So after giving you an introduction to Cambodia’s circus skills I figured I should back-track and let you know about the trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap in case I have anything helpful to share.
I was travelling solo. Yep one of the things I learned was that I am in fact capable of travelling solo. I even managed to slow my sprinting heart rate down and relax for most of the trip.
Along the way I also discovered that travelling in a group is cheaper, well a group that has cheap tastes anyway. Travel in a group with expensive tastes and you get pressured (wholeheartedly) into expensive activities (I learned that on my next trip).
Otherwise, when it comes to getting around in an area dominated by tuk tuks and finding a place to stay among guesthouses with two plus beds per room, the prices drop the more people you have with you.
I also found that, in Cambodia at least, it helps to have a small backpack. I cannot count how many times I saw people anxiously watching the other passengers disembark and sort through the luggage in the underbelly of the bus.
Or how many times I just hopped off the bus and strode away while others crowded around waiting for their bag to be unloaded.
How many times I was thankful that I could put on a sweater when the air conditioner was blasting or retrieve a towel when water fell from the bus ceiling.
My final lesson from this trip was that I LOVE trains way more than buses.
These websites were lifesavers.
seat61.com is actually a website dedicated to travelling by train but for Cambodia it included bus routes since Cambodia doesn’t have a train system to speak of. What I love most about this website is its attention to detail—schedules, trip lengths, costs and alternative routes—its updated information and its easy format. Heck this site even had step-by-step instructions for crossing the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
The interactive map helps with planning trips too.
Tales of Asia is a website that’s a touch outdated for Cambodia (four years) but its a valuable source of information anyway. The “obscenely long, slow immigration queues” still exist. I managed to get stuck in one on my way back to Thailand.
It wasn’t as terrible as it could have been though with only a half-hour wait.
It was also at this site that I learned about the fake Cambodian Embassy. Tuk tuk drivers will take you to this embassy (big sign and all) before they take you to the actual border. At the false embassy they try to sell you visas for 1000 baht. Visas cost $20 (american) at the border which is about 660 baht.
And I read about the “tea-money” or extra 100 baht the border guards ask for when they process your visa. You don’t have to give it to them though you might have to politely argue with them for an extra minute or two. I watched this happen so I know it still exists.
Luckily I’d decided on an E-visa earlier and was spared all the hassle. It’s a touch more expensive at $25 dollars but you get to skip the line of people waiting for a visa at the border and you get to skip the scams.
One drawback is that the E-visa is not accepted at all border entries into Cambodia. Make sure the E-visa works at the crossing you want to use. I had to keep an eye on that on my way back to Bangkok from Otres beach in Cambodia.
Anyway, less talk more photos!
This train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border crossing at Aranyaprathet only costed 48 baht! It leaves twice a day and there is only one class of seats.
After a hectic night crossing the border (I had planned to stay over in Aranyaprathet but then decided to do the border crossing that evening with a fellow traveller) I woke up to this in Siem Reap. The group of travellers I’d joined in a taxi after crossing the border (managed to haggle that down to 200 baht per person) was dropped at this hotel. We decided to stay because it was really late though the rooms cost $12 for two beds.
Photos from the first day in Siem Reap! For us it was a time to explore! For the locals it was business as usual.
Did you know that Siam Riep means “defeat of Siam” and Siam was the old name of Thailand!
That is not my backpack on the bed but my friend’s.
These are photos from the next place my new friends and I would choose to stay. It’s called Garden Village Guesthouse and we liked it despite its grudgy appearance because it was DIRT CHEAP. A double bed room here cost $6 (american). There were even $1 rooms, well beds. They were literally mattresses set in a hallway covered by mosquito sheets. I had a photo but my camera erased it along with my photos from Phnom Pehn (more on that in another post).
This was the first time I’ve ever used a mosquito net! But they were slightly gross because they hadn’t been washed in forever. I swear there were old blood stains on my net….. So I’m glad I had my shots before travelling to Thailand.
As my first day in Siem Reap was winding down I decided to just pick a direction and walk for a bit.
After walking for five minutes or so I found a small temple. Thinking I could get an idea of how a small Khmer temple compares to a Thai temple, I wandered in and began documenting my little discovery. As I was happily snapping away a young monk walked over and asked me if I was looking for someone.
“Eh, nope, I was just curious,” I replied sheepishly lowering my camera.
A small dog had followed the monk and began growling and baring her teeth at me. I’m not terribly fond of unfamiliar dogs so I stepped back. The monk noticed my discomfort and kneeled down to softly but strictly pat the dog on the head as he told it to be nice. It licked its lips, looked up at him and sat with a huff.
It was so cute I let out a giggle. Smiling up the monk said, “her name is Pin and she is the queen of the temple.”
After the intellectual exercise we entered a rousing game of volleyball with the young boys staying at the temple. Lord, my volleyball skills were in rough shape. How does that even happen!
I got to see the monk one more time before I left Siam Riep, but then that was that.
He’d had been a monk for 15 years and was planning to quit in January so he’s probably already left. I hope he’s still studying law though and working towards his dreams!