were no issues and we were at our destination
in 5 minutes. Was immediately surrounded by touts at the border area but
nothing obnoxious. Cleared Thai customs (2 minutes) walked across to Cambodia
side. Found the Visa area (Christ, it was so unofficial looking
Regarding the touts and the border crossing. Surprisingly, I was not overly intimidated. I think your website really provided the game plan I needed combined with having Peter (both of us are over 6 feet tall) to chat with - it was quite painless. Actually the "worst" aspect was the kids with the umbrellas. I genuinely felt badly for them, they tried so hard but were soooo young. As hardened as I am (from NYC and have traveled a bit in my 35 years) my heart still breaks when I see small children living in miserable conditions. I did give one of the kids 10 or 20 baht. I wish there was a way to give each of them a little something without getting engulfed by touts. Oh well. At least one earned a little cash.
Somehow at the crossing we linked up with 4 other Slovakians (go figure!) who said they had booked a truck and there were two spots left. Now I remembered what you wrote about the bus/truck scam...waiting around until the bus/truck is full could cost several hours. Well, I took a chance. I met the organizer and I was brutal on him. Basically telling him this bus (it ended up being a minibus) is "leaving now or I am not going." "I am not paying until the bus is started and we are off." "The bus makes no stops -- directly to Siem Riep." Peter could not believe I was being such a prick. Oh well, when in Rome... but it may have worked. Because within 20 minutes we were off. I think the cost was 200 baht but it could have been 300, can't recall. I think it was 200. I had my own little area in the back of the bus (~1.7 seats) and my bag was right beside me. Also was able to spread out my legs somewhat. There were about 10 of us on the bus.
The ride was hell. Your detail on where the road was smooth vs. bumpy was quite accurate. But in the rough spots, it was worse than driving on the moon. We were zigzagging so much to avoid holes. It was the worse ride (physically) I ever experienced. The highways in Laos are like U.S. Interstate 80 compared to Cambodia. Peter said India (I have never been) is much better. I really can not imagine a road being more deplorable. That being said, I enjoyed it. BUT IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. I had no physical after effects once we arrived Siem Riep either so was it that bad?
We made one toilet stop lasting 20 minutes about two-thirds into the trip. No big deal. As far as timing, I think we left the border at around 1:30 and arrived at 7:30. About 6 hours. That was because the bus is the least ideal form of transportation. Period. A point you may want to keep emphasizing on your site. Trucks and taxis were "whizzing" past us. But you know what? If the worst thing was losing 1 -2 hours on the road but having that time to see the Cambodian country side. NO BIG DEAL. In my mind, I had expected the worse and had no bad experiences. In fact the worst part was the scumbag taxi driver in BKK who ripped me off. Overall I would grade the trip a "B" -- would have been an "A" if that was a pick-up truck instead of a bus and if the roads were just a little better. If I had to do it all over, I would have taken a taxi or truck to save a couple of hours. But quite frankly, I could have easily lost a good portion of that time (and maybe even more money) trying to find the "perfect" ride. Plus I was on the bus with some interesting folks. The bus dropped us at a local guest house but I had already made reservations at the Angkor Sapphir. There were no worries finding a motorcycle to transport me over. In fact, the 20 year old kid who drove me to the Sapphir was so likeable that I kept him as my guide the next three days. A great kid!
All I can say is I took Bangkok Airways back to Thailand a few days later (very nice service). Honestly, I wish I had the time to go back overland instead. The freakin' airport charge was more than it cost to get to Siem Reap! But it was cool seeing Cambodia from above. Thanks for your site, I can not wait to make the trip again!!!!
Tourist buses and helpful information on bus connections in Thailand (December 2002):
We did the trip from Siem Reap to Poipet on 22 November and found the road passable although in very bad condition. The rains have obviously done a bit of damage and with the heavy trucks passing through the mud has dried into a potholed roller coaster of a ride. Despite the road being more or less dead straight it is almost comical to see vehicles swerving all over the place to try and dodge the rough stuff.
We can't add too much to the sum of knowledge except to say that we did the trip by the Neak Krorhorm tourist minibus. This is fine and you will get through but at the same time any travellers should be aware that this is probably the slowest, most expensive and most uncomfortable way to do the journey. Basically the bus is a clapped out heap whose springs have sprung and is too big to go around the pot holes and not big enough to go straight through. By the time we did the rounds of the guest houses in Siem Reap and stopped for a drink in one village and lunch in Sisophon the journey time to the border alone was 7 to 8 hours. All backpacks, luggage etc was stored in the bus and with the fold down seats also taken up there was hardly any leg room... it is definitely not a good idea to be the last person picked up in Siem Reap. Maybe once the road is improved they will use better buses but don't hold your breath.
Also remember that if you choose the bus it was your choice so don't get upset with the driver for going so slow or stopping for a break when he has a pretty difficult job just getting there in one piece.
If you can afford it or can find other travellers to share the cost then go for a Camry.
For those going on to Trat for Ko Chang keep an eye out for the minibus which seems to run three times a week and will save you some connections. If it is running it will be near the pickups and other minibuses just after you pass into Thailand.
If the minibus is not there you can still get to Trat that day but you need to be in Aranyaprathet by 3.00 pm. The bus from there takes around 4 1/2 hours to get to Chantaburi via Sa Kaew. If you are ahead of schedule you can always go to Sa Kaew in the hope of a earlier bus as the Aranyaprathet bus will come through anyway. From Chantaburi you can wait for a Trat bus or take a pick up.
One scam to watch out for (there is always one) is that the crew on the Aranyaprathet - Trat bus may try and charge travellers more by suggesting that if you cough up they will go direct to Trat without stopping or touting for business en route. On our bus there were eight farangs and for a direct service they wanted THB2,000 in total. Just smile and insist on the correct fare (THB80 - 100 for one) as even if you pay up they are still going to stop.
Do I really make it sound worse than it is? (December 2002):
My friend and I are travelling through SE Asia for a month and were hell bent on not missing the temples of Angkor but couldn't afford the round trip airfare. We are however, somewhat creatures of comfort, and definitely tourists, so we decided to take your advice and do the overland crossing by taking a bus to Poipet and then journeying onward by getting a Camry for just the two of us.
Filled with dread from all your warnings and having read all the traveller's reports we prepared for the worst, and it was probably a good thing as we were pleasantly surprised. My friend and I both basically memorized your instructions (not very believable in knowing what you're doing if you have to look at directions every five minutes) and set out to be as surly and ornery as we possibly could.
Getting to Morchit and taking the bus to Aranyaprathet were both cake. We left our hotel near KSR at 7:00 and got to Morchit at 7:40 (100 Baht -- seems a bit steep but it was on the meter -- maybe he took us for a ten or twenty Baht scenic route). By 8:05 the bus was on its way (the 180 Baht one, since it was leaving right away and the faster one wasn't leaving until 8:30... we just figured we'd rather be moving and we'd still get to Aranyaprathet ten minutes before the 164 Baht bus.) A great way to see a bit of Thailand. The tuk tuk to Poipet was also pretty easy, with only minor touting as we got off the bus. For 50 Baht the driver deposited us right near the convenience store where the scenes of mass swarming by kids and touts seem to have mellowed out considerably. We had one tout and three kids try to get near us as we got off (thankfully no one tried to jump on the tuk tuk) but a firm wave of the hand and a half-hearted snarl made them lose interest pretty quickly.
Navigating the border was a moderately confusing but your map helped. In about five minutes we were stamped out of Thailand and our first no man's land tout, who had been casing us since we entered the departures building, was waiting for us as we exited. We had previously decided to not get a tout until we got to Cambodia so as not to have to give our passport to anyone but an official (just to be on the safe side that is) so we duly ignored him. He followed us for a while, until we got to the visa office, and then realised he was going to get nothing from us so headed back the way he came. Still, pretty mellow compared to what has been described in your pages. At the visa office some semi-official (hard to tell sometimes) looking guys dispensed paper-work and handled our passports. As I handed one of them my bundle he muttered something about three-hundred Baht, though I couldn't understand what he was offering in return... so once again I just ignored him. It must have been some kind of expediting fee since it took about ten minutes to get our paperwork done. It could also have been back-up however, since there were a lot of people waiting. Anyway, for no more than 1000 baht we got our visas in a matter of a few minutes. Finally, another duly ignored tout escorted us to Cambodian immigration and even held the door for us (how kind!). This was a bit of a hassle since we got in behind a KSR mini-bus (I think... they all had name-tags or something) and had to wait in line for another 10 - 15 minutes. Also, the immigrations forms were with the officials and we had to specifically ask for them by going up to the front of the line and knocking on the window (I'm assuming this is a similar scam to the one at Thai immigration on the way back).
finally got stamped in and got ready to negotiate the Camry. As we approached
the circle a bunch of touts surrounded us. At this point I forgot that
we were supposed to go past the circle for transport. Instead I found
a tout in the melee who seemed to
Then the only glitch in the whole thing happened. An elderly Canadian gentleman (68) who was travelling alone and had previously said he was going to Battambang suddenly changed his mind and came up to us asking if he could join us in the car. The tout seized the opportunity and said that if a third passenger was coming the price would be 1400 baht. Now this is a croc, since as you say the car is the car and it shouldn't matter how many people ride in it. But by this point I was hot and tired and hadn't remotely played this scenario out in my mind. I didn't want to start bargaining all over again but also didn't want to just leave this guy behind. In the end I just said fuck it and we all agreed to 1400... oh well, we overpaid by $1.50 each, it could have been worse, especially for first timers. Finally, the tout asked to be paid right away, producing a receipt with his phone number on it as proof. The answer of course was a categorical "no", at which point his request became half now and half at destination. The answer to that was also absolutely not and he finally just gave up. The receipt was a nice touch though.
This last hurdle overcome we set off to Siem Reap. The road was very bad for the first 15 Km or so, then got better until we reached Sisophon, then turned miserably bad for 3 hours, and dramatically improved on our final approach to Siem Reap. All the bridges were in place, but nonetheless, the drivers really earn their keep. I haven't been that jostled since I drove across Rwanda in '98. We were at our guest house by 6 PM, having left Morchit ten hours earlier, happy to have made it to Angkor for relatively cheap and the trip is totally doable if one studies your instructions thoroughly. And once again, the touts are definitely mellower compared to what I've read
A favorable solo journey (November 2002):
Did the overland route 'on my own' on Monday, 2 days ago [November 25]. The road has dried out a lot in the last couple of weeks apparently and there are no uncrossable parts so you don't have to stop, change trucks, overnight in Sisophon or anything.
trip to the border was fine and though Poipet was indeed truly a dump
I don't think it's as bad as many people say - certainly it wasn't scary
anyway. The minute I got through immigration I jumped on a moto to get
away from the roundabout which I think was a good idea. Got to the bottom
tip of the market where the pickups and Camrys were heading from, and
there were no Camrys going then so I hopped on a pickup - with 15 Khmers!
It got more and more comfortable as we were getting to Sisophon because
people get jumping off en route and taking groceries, baggage etc with
them. All in all the 1 hour trip on the back of the pickup to Sisophon
was fantastic, and much more fun being in the open air than in a bus/taxi.
I got lucky at Sisophon because one driver just handed me over to another,
who had already had most of his pickup 'bought' by a Cambodian yuppie
(!) who was delivering a lawnmower or minitractor or something in Siem
Reap and had requisitioned this pickup. It wasn't at all comfortable in
the back seat, and did cost me 300 baht, but seeing as it only took just
over 3 hours and I was chatting,
Overall I would definitely overland, at least from now. I know that lots of people esp. who have written on the Thorn Tree had a complete nightmare and I'm sure I would feel very differently if the journey had taken me 24 hours or more...but with conditions as they are I think this journey is not too bad at all - at least until the rainy season next year...
A report from an Overseas Khmer (November 2002):
I spent about ten days in Phnom Penh and planned to leave for Battambang by taxi the day after Pchum Ben (Buddhist feast for the deaths). I finally decided to leave 1 day later as the price of the taxi was double : 50 000 riels (~ 12 USD) instead of 25 000 and there were no possible discussion. I rent a Camry taxi to Battambang for 150 000 riels (about 40 USD).
The road to Battambang is under construction and is much better than 2 years ago. The trip to Battambang took about 5 hours ! In Battambang, the climate is much better than Phnom Penh !
We stayed a night in Battambang and then left for Thailand thru Poipet. The roads from Battambang to Poipet are really bad ! Arriving at Poipet, and as you mention, there were many touts. One of the touts tried to open the bag of my wife unsuccessfully -- fortunately ! I had no problem to leave Cambodia and to enter to Thailand ! One strange thing : one of my Cambodians friends had to pay 100 baht to leave Cambodia and 100 baht to enter to Thailand even if he had already a Thai visa !
I returned from Bangkok to Cambodia 3 days later by following exactly what you have mentioned on your website. When I arrived at Battambang, one of my friends asked me how much I paid for 2 seats in the Camry taxi. I told them that I paid 200 baht. They were very surprise as they used to pay at least 300 baht.
Just goes to show, even when the road is at its worst, it's still not a big deal (November 2002):
I made it though on Oct 23 and was the experience of a life time and thanks to your info really not a big deal at all. In fact the journey was one of the highlights as the road to Siem Reap is so interesting.
The more things change, the more the stay the same (August 2002):
I made the trip to Siem Reap two years ago. all things considered it went pretty smoothly but I got on mini bus mistakenly thinking it would be better - it wasnt. Return I went with a pickup paid the extra to sit inside and it went so much faster and smoother than the entry. I did however make the egregious mistake of paying someone at the border to do my passport. Not again!
A lone western gal tries it on her own (July 2002):
I approached the border in a tuk tuk (a motorized rickshaw) about 10 boys
sitting on the side of the road saw this lone 'whitey' and ran as fast
as they could to my tuk tuk, while it was moving. Somehow, they all managed
to jump on and were all yelling at me. What? I don't know, and it wasn't
just due to language barriers. I think they were trying to get me to give
them money or let them sell me a ticket to Siem Reap. I told them all
in Thai to leave me alone and all but 3 jumped off.
Along the highway (July 2002):
The SHORT 150 km (according to my map!) trip from SR to the border at Poipet should only take us max. 2 hours I reckoned. I RECKONED WRONG!! Leaving early that morning we only arrived at the border in the late afternoon after driving and "flying" across some really atrocious roads. Admittedly work is being done on the roads but this is all by means of women and children manually laying the base layers of rock and was only for short sections. Once again the very interesting scenery and sights made the trip well worthwhile. Imagine seeing 2 large dead pigs on the back of a scooter being whisked off to market with mucous flying out of their noses and feet stuck in the air! I'm sure this will never be seen on the M1 or Autobahn in ones lifetime. The butcheries on the side of the road were also fascinating with haunches of pork and beef simply hung up and slices cut off. Luckily the temperature was only around the 40 degree C mark! The thousands of flies were doing their best to circle the meat and try to keep it cool.
More fun with touts (July 2002):
Myself & my boyfriend did the Bangkok - Siem Reap run a few days ago, armed in advance with all your info. Despite being forewarned, Poipet was pretty hellish. We avoided many of the scams others report, but could not shake the touts. Every time we approached a driver a crowd of them would get between him & us and prevent him from talking to us or vice versa (of course we slipped up by not just climbing on, but we couldn't quite bring ourselves to do that). Initially he was quoting 200B each to Sisophon (we hadn't admitted we were going to Siem Reap) OUTSIDE! We laughed at him and said the fare was 30B and we wouldn't pay any more. The fare dropped dramatically over the next 15 mins to about 70B each, which we still wouldn't pay. They also prevented us from getting a moto to the market, again surrounding the driver so he just refused to take us.
So we walked off down the road, cursing the fact we hadn't got a KSR bus. One of the touts followed us alongside an almost empty truck, and said 35B each. At this stage, exhausted, we agreed but said if the truck didn't leave within 30mins we'd get off. Needless to say, it didn't leave. It was closer to 2 hours, but it was steadily filling up with locals during that period. As we were out on the road, not at the circle, there were fewer options if we did jump ship, and anyway it looked to us as though even if we did get on another truck there was no guarantee of it leaving sooner.
Eventually we left, and in Sisophon the driver looked amazed when we coughed up the 70B we'd agreed (at this stage other pax had told us the fare was 20B each, and the driver knew this, but a deal's a deal we figured). Sisophon to SR was no probs - got on a full truck, driver called out the right fare to us as we got on. We thought we'd had a tough time, but cheered up when we went for a drink after dinner, and the barman was amazed we'd come from Bangkok that day, as we were there "so early".
Cheered up some more when some people who came the same day on the (non-KSR) TAT Bus told us they took 8 hours from Poipet to Siem Reap. Even allowing for all the hustling & sitting around in Poipet, it "only" took us about 6. We left our guesthouse in Bangkok about 6am and got to our guesthouse in Siem Reap about 6pm. Pathetic by your standards but it could have been worse!
Remembering how it was (July 2002):
My first trip to Cambodia was in 99; when I crossed the border at Poipet there was no other foreigner at all!! As far as I can remember did I meet just one tout, probably the only one who could speak English at that time! He tried to charge quite a lot of money for the trip to Battambang, but I just ignored him. The road to Sisophon and Battambang was horrible, but the trip on the back of a pickup unforgettable; and being an experienced traveller I paid definitely the local price, just waited until we arrived and then paid exactly the same what everybody else was paying. It's of course nice to hear that nowadays so many tourists make the trip to S.R. but I am glad that I did it before the big rush started.
An overseas Khmer pays his homeland a visit (June 2002):
When I arrived at the bus station in Sisophon (Sway) en route to Siem Riep, many taxi drivers jumped on me (and my wife who didn't understand Khmer) to propose their services (I think we paid more than the price you mentioned even I speak Khmer)! I was surprised, shocked, nervous, .... and not very happy. BUT when I reviewed the scene later and saw that among the touts there were a lot of children, I was shocked to unable to help them! They are obliged to do that to survive! Anyway, overland travel through Cambodia is a big experience and that is the only thing -- good and bad -- that I have never forgotten until today! I have to mention also that the problem of touts is not the image of Cambodia, there many places where this problem is in existence!
Another Poipet nightmare, as titled by the writer, "Nightmare in Cambodia" (June 2002):
The trip from Bangkok to the border was pleasant. Once we got off the bus and arranged transport to the border by tuk-tuk, then all hell broke out. When we approached the border, hooligans approached the tuk-tuk and boarded from the rear. After much persuasion, the driver was able to dislodge them. When we arrived at the border, several hooligans arrived and insisted on helping us through immigrations. They were helpful in filling out our forms, but it appeared that they were after was separating me and my wife and also separating our carry on suitcase and our individual passports. The man outside of immigration told us he wanted 2100 baht for the visa plus 300 more baht from each of us. I asked him what the 300 baht was for. He said for himself. I told him 20 baht, and no more. He accepted. He then handed the forms and the money - minus 20 baht to the person inside. It appears his does not work for the government and that the government employee is fully aware of the scam. Once we got into Cambodia, we asked to be directed to the bus station. The hooligans said they would take us to the bus station. They tried putting us on separate motorcycles, but we said no. Then a tourist cop showed up. He assured us it was okay and that both of us could ride on the motorcycle along with the driver. The hooligans started to take us to the edge of town. At this time, they arranged for a car to take us to Siem Reap. The driver wanted 2000 baht. I said that was too much and I wanted them to direct me to the bus station. At this time, the tourist cop (the same one as before - tall, dark skin, heavy) appeared. He said the bus would be leaving, but it would be in about 1 and 1/2 hours. He suggested going by car. I said no. I asked to go to the bus station. At this point, the tourist cop told us that only two people can ride on a motorcycle. At this point, we both got off the motorcycle and I once more asked him where the... [Gordon here: At this point the e-mail abruptly ended. Perhaps the author's blood pressure had reached a lethal level and he dropped dead at his keyboard.]
Thanks. Keep 'em coming.
Reports Page 21 (Jun 2002 - Dec 2002)
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