Another stressful journey: Siem Reap to Bangkok

There are loads of “travel agents” in Siem Reap that sell onwards travel to Bangkok between $10-20. We had gone round to speak with a few of them as we wanted to get to Bangkok cheaply and preferably by bus rather than a minivan. They all seemed to offer the same thing so we ended up booking at a small counter what was supposed to be a VIP bus, shown in the pictures as a double decker comfortable bus. Although we had seen a lot of these in Thailand we were very skeptical that this was what we would get but for $12 as long as it was a bus that got us to Bangkok we were happy. It was also supposed to be a direct bus which usually meant that you use the same bus on both stints, therefore, you can keep your luggage on board whilst dealing with the border process as bags are never scanned at these borders. We had booked with this company as on the paperwork options it had specifically said that it would go to Bangkok Airport as well as Koh San Road. We didn’t want to end up at Koh San as there are very few public transport options from there to get into the city, where we were staying again with Will Couchsurfing. Our options from there would be expensive taxis or tuk-tuks as we were arriving in the evening and we were trying to keep costs down.

 

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The supposed journey time in a car (+immigration and traffic)

 

The morning of the journey did not start well and was probably an omen for what turned out to be a very stressful journey. We woke up early to shower and the water had turned off despite it working perfectly for the last few days. We did not have time to go down to reception to sort it out so we started out the day with wet wipe showers! We ate our breakfast whilst we waited to be picked up for the transfer to the bus. The time for our pick up came and went. After 15 minutes extra of waiting we got out reception to call the number we had been given by the woman if the transfer didn’t show (this should have been a sign!!). Luckily the reception told us someone would now be on the way to pick us up, we can’t have been on their list in the first place. Eventually after waiting another 20 minutes or so and it getting very close to when the bus itself was supposed to depart we were picked up by a guy in a battered car. We had to also pick another couple up from a different hotel before being taken to the bus.

The bus definitely wasn’t a VIP bus. It was a single level standard bus but there was somewhere to put our luggage, a bit of leg room and air-con so it wasn’t that bad. We honestly weren’t expecting to get a VIP bus anyway and were glad it wasn’t a minivan. After about two hours we pulled in at a small station just before the border where we picked up an English speaking type of guide who handed out passes we had to wear during the crossing so they knew we belonged on the bus the other side. There we checked with him if the bus was going to stop as we had been told at the airport. We were frankly told that the bus was only going to Koh San Road. After a few minutes of us stressing at him and him telling us that they don’t book tickets to the airport, despite us clearly being sold them, he said bluntly that we would have to speak to the bus driver on the other side of the border to see if he would stop somewhere else. The bus drove a bit further and stopped on the side of the road 5 min walk from outside Cambodian immigration. We were told to take off our luggage (so not a completely direct bus after all) and walk to immigration and we would meet the bus on the Thai side but not told where. The people on the bus gestured briefly the direction we should head in to get to immigration as it wasn’t that clear.

 

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2 1/2 hour journey from Siem Reap to Poipet border

 

We cued up for about 15minutes in a small office filled to the brim with people and waited to have our fingerprints scanned and our passports stamped to say that we were exiting Cambodia. After this, we stood back out the office and had to figure out the general direction we had to walk. It was not signposted to Thai immigration. After about a 10 minute walk we managed to find our way to the Thai immigration where we filled in departure slips. We went up the stairs to the ‘foreign departures’ area and joined a huge queue snaking around a massive room to get our stamps to enter Thailand. Luckily it was air-conditioned as it took about 2 hours for us to actually get to the counters as there was only ever two immigration officials on at a time out of 7 booths. When we exited the building we then had to try to find the bus. We walked to where some buses were in the car park that looked similar to ours but we were turned away and told to walk down the street but we couldn’t see the bus. When we were outside a shopping mall some men were calling us up the stairs and we realised a couple of them were from the bus. So we joined other passengers sitting outside the mall in the heat waiting for others to get through immigration. We had conversations with another ‘guide/officials’ we assumed for the company about being dropped off not at Koh San road where they said they may be able to drop us off at Mo Chit. This was actually better for us as all we needed to do was get to a place that had a Skytrain terminal.

 

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Cambodian immigration office packed inside

 

 

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Imagine this packed with hundreds of people snaking in and out of the barriers

 

 

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Expected to know to meet them on the stairs of this place!

 

An hour of waiting later and we were eventually guided to the bus. However, the guy we had spoken to about being dropped at Mo Chit did not accompany us. Dave spoke to another guy sat at the front of the bus who had taken us to the bus and he again said maybe. However when we pulled into the services that guy didn’t seem to get back on the bus either. Several times during the journey Dave had to speak to the driver to get him to drop us off somewhere which culminated to him speaking to someone from the office on the driver’s phone and then them speaking to the driver. The driver eventually said ‘ok’ but we weren’t sure still if we were going to be dropped or not. I was a stressed out wreck that didn’t want to think about it anymore by this point. We drove past the airport- so close but so far due to all the lanes of traffic and bridges separating us from them. We got stuck in Bangkok rush hour traffic for hours. We were both monitoring where we were on Maps.me to see where he might drop us off.

 

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We went past the airport! And then dropped off just off the expressway before Koh San

 

They didn’t end up dropping us off near Mo Chit. Instead, we were dropped off as they pulled off the highway to start the drive out of the main city towards Koh San Road area. It wasn’t ideal as we were dropped on the side of the road but at least it wasn’t Koh San road. We thought we could walk to the nearest Skytrain terminal as Maps.me said it was half an hour walk away. When we started following the route it tried to take us down some really dodgy back alleyway. As it was dark anyway by this point and we had all our valuables on us we rethought that. We headed back to the main road and down to a small eatery area. We managed to get a tuk-tuk to take us to Phaya Thai BTS terminal for $1 and it only took a couple of minutes. We were finally relieved as we only had a couple of stops on the Skytrain and a 10-minute walk to Will’s.

 

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About where we were dropped off- tuk tuk rather than car to the BTS at Phaya Thai
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Nice easy journey on the Skytrain to Chit Lom and then a few minutes walk to Will’s

 

Thankfully we managed to get free wifi at the mall so Dave had managed to message him saying we were going to be late and we would let him know when we were there (I would have to get data on my Thai sim for it to work first). We were initially told that it would take about 7 hours to get to Bangkok so we had told him we would be there about 6ish (and that was given about an hour extra time!). We eventually ended up at Tummy Yummy restaurant at about 9 pm, the timings didn’t include any time spent at immigration. We ordered cold drinks as we were boiling and so we could use their wifi to let Will know we were there.

Journey over thank god. Annoyingly the journey wouldn’t have been that bad if we had known 1 way or another if we were going to get dropped off. It was more the not knowing and it being sold to us completely wrong that was annoying. But we managed to get out of Cambodia on the day we needed and to the right place in Bangkok eventually!

Alex

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