Cambodian Adventures – Part 2

This is going to be a short one – about how I got to where I was in Part 1.

A brief note on footnotes: if you are interested in the narrative, you can skip them over. On the other hand, if tangential information interests you or if you plan to travel and are looking for tips, feel free to peruse them!

My travel philosophy for this trip was simple: don’t have any plans. I’d get to one place and stay at least one day. If I liked the place, I’d continue to stay the next day, if not I’d travel to another place. I never had any reservation nor an itinerary to follow, so wandering like this wasn’t a problem. My only guiding principles were 1. a rough idea of the places I’d like to cover and 2. a per day spending limit so that I wouldn’t overshoot the budget.

Common sight in Bangkok

The prawns go from being live animals to being food right before your eyes! That's Bangkok for you. This was in the famous cha-tu-chak market.

So picture this, I land from Bangalore into Singapore and from there to the inappropriately christened city of angels, Bangkok. Both are fast paced cities. After a couple of days, I thought to myself, if all I wanted was traffic and pollution, I could have merely taken the BMTC bus to majestic and had more than my lung share of smoke and dust. So I decided to leave BKK behind and head somewhere else.

Cambodia seemed like a reasonable choice of exit. I already had the visa1 and, since my flight out was from Bangkok as well, having lots of buffer time when visiting another country seemed nice. I bought a ticket all the way to Siem Reap2 from Bangkok from one of the ubiquitous travel agencies in town.3

Felines of Bangkok

Felines of Bangkok found refuge form the bustling city in the temples.

All of us cattle are herded onto a minibus and the bags are stacked to the roof on one of the back seat and we head to the border – about 4-5 hours. We then are made to get down at a restaurant some 2-3 kilometers from the border. They tell us it takes a lot of paperwork to do a visa, and the fine guide of ours will do it for 35$. I was happy that I had en e-visa, for which I paid 25$ and it was neatly e-mailed to me! I inform them of the same and they leave me alone. The other bakras get busy filling out forms – which they fill despite the assurances from the “guide” that he’d help with the paperwork – he merely “monitored” them. While they were at it, I munched down some very questionable looking fried rice along with pepsi for lunch. After about one hour of this, they ferried us to the border. There the “guide” told us about paperwork. I learned here that the visa-on-arrival costs 20$ and my bus mates were made suckers for 15$ each! The whole restaurant stop was a sham to pull this off over and above the inflated bus rate.

Chef at a restaurant in Bangkok

The chef at a restaurant in Bangkok also doubled as a dance instructor!

Anyway, we walk across the street to Cambodia. This was my first time, crossing any sort international border on foot. The Cambodian town, Poipet, looks like a smuggling town from old movies. The immigration office has old noisy fans to cool us compared to ACs of the Thai side. The first posters you see when you enter are not the ones about Angkor wat, instead they warn you “our children are our treasure, anyone who exploits them will be prosecuted” etc. I’m thinking to myself, what kind of sick people visit travel here!

Our ride to Siem reap from Poipet was an old beat up corolla. It was a right hand drive car in a right hand drive country and the driver scared the hell out of me, and it ain’t easy, with some of his overtaking maneuvers. Our taxi had an american, a belgian couple, a Norwegian and an Israeli, if I remember correctly. The only guy who had been in Cambodia before was the American and he was giving us lots of tips.

A TukTuk Ride

A TukTuk Ride in Cambodia

Upon reaching Siem Reap, as part of our deal with the original bus ticket, we get a free drop in a tuk-tuk to wherever in town. Only catch is the tuk-tuk has an additional guy whose basic function is brainwash us into getting into a Guesthouse or hotel he recommends. I had read somewhere that these guys get anywhere close to 10$, per person referred, by the guesthouse. I didn’t think I’d stay long and hence didn’t want this extra “surcharge” being levied on my daily room rates. Moreover, the guy sharing my tuk-tuk was the American. He said he knew a nice guesthouse that he had been the last time and we should go there.  He was the sort of guy who spoke about the “spirituality in the earth in India”. He claimed to be a yogi and upon reaching the guesthouse promptly went on to order a beer. This is how I came to be in the french-man guesthouse.

And that was part duex. Hope you enjoyed it. The next installment will be about my trip to the non-touristy, real, rural Cambodia where I “crashed” a wedding party.

References & Footnotes
  1. One can be had for 25$ at http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/ for a single entry/exit []
  2. Siem Reap, you’ll remember, is the Cambodian town nearest to the Angkor Wat. []
  3. This is a stupid thing to do, if you are traveling overland to Siem Reap, buy government bus ticket from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet – the thai side border town. This costs 250 Baht (A Baht is about 1.3 INR) or thereabouts. Cross the border, which if you have the e-visa, is a breeze. Take or share a taxi from the other side – the price of this isn’t fixed and will depend on your capacity to negotiate, but if you share a taxi, it shouldn’t cost you more than 5$ per person. The “direct ticket” on the other hand costs about 700-1000 Baht, and features a uncomfortably full minibus to the border and a similarly crowded taxi on the other side. []

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2 thoughts on “Cambodian Adventures – Part 2

  1. Nice narration.

    However, I’m still do not understand how would you know which location to travel to, how to reach there, where to look for stay, etc if you had not planned each travel? How much time did you spend on researching on your travel/roaming options in any city/town?

  2. As I said, I had a broad idea of the places I wanted to visit. I did my “research” using Lonely planet, wikitravel, talesofasia.com etc. I don’t know how many days I spent on this, may be a few weeks during which I was excited about getting there! 🙂

    How to get to a location: well it’s easier than you imagine, since it mostly involves public transport. 🙂 You can just go to the bus stop or railway station and ask your way. If not, you can always make use of the tourist information booths. They are quite helpful.

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