Angkor-wat: The Cheap Guide to Awesomeness! Part #1
#TravelTip: When you have time, save money (for shopping, preferably!)
We had to travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap overland. Of course, the shortest and most expensive way is by flight. But since we had time, our options were:
1. Bus ($23) for 7hrs
2. Train ($1, actually 48THB) for 8hours
3. Mini-bus ($15) for 5hrs
4. Taxi (2600THB) for 3hours
We decided to take the train for 48THB (that’s 96INR) from Hualompong to Aranyaprathet. A first hand look at local life. The train started promptly at 6AM. It was like a toy train. Cute yellow, wooden benches and a warm wooden décor. Plain but nice. Only fans and with lots of food vendors. The first food we had after landing in Thailand was on that train. Fried dough with coffee; we called it “butterfly donuts” because of its shape!
The train passes through really cute looking stations with artistically carved bonsai gardens. The crowd was strictly local and/or Angkor-wat tourists. The landscape… well, the guidebooks called it “scenic” but it looked like a scene from any typical Assamese village. That being said, both Assamese villages and Thai villages are pretty. Lots of paddy fields and banana trees! If I would have shown a photo of a Thai village landscape to mom, I’m sure she would have scoffed saying, “And for this you went abroad? It’s right at your rear!”
The train did run a bit late. It was scheduled to arrive at Aranyaprathet at 11:35am but we reached at 1:30pm. At the station, we negotiated our ride to Friendship Market (aka border) with a tuk-tuk driver for a 100THB for four persons.
Of course, he tried to divert us and took us to that scam-wala fake, infamous immigration that is all over the internet. But a little coaxing to take us to the real embassy (coupled with a pretense that we know where it is) and the driver dropped us at the Thai immigration office.
So, we stepped in the immigration office, got stamped out of Thailand and then went to the Cambodian side. There are way too many sign boards showing the way so you will NEVER get lost.
At the Cambodian side, we paid 1200THB for visa; a slightly exaggerated rate, an “official bribe” and got stamped in. We crossed mid-way and there was another immigration office which stamped us our visa dates. (We got 14days but it can be extended)
At the no-man’s land, you will see lots of casinos. You will also encounter lots of persons trying to sell you a ride to Siem Reap. The bus conductor was charging us $9 for the ride and kept on insisting there is no other transport ahead.
But fortunately… yes, fortunately… we were really hungry and stopped by in a café to eat lunch. That deterred the scammers in following us. And better… we met a Thai lady… a certain Ms. Oh… who was kind enough to introduce us to a cab driver who charged only $30 for the ride from Poipet to Siem Reap (two hours ride). We were four of us and it made perfect sense to go in a private AC cab than a bus!
And so we met the driver, Mr. Tha. Polite, humble and with broken English. He had a Toyota Corolla that comfortably seated us all. Do you know Cambodia has left-hand driving? Yes, it felt like all cars were coming right at us!
Mr. Tha and we had another deal. Two days of temple visit from morning till 10AM and a drop back to the border for $80. I think it was a good deal. I didn’t want to do a tuk-tuk ride around temples in the crazy humid heat of April.
So, after two hours from the border, we reached Siem Reap and checked in our guesthouse, Bou Savy. It’s a pretty awesome place, with free pool, free wifi and free breakfast (in short, all good things in life!). Read more about this award-winning guesthouse here.
Travel Gyaan until we reached Siem Reap:
- Visa-on-arrival sucks
- Thai passport is 4cm X 6cm. Anything other than that and you end up paying 100THB for a quick passport at immigration L We did.
- The immigration lady requires 10,000THB to be shown in cash. Forex cards don’t work for her. So, if you are short on cash, rotate the money inconspicuously among your friends so that no one is sent back home!
- The taxi from airport to Hualumpong cost 260THB on meter but the nice driver, in true Thai hospitality, returned us 10THB (because we are so charming!)
- No-man’s land is full of scams. Just stick to your guns and don’t give them an ear.
- Oh Aunty was a savior, so was Mr. Tha, our chauffeur.
In short, scammers exist but good people rule!
To get more gyaan on how to spend two days of temple-hopping at Angkor Wat in hot April without losing your cool, continue reading here!
Free wifi, free breakfast, free swimming pool in Siem Reap for $22! Want to stay where we stayed? Read on.