We took the train from from Bangkok’s main Hualamphong station to Aranyaprathet, which is a few kilometres from the Cambodian frontier. These trains are 3rd class only. The train & bus travel website said they were clean (yes), spacious (no – we were so squished it wasn’t even funny – not even standing room!! The vendors that threw their baskets and boxes in the windows before the train even came to a stand-still for boarding at Hualamphong Station took up 6 spaces in the car we were in. Had it not been so squished, it would have been a pleasant and enjoyable ride, clickety clacking along with a breeze blowing through the open window. The fare, however, was only 207 baht (NZ$9 each) so we can’t really complain!!
At Aranyaprathet, we took a tuk-tuk (100 baht / NZ$4 ) from the station to the Cambodian border at Poiphet (15km). The border is open 07:00-20:00. We were well aware of the scam of tourists being sidetracked into a travel agency and we had bought our Cambodian visas as e-visas before hand. We tried to tell the tuk tuk driver to take us straight to the official border post but that fell on deaf ears. A gas fill-up and change of driver later, we were taken to the “scam office”. We remained adamant that we would not get out of the tuk-tuk at the “supposed official Cambodia border office” despite many attempts by the “officials” to get us out. Keeping our cool and repeating ourselves worked eventually and we were off to the proper border. It took 2 hours to pass through both borders – we didn’t realise that you passed through the Thai border control first, then you walk about 300m to the Cambodia border control, showed our e-visas, filled out health forms and then pass through the many touts trying to get you to hop on a bus to Siem Reap.
We opted for a share taxi from Poiphet to Siem Reap. The journey usually takes around 2-3 hours now that the highway has been improved, and it cost about 1300 baht for the whole car. Your bargaining skills need to be quite firm otherwise you will be ripped off quite easily! I’m so glad we’d done our research before heading off to Cambodia – forewarned is definitely forearmed!
When I say the car ride from Poipet to Siem Reap was hair-raising – I REALLY mean it! Even though the road is now paved (no longer dirt with huge pot holes!) it’s still a “take your life in your own hands” kind of trip! The cars drive on the RIGHT hand side of the road, which is weird! The water buffalos on the side of the road had minds of their own and several times our lives flashed before our eyes as trucks came onto our side of the road to avoid them!! Never mind that traffic (namely us) was coming the other way!! All the guide books said driving in Cambodia is crazy – and they are right!! Motorbikes carrying cages of piglets, baskets, gates, you name it – it can be strapped onto a motorcycle and carted around the countryside.
Arrival at Siem Reap was fraught with more scam opportunities. This time they’re after your services for getting around Siem Reap while you’re in town. We didn’t have a booking at a hotel, so this left us a little vulnerable to getting taken for a ride. We did end up at a very basic looking place to stay Home Sweet Home Guest House – it was clean and tidy – facilities were minimal – but it had all we needed, a clean place to sleep! Right next door and across the road were various places to eat so we were happy. We organised the moto-romauk (motorcycle trailer) driver to pick us up each day to visit as many temples/ruins as possible in 3 days.
I was certain that I’d already written several posts on this blog for this trip – but today I’ve discovered that I haven’t – not sure if they’ve been accidently deleted or my mind is playing tricks on me!! Maybe I just got confused and thought I’d done it. I used PhotoPeach to make a slideshow of our travel day to the Cambodia border and our first full day sightseeing in Siem Reap.