Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 6: Crossing Thailand into Cambodia

It was not easy to find wireless internet connection in my room back in Siem Reap. At this moment, I am taking a rest in Phnom Penh (wait for next entry on Phnom Penh).
Back in Thailand, especially since my pit stop was in the backpackers’ area, it was easy to buy travel arrangement heading to any other point of interest, such as travelling to Siem Reap. Based on Seat61 website, the long journey between Bangkok to Siem Reap was already expected to be a long travel. After check-out from Sawasdee Krungthep Inn, I had a simple early breakfast – manggo with sticky rice (pulut) with original fresh orange. This is a traditional Thai dish, which is also common in Malaysia.
My bus ticket was inclusive with hotel pick up. It was a short motorcycle pick up ride (if I can snap my own picture of being on a motorcycle with big backpack on the back and another small back in front – it should have been funny, eh?) From Bangkok to Arayanprathet (Thai border) it was a 12 seater van journey, with several pit stops at gas station. There were many other vans carrying tourists heading to the same directions every time we stopped at the gas station.

After an almost 5 hours bumpy ride, the driver made a stop at a travel shop in Arayanprathet. Although you can get your visa at the border, this place offers express services at a premium charge. Me, however, did not require any visa entering Cambodia – lucky that I am from ASEAN countries. Note that Thai vehicles are not allowed into Cambodia, so we had to change our transport here. I took another van to the border checkpoint. Once arrived at the border checkpoint, you have to walk on your own. First stop, Thai border immigration office – to get your passport stamped before going out from Thailand. About 10 minutes walk from the Thai immigration office, it was nice seeing the great Cambodian entrance. However, the queue at the Poi Pet immigration office was not a comfortable one – more than 20 minutes in a hot and overcrowded run-down office. Finally after my passport was stamped for entering Cambodia, I was taken to Poi Pet International Bus Station by a shuttle bus (about 20 minutes ride).

The bus station is a new building located in the middle of nowhere. Most busses in Cambodia are old used busses from Korea or Japan, but they are still in good condition. After waiting for almost an hour, the bus finally took off for another 4 hours ride. Half way down the road, the bus made a stop at a local shop. Immediately after the bus door opened, a bunch of school kids swarmed the door. I was taken aback seeing them – seeing how difficult must have been for them. Most of them could speak little English that they have learnt in school. They were asking where most of the tourist come from and asking us for coins from our country. You may think that they are begging for money, but the fact that they just want some of our attention touched my heart. Most of my Malaysian coins are left at home so I could only give the coins that I luckily found in my bag to a few of them.

This is my second time to Siem Reap. I was expecting a bus ride directly to the main bus station. Unfortunately, the bus seemed to be a part of a scam whereby the last stop was somewhere outside the city center. It was almost in the middle of nowhere – although there were tuk tuk services available as soon as we got off from the bus. So much for a 500 Baht ticket, eh..??

The hotel which I was supposed to stay offered me a pick-up. An email from the guesthouse’s manager indicated a phone number for me to contact upon my arrival. Instead of taking a tuk tuk from the stop into the city, I had insisted to wait for my pick up at the same location. To my surprise, the guesthouse had arranged a tuk tuk with a Malay speaking guide. I was damn lucky!!!

After check-in at Oudum Angkor Villa (formerly known as Tan Thorng Villa), the guide, Yusuf, brought me to a night market for dinner. It was a new experience going to a local night market. There was a vendor selling halal Khmer food. I had slices of roasted calf meat and traditional Khmer beef soup. After not eating the whole day – this meal was really something.

I immediately noticed that Siem Reap is getting more expensive from the day I arrived. The short ride for dinner cost me US$5 whereby dinner for one person was also US$5. I remember a few years back when I was here, a tuk tuk ride with the same distance would most probably cost me half the price. Nevertheless, I was not in the position to bargain.

In total I was on the road for almost 12 hours. By the time the day ended I was already too exhausted. Check out the pictures from my facebook album >> Day 6 - Moving from Bangkok to Siem Reap



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