Continued from Bangkok Day 4.
We are leaving Bangkok today! Kind of excited, but kind of not. Excited to leave this city, but not excited about going on an all day bus ride and going through the land border crossing into Cambodia. I did a good amount of research on how to cross into Cambodia from Thailand, and it’s not fun. Scams are rife in the area, and it’s caused me stress all day yesterday already just thinking about it.
At our end BTS stop at Mo Chit, now find a taxi to Mo Chit 2 bus station. That was a miserable ride. It took us 45 minutes, we had to stand in a crowded train the entire time with all of our packs on us. Ugh.
According to my research, this is where I need to pick up my tickets…except not. I got to the counter, and they pointed across the way at a different counter, the online ticketing agency that I had booked the tickets from. Hmm…this is a little different from what other travelers have said, but let’s hope for the best.
It’s rather dingy, and the bathroom is for “pee only”. Hmmm…I hope everything I ate yesterday is going to settle well with me today…Ugh. I wonder how many travelers in the past have had horrible times on this bus having to hold it in while having food poisoning.
Took this photo to remember what happened on this bus. A few hours into the bus ride, the bus attendant passed around a clipboard for us to fill in our name, country, age, passport number, etc. I’d imagine it’s needed for their record keeping. Anyhow…the clipboard got passed all the way around, and the last person to sign it was the guy from Canada who sat ahead of us–he was asleep when it got passed around the first time. We took a peek at the list of names and I am the oldest person on this ENTIRE BUS at 31. The entire bus was filled up with backpackers(bus was about half full), and they are all mostly in their mid to early 20s from Europe. I am pretty sure that I am also older than the driver and the bus attendant. I feel so old…
RL was like, “That’s odd, usually there are some older travelers around too.” To which I replied, “Yeah, there are, and I am THAT older traveler.”
Our driver sped through the country passing everything in sight. We even caught up with the bus that was heading to Phnom Penh back in Bangkok…That bus had left 30 minutes before we left. Then our bus driver and this other bus decided to race to the border…it was scary actually. The entire bus ride, the bus swerved around to pass other cars and RL started getting car sick. She felt sick enough that she almost vomited in the restroom. Fortunately, one of the nice German girls offered her some sort of medicated gum that numbed her mouth and was supposed to help with nausea. Not sure what that was, but it did help some. To be car sick for 8 hours really sucks.
Almost at the border. Our bus makes a stop at their office and offers passengers a Cambodia visa for 900baht, about $30. The official rate at the border is only $20. The attendant made sure to say that this is the easy way, and that if we have problems at the border, the bus cannot wait and will leave us. Ugh. Must stay strong and hold it together and get visa at the border. Some of the other passengers got scared and did elect to pay the marked up prices here.
Finally at the border. This is by far the most convoluted border crossing I’ve ever been to in my life. Everything here is designed to confuse and misdirect you so that scammers can pounce on your lost soul.
The Thai exit border control. This is supposed to be the easy side, where we get a stamp and we are out. This was mostly true…The Canadian guy who sat in front of us had lost his departure card, and when he told them that he didn’t have it they replied with, “no card, no go.” And that’s all they said. This happened a few more times, until finally they just gave him another departure card to fill out. I am pretty sure they were waiting to see if they could get a bribe out of him while they kept him waiting with no information. Bastards.
After we exited the Thailand border control, there were not a single sign telling us where to go. From my research, I knew that we had to cross a bridge, so we started looking for that.
Found the bridge! This is stressful. Did I mention that our main packs are still on the bus, so if for some reason we don’t get through…the bus could in theory drive away with our packs leaving us stranded here…
Next step is to find the Cambodia gates(to the left of the photo) and on the right hand side of it is this cream colored building where you get your Cambodia visa. There are no signs anywhere. I only know where to go because other travelers have blogged about their crossing experiences and I’ve seen their photos.
There is one little window where you get your visa. Here is where most people pay their bribes. The “official” standing outside the window will ask for $20 USD and then ask for 100 baht as a bribe. I was fully prepared to pay the bribe just to grease the wheels, but then a German travelers on our bus who was in line in front of me refused to pay the bribe and pointed at the $20 official rate on top of the window. The “official” just handed the passport back to him and said nothing else. OK, strength in numbers, we’ll stand together and refuse to pay the bribe and see what happens. I also refused to pay the bribe, and the “official(scam artist)” gave me my passport and money back without saying a word. We both stood there, just waiting in agony while all the other travelers got their passports processed. It helps that we could still see other travelers on our bus around, so we know the bus won’t leave quite yet.
Maybe 5 minutes had passed, and after all the other bribe paying travelers got their visa, the official waved us over to hand him our passports. Then in no time, we all got our visas. Yeah, fuckers! No bribes paid!!! All we had to do was wait for a few minutes in agony while we ran through all the worst possible case scenarios through our heads. The bribe did get you the express lane though.
On the bus, we swapped our border crossing stories. The German girl who gave RL the medicated gum had paid for a bus ride, but the bus never showed(probably got scammed 🙁 ), and then had to scramble to the Mo Chit 2 bus station and buy tickets again. There were a couple of guys who paid the $30 at the bus company for “easy visa”, but then went to the visa window and paid another $20 and 100baht for the bribe even though they had gotten their visa already. Then there’s the Canadian guy who I had mentioned earlier who almost did not even get through the Thai side.
The German guy, his girlfriend, RL and I all got off without getting scammed because we read up as much as we could on the border crossing before showing up. Knowledge is power! The German guy also booked his ticket through the online agency, and then at the last moment, they had cancelled his credit card order. So then he had to get his hotel to call the agency to straighten things out.
It’s about $25 for the 8 hour bus crossing vs. $142 and 1 hour(plus getting to airport and going through security etc.) for the plane ride. It’s almost worth it to just pay for the airplane just so we didn’t have to go through the shitty border crossing.
Toyota has a near monopoly on the cars in this country. Literally 99% of the cars that I see are Toyota or Lexus, and 80% of those are probably Camrys of different model years. I wonder who Toyota had to bribe to have such a monopoly on the car markets here.
While we were still in Thailand, our bus made a random stop and picked up a couple who I believe were Cambodians. I think they just paid the driver and the attendant a bribe for the ride from Thailand into Cambodia. Here they are getting off the bus at some random street crossing in Cambodia.
As we got closer to Siem Reap, they started doing road construction. And by construction, I meant that they tore up part of the road and made it into a dirt road, but there was nothing in sight to suggest that they were going to repave it anytime soon. For the last two hours of our trip, the road would be paved, then unpaved, rinse and repeat. We were so close, but yet so far because the going got slowed by the crappy road conditions.
No horn, except no one cares. Our driver did not honk his horn once in Thailand, but immediately when he got into Cambodia, the horn went off every minute. Every time we are about to pass by another motorist, he honked to let them know that we are about to pass them and not veer into us.
Finally got to Siem Reap. This feels cleaner then the other areas we’ve passed. The bus dropped us off at their office. Instead of us getting off to pick up our luggage curb side, they had porters load all of our bags into their office. Then we had to go into their office and they tried to put their spiel on us for tours. We grabbed our bags and hurried out of there. We made it to Siem Reap!!!
Afterwards, I rechecked the travel blogs that I referenced for the crossing, and it seems like our bus isn’t quite as nice as the bus in their photos. Perhaps there’s a Cambodia bus and a Thailand bus, and we just got on the Cambodia one instead? Other than the bus, our crossing experiences are the same.
Happy hour from 4-8pm in our hotel restaurant. Beers and cocktails are buy one get one free. Prices are not cheap here in Siem Reap. Food and drinks are essentially US prices. Beers are $2 for 2 and cocktails are $4 for 2.
We exchanged all of our baht into USD. In Cambodia, they mainly use USD, and they only give you back change in Cambodian Riel for anything less than a dollar. It feels good to have the greenback in our hands again. Again worth mentioning is that at the visa office, they specifically only accept $20 USD or else they’d probably charge you some outrageous exchange rate.
To be continued at Siem Reap Day 2 Part 1.