One Night in Bangkok (well, actually two nights…)
The musical selection for this post is “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head. What a strange song. Link at the bottom.
Fair warning: This blog post is not our most entertaining. It’s more of a guide for how to minimize frustrations and not get ripped off when traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Hopefully some fellow travelers find this post helpful.
When we arrived in Thailand our passports were stamped with the date by which we had to leave the country: June 21st. Working backwards from that date, we left Koh Tao on July 19th, which gave us the 20th in Bangkok. (Although it’s possible to book transit from Koh Tao straight through to Siem Reap, an interminable series of buses and minibuses lasting over 30 hours did not appeal to us.) The trip from Koh Tao to Bangkok took about 9 hours and consisted of a ferry to Chumphon and then a bus to Bangkok. We arrived at the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok at night and found an adequate guesthouse.
The next day we set about trying to find the best way to get to Siem Reap with the fewest hassles. In researching online, I had read about a newer direct bus service. We asked around at the guesthouses and travel agents around Khao San Road, but they only sell minibus trips to Siem Reap, which doesn’t sound very fun: a minibus from Bangkok to the border town on the Thailand side, a tuktuk or motorbike taxi to the border, walk across the border, another tuk-tuk on the Cambodia side, and finally the minibus to Siem Reap. Then I found this post on another travel blog that explained in detail how to book the direct bus. Score!
I won’t repeat all the great information in the above blog post, but I will add a few things we discovered. We decided to go to the Mochit 2 bus station (which, by the way, is nowhere near the Mochit BTS train station) on the afternoon of the 20th, rather than waiting until the morning of the 21st, just to make sure that we knew how to get there and had our tickets in hand. After researching online, we found that the best and cheapest way to get to the bus station from Khao San Road is a meter taxi. It cost us around 100 baht and took about 35 minutes each way in the relatively light mid-day traffic. The non-meter taxis wanted 300 baht one way.
If you’ve got an unwanted zebra statue, just leave it under that bush. We saw this outside the bus station.
The ticket counter for the direct bus is on the ground floor of the station, straight ahead from the central set of doors and to the left of the 7-Eleven. (My old employer has myriad stores all over Thailand.)
We got a taxi back to the Khao San Road area and spent the rest of the day just wandering around. We will be back in Bangkok in September, so we didn’t feel the need to get in any real sightseeing this time around. Khao San Road is the chaotic travelers’ hub of Bangkok, and while you can definitely have a good time there, I’m excited to see other parts of Bangkok. Much of the area appears to be geared towards young foreigners looking to get wasted:
The next morning we got up early and caught a taxi back to the Mochit 2 bus station. This time we were in morning rush hour traffic, and the trip took a little over an hour and cost 120 baht. When we bought our tickets there were many open spots on the bus, but the next morning the bus was full, so getting the tickets in advance was a smart move. The bus ride was fine and uneventful, until we got to the bus company’s scam station (described with a photo in the above blog post). The scam is that they tell you that you have to buy the Cambodian visa from them for 900 baht (about $30) if you haven’t already purchased one online for $28. The truth is that you can buy the visa at the border for $20, and since we are on a tight budget, we intended to do it that way. When we got to the scam building the guy asked us if we had our visas yet and I lied and said yes because i didn’t feel like getting into it with him. Then we got back on the bus and proceeded to the border.
We got stamped out of Thailand and walked across the bridge to Poipet, a dirty town that leaves a lousy first impression of Cambodia. We crossed the street to go to the little nondescript building where you can buy the visa. We filled out the forms and had everything in order, including a passport photo and US$20 cash. At the window the uniformed man showed us a piece of paper that said that the visa costs $20 plus 100 baht. Yes, even the Cambodian officials try to rip you off. Having read our friends’ blog post on the border crossing, we anticipated this move on their part and stuck to our guns. I smiled and said, “No, it’s just $20.” I pointed to the sign above the window that says that the visa costs $20. After a moment of looking at me with frustration on his face, like I was being dense, the man sighed, collected our papers and told us to take a seat. A couple minutes later we had one-month tourist visas, and we didn’t pay a dime more than we were required. I took disproportionate pleasure in this feat, as if saving $7 somehow made up for getting taken to the cleaners when we crossed into Bolivia months earlier.
After getting our visas we walked farther down the road, past the gaudy casinos and the touts and tuk-tuks to another ugly low building where we got stamped into Cambodia. Then we were back on the bus and on our way to Siem Reap.