Saturday, June 15, 2013

How To Get There: Between Bangkok and Siem Reap

This is my experience on how to get to Siem Reap from Bangkok.
Or how I like to call it “Getting to Siem Reap, the hard way”
As stated in a previous post, Life is full of choices…

And if you had to choose, fly to Siem Reap. 
It may cost more but saves you headache, time and inconvenience.

Now let’s get to my choice. Travelling over land.
From Bangkok there are two common modes of transport to get to the border of Thailand and Cambodia (most probably Poipet).
The first being the bus. Even then there are so many options for you.

Based on research (no personal experience to speak of),
a.       You can take a bus from The Morchit bus station behind Chatuchak market.
(note that is near Morchit BTS and Chatuchak MRT, but is quite a distance to walk)
you can buy the ticket from the ticket windows inside the station at windows 23, 25, 30, or 31.
b.      Take the gambler Express found near Lumphini park
This will take you to either Aranyaprathet or up to the Rongklua market (information varies)

Now if you are a cheapskate like myself (I use the excuse of being a backpacker to cover up :p)
The obvious choice would then be the train.

1.      The train leaves at two times a day, 5:55 a.m. and 1.05 p.m.
Chose the insanely early 5:55 a.m. to avoid being stuck at the border overnight (unless you plan to gamble the night away)
For a mere 48 baht, about 6 hours of your life, you’ll find yourself at Aranyaprathet train station.

2.      You will need to make your way to Rongklua market which is at the border.
 a.       From the station there is the green truck that cost about 20 baht (some say 15) where you get to identify with sardines in a can.
b.      Or grab a tuk tuk for the bargained price of 50 baht (they start higher, if you’re good you can get lower but for the 6 km ride I think it is an acceptable price)

3.      Clear the Thai customs… This is the easy part, just follow the signs (and not the crowd going to the day pass)

4.      Now this part gets confusing, as most border passes, the immigrations are close by. Aranyaprathet and Poipet is separated by a sea of casino’s.

Even though the street may turn left, walk through the archway. 
Walk, enjoy the heat. Marvel at the number of casino’s. 
keep walking. Get disturbed by officials with tags. Keep walking. Eventually you will come to the Cambodian immigration. Wait in line. Get your prints taken like a criminal. Pass on in.
*note 1*: For the uninformed, you will need to get your VISA’s before you enter. You can do this via E-visa or Visa on arrival which can be found after the casino’s. Never ever let the tuk tuk or any driver drop you anywhere on the Thai side to do it… it will cost you.
*note 2*: also for the uninformed, ASEAN countries have the privilege of not needing to apply for Visa’s in order to enter Cambodia. Lucky me…
*note 3*: It has been noted that some foreigners are requested to pay additional fees at the immigration even though it is bullshit. One of the foreigner was marveling at how this time there was no such request made… not sure if it was seasonal or maybe the government is trying to clean up their act.

5. Here comes the suckiest part of all. Entering Poipet, where everything costs to get you to anywhere in Cambodia. 

I had planned to get a ride pickup truck, but sadly they are as reported, no more. 

 So your only choices are:
a. take a taxi that will cost you about 45 USD
b. take a shared taxi that will cost you about USD10 and being crammed into a Camry with 5 others.
c. take the so called free shuttle bus to the bus station and pay USD10 for a government bus that could con you later on.
d. overnight and do like a local, grab a USD5 bus in the mornings from one of the local companies.
e. by chance come across a hired bus returning to Siem Reap that offers you a ride (didn’t try this but was told is because they were hired to send people to the border, so guess they just trying to make some money on the way back)
f. find one of those vans that acts like a public bus. Got mine through a local bus company on the main road. Can’t really say I recommend this either.
Warning 1: do not pay taxi’s upfront until you reach your destinations. Some have been known to drop the passengers half way only (at Sisphon).
Warning 2: the association buses (from the bus station) may drop you at a guesthouse instead of the bus station in Siem Reap. Nothing can be done other than to walk away and grab a tuk tuk.

6. Then comes the best part about Poipet, leaving … 

and in my case ending up at Siem Reap after another 3 hour ride.

*2013 update*
There is now a government bus that goes direct between Bangkok and Siem Reap...
but unfortunately the initial reports aren't encouraging...
slightly better than the other alternatives but not by much...

As abundant as the information on getting to Siem Reap from Bangkok, 
there is little to none on how to get to Bangkok from Siem Reap...
There were two bus companies I knew that did the return trip direct to Bangkok, Transport Co. as mentioned above and Capitol Bus...
After reading the not so shining reports about the direct buses, I decided to take the tougher route again...

First thing was to grab a bus to Poipet, and one of the good reviews for that portion was Capitol Bus, where the "office" is at Tasom Guesthouse.
the 3  hour bus ride is pretty good except for a few things to note....
*note 1*: when they suggest you arrive at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. as it says on the ticket... it means the bus leaves at 7:30... or else pay for the short ride to the actual bus station where it leaves at 8...
*note 2* : the so called office is not much use other than buying a ticket... rude is expected.

anyhow after a few short stops to drop off or pickup, we arrive at the border..
After passing through the Cambodian immigration, walk pass the beggars and casino's,
exit the archway
walk pass these "guards".. not sure what they were doing... they tried to hand me a playing card (a wild guess, perhaps an advert for the casino's?)
follow the signs to the passports
walk pass the millions exiting (this is the long line of Thai's I keep reading about)
pick up your usual entry card... not sure why they had a serial number this time
but I was pleasantly surprised the line took less than 10 minutes... unlike the hours some had to endure..
then comes the part where I wing it...
If you had bought a ticket straight to Bangkok, your sticker, or "ticket" will identify you to the workers on the other side that will help board you on any one of their possible transportations...

so rather than leave that to chance, I decided to try and find the casino buses...
unfortunately I was at a lost at where to begin searching...
was hoping for a big sign saying bangkok or something....

Instead I turned right before the border hotel... took a stroll down this street

and found myself at the market.. and the only sign of being in Thailand... a 7 Eleven :p
but more than that... was a van station... where I could easily buy a ticket to Bangkok
the only thing is you need to know where you are going... 
you can go to Ekmai, Chatuchak, or like me , go to Victory Monument

The funny thing is in the end, 3 people with the blue sticker "tickets" also boarded the same van as I... they were to suppose to end up at Khao San, so I'm not sure how that was suppose to work... but I think they still got a better deal than the rest who were left waiting when we departed at 12:30... after a one hour wait.

Thankfully the driver was nice enough to drop us near Khao San after I tried asking in my best in my barely usable Thai... thank God he understood... 

All in all pretty easy, but still not one of the easiest travels. 

Route: Siem Reap - Poipet
Cost: 4 USD
Estimated travel time: 3 hours
Route: Rongklua Market - Victory Monument (and on to Khao San)
Cost: 230 baht
Estimated travel time: 4-6 hours (depending on Bangkok traffic)

My conclusion?
Cambodians think all foreigners are made of money, and their mission is to rescue us from the evil USD’s….
Is not worth the hassle and being lied to while travelling in this manner… that is why I recommend to fly even though I do not regret this experience… now I can confidently say it is not worth the hassle because I have experienced it first hand.

1 comment:

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