Saturday, November 8, 2008

the road to siem reap

now's the part where i tell you all about how i got to siem reap from bangkok. :)

we landed in bangkok on schedule, around 1230am manila time. the immigration line was longish, and we spent quite a while inside the airport looking for ATMs. had we known that there were a lot of these just outside, we wouldn't have hung out there as much.

we took a public taxi (it was pink! i nearly died!) from the airport to take a nap hotel, just so we could leave some of our things behind to make it easier to cross the border. louise, the girl at the front desk, was very accommodating--she even helped us get a taxi to morchit bus station.

we arrived at the bus station at around 2am, bangkok time. i was pretty impressed; the station exceeded all of my expectations. it was clean, it wasn't crowded, it wasn't noisy. of course, we were there at an ungodly hour, and some people had slept on the floor, or on the seats, waiting for the ticket booths to open up. lucky for us, a 7-11 was inside the terminal, and we got to have our first bangkok meal (cup noodles and microwavable food, which were all very satisfying).

at around 245am, ticket counter 30 had opened up to sell tickets for the 330am bus to aranyaprathet, our trip. it was fun communicating with the ticket lady using nothing but numbers: i signaled 4 with my hands to indicate the number of people, and she answered by telling me how much the total was (THB 884 for 4 tickets). after i paid, she gave me 2 tickets, and said, "two seat, two seat," pointing at each ticket, indicating that one ticket is good for two. then she said, "121," to let me know that our bus leaves from stall 121.

our bus left on time, and i got to experience bangkok and thailand sans the traffic. it was a pleasant ride--the roads were well-paved and the driver seemed to know what he was doing. we got front row seats, and i was worried that i would witness a lot of close calls on the road, but no such moments came up. it's kind of strange and scary traveling so far in unfamiliar roads. it would have felt safer had there been a lot of signs in english, but the whole trip was a kind of guessing game, and trusting that what you read online were reliable tips from genuinely helpful people.

thankfully, it was, and we arrived in aranyaprathet at 730am, then took a tuk-tuk to rongklua market. our tuk-tuks stopped at a travel agency first, trying to get us to pay up for visas, but unfortunately, they couldn't make any money off of us, since filipinos can enter cambodia for free. one tout even shook susie's hand when we told him that we were filipinos. "oh! philippine! FREE!" he exclaimed. to me, it sounded like he was proclaiming our country's independence.

we eventually found our way to thailand's customs bureau, where we got ourselves stamped out of the country. after that, we crossed the great, intricate arch of the kingdom of cambodia (couldn't take pictures, though. had to walk fast!). we walked to the immigration office to get clearance to enter, and was promptly asked to pay THB 200 for a stamp, something you really shouldn't pay for. at this point, we were all too tired and a tad wary to argue with the officer in charge, so we just forked the cash over. he did make everything easy for us border-crossers when he did that.

the hard part was getting the cab to siem reap. there was a tout who followed us from the thai immigration all the way to cambodian immigration, forcing us to get a cab from him. it turns out he works for the association of mafia taxis that we were going to get anyway, and we all hated that fact. we didn't want to give him any business, but you hardly control the outcome of these negotiations when you're in another country.

after paying our THB 2,400 cab fare, everything went uphill. our driver, roum, was a friendly man, telling us stories every now and then and answering our questions about cambodia. in between conversations with him and susie, we three ladies nodded off at various intervals, with roum's indian music serving as our lively

as expected, the roads that lead to siem reap were a mix of smooth asphalt roads and red soil that shook us for a good two hours. that's why we were so excited when our driver roum finally said, "welcome to siem reap!" after a few minutes of driving, he had us transfer to a tuk-tuk, driven by one of his "friends," who will be taking us to our hotel.

his friend seemed dismayed when we said we had already booked tours with the hotel aside from accommodation. the subtext was clear: no money to be made from these people. so he just asked us to pay him THB 200 for a ride that was supposed to be free.

but all that seems like a dream now, because the villa is such a paradise of a budget hotel.

stay tuned for my feature of the villa, and of course, for tales of angkor wat and angkor thom.

more photos of the road trip from bangkok to siem reap.

travel information:

bangkok suvarnabhumi airport
official website:
to find information on airport layout and other travel details

taxi from airport to silom area: THB 550 (no meter)

morchit bus terminal
also known as chatuchak station, or morchit 2

bus routes for central, north, and northeastern areas
address: kamphaeng phet 2 road, bangkok

MRT subway: kamphaeng phet

air aran pattana bus

first class bus from bangkok to aranyaprathet
(buy from ticket window 30)
fare: THB 221 per person, with free water

trip duration: 4 hours

the ultimate guide to going overland from bangkok to siem reap
only tales of asia has the most comprehensive guide on this journey.

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