By: Clay Tun
I decided to go Cambodia because I wanted to see Angkor Wat, and the cheapest way to get there from Bangkok is by taking the bus or train. I thought I had it all planned it out. I had written instructions from 3 years old forum without a map. I thought it was good enough.
The night before I left Bangkok
I stayed with my friends at Shangri-La Hotel, which is a 5 star hotel. I asked the front desk clerk about getting to Poi-Pet border to cross into Cambodia. The clerk asked “Why do you want to go there? It’s nothing there…dangerous…my sister had bad experience…etc.” They found an easy solution which was to take the casino bus. It’s a direct bus that go straight to the border, and will not pick up passenger along the way. When I found out about this, I had to change my plan. So I did a quick research about this bus station and the bus that go there. I found a few article/forum posting from 2009. After reading people forum, my worry was set to ease.
In the morning few of my travel buddy already left to the airport. I started getting my stuff and head to the hotel lobby. I met the front desk clerk and he had already called the taxi for me. When the taxi arrived, the clerk started talking to the driver. After hearing them going back and forth, I begin to worry. I was like “What is going on? At this rate I will miss the bus.” After they finish talking the taxi driver got back in the car and drove off. I’m like WTF just happened.
The clerk then told me that the bus company will withhold my passport if I want to ride their bus. Their bus is strictly for people who want to go to Casino for a day trip. So I got discourage when I heard this. Somehow I have a feeling that they don’t want me to go to Cambodia. He told me about how his sister went to Cambodia once and she had bad experience. He was just worried about my safety. He stated that Cambodian people are not that TRUSTWORTHY. He said that best thing is to wait until 9am and ask the tourist bus company. I didn’t want to wait, so I asked him to get me a taxi to Mochit station (which was my first plan). He made a phone called and wrote down some information. He told me to go to bus company name 999 and purchase the bus ride to Aranyaprathet. They put me in the meter taxi, and this is how I got ripped off. When I arrived at the station the meter showed 90 something baht. So I give him 120 baht, he said NO it’s 200 because of the toll fee. This guy clearly ripped me off. I was worry about missing the bus, so I forcefully give it to him.
After I got off the taxi, I headed inside the bus station. He hotel personnel told me to go to 3rd floor to purchase the bus ticket at counter 999. I was confused, people were moving and grooving to their daily business. One lady on the counter begin calling me in Thai. I told her I want to go to the border and she pointed across the hall. When I looked I saw the sign “Bangkok to Aranyaprathet” and the bus company 999. I bought a ticket from them for 212 baht. It was a nice bus, with A/C. On the bus I saw European couple and British guy. Along the way we made a pit stop, and several stop to let the passenger get out or in.
I remember the front desk personnel telling me to get off one stop before the last stop. This bus that I’m on is headed to the market close to the border. I know that the European couple and the fat British guy are heading to the border as well so I waited until they get off. When suddenly I notice one station name “Aranyaprathet” I got worried that I forgot to get off. So now the bus is heading to the market and I saw the road sign saying you are now entering Cambodia. Clearly I missed my stop right. When the bus finally stop at the market (last stop) it was close to 11am, so I was on the bus for about 5 hours. Before I got off the bus I asked the bus driver “Where is Poi-Pet?” and he said I need to get on the tuk tuk to the border. There was a lot of tuk tuk driver waiting outside the bus door, and one of the girl who speak good English said that the tuk tuk will drop me off at the border, they can’t go cross it. I looked around, other Thai tourist looked confuse as well. They started asking me questions in Thai. I just shook me head and said sorry. I wanted to share the tuk tuk with other people but everybody had already left so I got on the tuk tuk right away and told him I want to go to the border, and no where else. He drove for like few minute and pull over to the one of the building with the sign VISA. So this is the part I remember from online research. I already purchase my Visa online so I don’t need to get off. There was several guy sitting outside the building and I was approached by one of the guy. He said you need Visa to cross the border, this is where you get it done. I said “I already have it,” and the guy told the driver to leave. The driver stop few feet after we left the Visa scam place. When I was leaving the Visa scam place I saw the fat British guy got off his tuk tuk and walk into the building. I shook my head and wish him good luck.
I started walking toward a building which I thought was an entry but soon found out I was walking into wrong building. My heart started pounding because I just had be discovered by one of the local. I wouldn’t be surprise to see a big Asian guy wearing a big backpack walking the wrong direction as a tourist. He said “My friend, my friend, where are you from?” I started talking to him in Burmese. He kept speaking to me in English, pointing at a right direction. I finally got into the right building where they stamp my passport for exiting the country. The process was quick. I notice there not much people in the foreigner line, but there was many people in Thai/Local line. I’m guessing all of these people are going to the casino at this border town. When I enter the Visa Entry process building, I had to fill out the form. After filling out the form I lined up, and the Visa process took a while because I didn’t tip them. I seen the local people taking out few hundred baht to speed up their process. I didn’t get told to sit down or wait, the worker just took his time. He called up his other worker and said something. After I got the Visa processed, I walk pass the free transfer bus station. I was trying to find the European couple but they were no where in sight. I saw a westerner and asked him where he was heading? He said Siem Reap. At this time he was surrounded by bunch of Cambodian guys, and I thought he was their rein leader. So I asked “Are you with them? He said Yes, He then asked me what do I want? I told him I’m heading to Siem Reap and looking for bus station. He said there is no bus station, “I’m waiting for another American who suppose to shared the taxi with.” After finding out he a Canadian and heading to the same direction, one of the guy said why don’t you guy shared the taxi. So I got in the taxi and we waited for the American person. Finally, he showed up after few minute. My first impression on the other two rider that they are father and son. I might get beat up and get my money stolen, stranded on the side of the road…etc. However, the Canadian guy talks a lot so I found out why he actually going there. Later, the American guy start talking and found out he was here for Peace Corp mission.
2 hours later
We arrived at Siem Reap and the Canadian guy got off at the market after unsuccessfully asking money from me. He said he needed money for taxi back to Thailand. After he got off, we headed to my guesthouse. This is where I F@#& up by not having a actual address. I forgot to print out the map. I didn’t have their phone sim card to call the guesthouse either. Good thing the American guy had a phone and made a call and found out the location. It turns out, we both were in the same area. Good thing I ended up in the same taxi with this guy because he speak Khmer and told the driver where to go. Luckily I got to my destination safely.
Thank you to:
Larry Leung for the hotel.
Gilbert Huang for calling and checking up to see if I made it to the bus safely.
Kyle Gore for helping me get to my guesthouse.
Danny, Patrick, Crazy Victor for making the 1st leg of the trip fun.
Taxi to the Mochit station: 200 baht = $6.75 –> 200/29.62
Bus ride to Aranyaprathet: 212 baht = $7.16
Tuk Tuk to Poi-Pet = $2
Shared taxi to Siem Reap = $10