Siem Reap Day 1

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.


All of our possessions onto our backs, and off we go for a 10 minutes walk to the BTS station. I wanted to call a taxi, but the front desk and RL made fun of me for not walking…fine, I’ll walk.


Monday morning rush. This will not be a fun ride.


7 stations one direction, transfer, then 7 stations the other direction, then taxi the final leg to the bus station. What a pain.


Transfer.


Victory monument.


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.


So much crap to carry around. I think we overpacked a little…


Hundreds of buses all over this area.


Mo Chit 2 bus station, about 20 minutes away from the BTS stop.


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.


The waiting area.


So much stuff.


Got our tickets. Everything seems to be correct. I am pretty stressed out about this. I’ve read too many bad stories about getting scammed on this bus route and border crossing.


The mini mart inside the train station carries food in bags. We elected for the 7 Eleven instead.


Where our bus is supposed to be currently parks a bus going from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. We are about 30 minutes early, so we’ll wait some more I guess.


Showing some skin, scandalous. While waiting, we found a tear in a pair of RL’s shorts. She blames the laundromat.


Our bus arrives!!


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.


You take a photo of us, I take a photo of you. This is a fellow bus rider taking photos of the bus.


Like I said, you take a photo of me, I take a photo of you. Another fellow bus rider.


Finally on our way.


We wear this so that they know who belongs on the bus and how to get help if we get lost during the border crossing.


Sexy.


Leaving Bangkok, not a fan, sorry. We all get on the bus, and almost immediately, everyone on the bus, including yours truly, falls asleep.


About an hour into the ride, we stopped for 10 minutes here to use the restroom and restock up on food and drinks.


Our bus is from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It’s a left hand drive bus, instead of a right hand drive like all cars in Thailand. I am guessing Cambodia is left hand drive.


Back on the bus and let’s go. We are barely into our trip.


Shrimp.


Does not look or taste like shrimp.


Krab, well this does taste like imitation krab.


This is what the country side looks like, dense forests.


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.


I feel like we are cattle going in for the slaughter.


How’s that for an ADA ramp? Almost a 45 degree incline. I am not sure if I can push a wheel chair up that ramp.


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.


Crossed into Cambodia!


Found our buses ahead, but first we need to get our arrival stamps at the Cambodia side in our passport.


Found the place to get our stamps.


A little bit of a line. We waited, but the process was very straight forward. Gave them our passport with our newly acquired visas, got our finger prints scanned, and got our stamp.


Back on the bus!!! Yay!!!

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.


Cambodia, poor.


And yet someone here owns a Range Rover, and I would see a few more Range Rovers here.


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.


Cambodia country side. They also burn their fields here to clear and fertilize.


All along the road, all the vendors sell these bottles of yellow liquid. They just sit out in the hot sun. I wonder what they are…


Seriously, everyone sells the same bottles of yellow liquid.


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.


It seems so weird to see a Prius here in Cambodia. You don’t have any tree hugging friends to impress here.


I see plenty of these tractor things around the streets. Really odd looking machines, but I guess you don’t need power steering with such a long steering lever.


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.


A gas station, it’s just got a shitloads of gas cans sitting around.


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.


Lots of mango trees here with lots of mangos. This is just in front of some person’s home.


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.


Our hotel is only a few blocks away, so we decided to walk. School is getting out and all the parents are picking up their kids.


Found!!


This is what $30 a night gets you in Siem Reap, the most touristy town here in Cambodia. That bus ride was stressful and tiring.


Our lovely view outside of our window. This is the backyard of the restaurant next door. Needless to say, we won’t be eating next door.


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.


First, exchange all of our Thai money.


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.


After that long ride, I need a drink.


I’ve been seeing signs for Angkor beer and Cambodia Beer the whole bus ride after entering Cambodia. Time to give it a try.


Cool, one of those pop caps. So satisfying when popping one open. Pop! I think I prefer Cambodia over Angkor.


Blue Hawaii for RL. Buy one get one free!


A bottle of liquor infused with a cobra biting the stinger of a scorpion. How were they able to get those two animals in there? I guess they had to squeeze them into the bottle carefully?


Sweet potato fries.


Chicken fingers! These were quite good.


Then some Khmer curry for dinner at the hotel restaurant. We are too tired to go out in search of food. Fortunate for us, the food here is very delicious.


Out to the corner pharmacy to buy some bottles of water.


This is in English, so this is what the travelers here ask about the most at the pharmacy.

To be continued at Siem Reap Day 2 Part 1.

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