Are you planning to go to Siem Reap?
Are you currently in Bangkok?
Are you on a tight budget?
If all of your answers are yes, then this is a piece of writing shared especially for you. 🙂
Overland journey always sounds fascinating to me. In South East Asia, it is possible though it could be a little bit challenging. It’s not only about the transportation quality (sometimes), but also about communication. Misunderstanding could have a fatal result when it comes to transportation (especially for me who has various problems of getting lost).
The train journey, however, was one of the cheapest and methods to go to Siem Reap as I had a lot of time. This route is possible if you start from Bangkok, Thailand. Please note that Cambodia does not have train within the country; hence this method will only take you to Aranyaprathet (also known as Aran) – a city close to the border with Cambodia.
The train ticket from Hualamphong Station only costs THB 48 (approximately Rp18,000 – $ 1.4). There are two trains leaving for Aranyaprathet daily. I took the one leaving at 5:55 am that took almost 6 hours. I arrived in Aranyaprathet a little bit before 12 noon, though it is actually scheduled to arrive at 11:20 am. If the departure time is too early, there is another train leaving at 01:05 pm and arriving at 06:05 pm. However, taking the morning train is the better option though you have to sacrifice few hours of your sleep so you can have longer time in Siem Reap! Also, arriving when it’s bright will minimize the chance to get scammed as you are less tired and more alert
though sometimes you just can’t avoid being scammed as you are clueless and they know more about the country!
It was an ordinary train. There is no aircon yet the windows can be widely open. It was an okay experience though. I would not say it was uncomfortable as it was quite comfortable, especially for the price I paid. I had a window-eat facing forward. It meant one thing: I got the whole wind slapping my face. It was too harsh, I could barely breathe normally. I couldn’t really sleep too because of that. Meanwhile, on the way back, I had a window-seat facing backward. I couldn’t feel slightest wind blowing. 😀 So, I felt like I was trapped in a warm room without any ventilation. In such case, I wasn’t sure which one I preferred: getting wind-slapped or roasted. Oh well…maybe getting wind-slapped sounds a little bit better. 😀
At the Border
Once I arrived in Aranyaprathet station, a motor taxi driver offered me a ride to Poipet (where the border is) for THB 60. I thought it was quite cheap as I read that the normal price for tuktuk from the station to Poipet was between THB 80-100. The ride itself took around 10-15 minutes.
The driver tried to trick me to go to the “immigration officers” to get Cambodian visa. He was very hesitant from the very beginning. When I found out what he was trying to do, I told him that I am an Indonesian and I didn’t have to apply for a visa to enter Cambodia. I saw some tourists waiting for their visa there. Not a good way to welcome tourists, Cambodia! So, if you happen to be someone who needs a visa to enter Cambodia, always note that the official Cambodian immigration office was after Thai immigration office. if the tuk-tuk/motorcycle taxi driver bring you to an “office” before you get your passport checked by the Thai immigration officer, be suspicious!
Not long after, the driver dropped me off at the Thai immigration office to get my passport checked. The passport checking process did not take long as there was no long line inside. After I was done with the Thai immigration, I walked to the Cambodian immigration office. The officers asked me whether I was a Filipino or an Indonesian
I was quite surprised that he was quite specific as my face is an ULTIMATE SE Asian face which can fit local face anywhere in SE Asia before handing me a form to fill out.
When all immigration procedures were finished, I walked outside to find transportation to Siem Reap. I waited at the shelter not so far from the immigration office. There is a free shuttle bus to the van terminal.
I took it with some other tourists. The bus took us to a building that looks like a modern bus terminal – only that it was empty. I was a bit annoyed by the officer in pink shirt who lead us to the free shuttle bus. Though based on my reading they are official, I still got the impression that they tried to trick people. Not only that they were so persistent, they also tried to say all over again that we had to convert our money to Cambodian Riel….for lower price.
To Siem Reap
In the bus station, there was one locket to buy tickets to Siem Reap. The options available were bus, minivan, taxi and shared taxi. Being very cautious not to get scammed; I wanted to buy bus or minivan ticket which had the same price i.e. $9. Nevertheless, there were only seven passengers. According to them, the bus would wait until it was full before leaving. Meanwhile the minivan would require 10 passengers to operate. At the end, the minivan agent (not the driver – beware of agents!) said that we could hop into the van for $12 (similar as the shared taxi) with the deal that the driver would drop us at each of our hotel. One of the passengers, a Cambodian, was very doubtful at the beginning. He said he wanted to take the bus though he had to wait. At the end, he joined us as the minivan would not have left without him.
The minivan was very shabby! The air con did not work very well. We got steamed inside! Whenever we tried to open the windows, the driver would order us to close them. He stopped once at a shop by the road so we could go to the toilet. I was so thirsty yet the price of the drinks was so expensive compared to Thailand. So, I refrained from buying anything.
When we reached Siem Reap, the driver dropped us altogether at the minivan’s last stop – different from what the agent told us. All of a sudden, tuk-tuk drivers approached us forcing their service. I tried to speak to the driver that he should have dropped us at the hotel. He just gave me a frown and say “No!”; I tried to speak to another officer of the minivan he said the driver would go back to Thailand directly. I was so pissed off. One of the tuk-tuk driver offered me free drop off at the hotel if I used his service to Angkor Wat the next day. As I was already annoyed; I couldn’t digest his words very well. I did not take his offer at the end. I should have haggled a bit. But I decided to use another tuk-tuk for $2 dollars (then got ripped off few days later! haha).
Feeling unwelcome at the start was how my trip in Cambodia felt like. It hindered me to fully enjoy the whole trip after that (yet I was still excited to explore Angkor Wat).