The Unplanned Backpacking Trip: Thailand-Cambodia (Leg 1)

Last January 18, 2011, after the hassle at NAIA Terminal 3, I finally arrived in Bangkok 4 hours after. Two of my friends, Ed and Doi, were already there waiting. I could remember the surge of relief I felt after seeing my friends’ faces because I was so worried about where to find them. It was my first time in Thailand then and Globe’s roaming services reeked of a skunk’s fart (then)! For those who intended to activate their roaming devices, please request for activation at least three days before leaving the country. Let me warn you though that making that request is not a guarantee that you will be able to take advantage of their roaming services. If you were able to, great! If you weren’t, you’re not alone. Anyway, since we had time to kill, we decided to roam around the airport.

airport

I have to admit that I was quite impressed. It was a far cry from all the other airports I have seen. After about thirty minutes of taking photos around the airport, we then decided to head on to the first part of our itinerary – Cambodia. The best thing about traveling with friends is the absence of anxiety. You can get lost in a new city and you won’t care since you are not alone. We hopped from one bus to another before we finally got to the train station and trust me when I say that it was such a feat conversing with the locals then; therefore it is imperative to know a bit of Thai or at least to be excellent in acting out what you meant to say which my good friend, Doi, was pretty good at.

bus to bus

bus hopping around Bangkok at 3 in the morning

First stop – Hua Lamphong Railway Station. The three of us have agreed that we will take the train going to the border then just ride a taxi once we arrived in Cambodia because it was the cheaper option. It was not the most convenient choice though. But I cannot entirely say that I felt bad about taking the train since the experience was all worth it. If you have time to spare and would like to enjoy the scenery that only the provinces can offer then the train will be your best option. If not, then I suggest you take the bus. The train fare from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet will cost you 48 baht and the whole ride will take around 5-6 hours.

train

Second stop – Poipet Border. Once you arrive in Aranyaprathet, you will need to ride the tuktuk. A tuktuk is somewhat an auto rickshaw which is one of Thailand’s local mode of transportation. Just imagine a carriage being pulled by a motorcyle instead of a horse or a man, in other parts of the world.

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I can’t remember how much we paid the driver but I knew that it was within our budget. Warning: while on your way to the border, be firm in telling the driver that you want to go directly to the border because they have the tendency to pass by this agency near the border where shady men (rather dressed decently) will try to help you get a visa or stamp and will over-charge you. For Filipinos, this is no longer necessary. If they insist, tell them to get lost. Don’t worry about the possibility of offending them, they do not care and chances are, they will not understand you.

For more information about whether you need a visa or not, please check this site.

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Since we left Bangkok at 6 in the morning, we decided to eat our late lunch first before crossing the border. Lucky for us, there were small restaurants or should I dare call them ‘eateries’ near the border. The food was yummy and only cost us 40 baht each. The eatery we chose was just a short walk away from the border.

I would have to note though that since we opted to go backpacking, walking on most part of the trip was normal. However, the walking was not the tiring part of the trip, but it was the waiting-in-line part. The Immigration office was so small and there were so many foreigners visiting Cambodia everyday; hence, you have to allot about 30 minutes to 1 hour of your time before you can have your passport stamped. My choice of backpack was also not helping. I thought that any backpack was fine as long as it can hold all my things but I was wrong. When backpacking, you have to make sure that you have the right bag or else suffer the consequences. For more information, you can read my backpacking tips.

border

After the stamping, ump that confidence and will power because I assure you, some of the locals will test you with their continuous attempts to squeeze a few of that much-needed dollar from you.

My advice is just to get on that bus (it’s free!) that will take you to the taxi station where some of the drivers will try to rip you off again. We paid $40 dollars for our ride from Poipet to Siem Reap. After paying the $40 dollars in the ticket booth, the taxi driver told us that we needed to pay $5 dollars in addition because one of us sat in the front passenger seat. Can you imagine something as ridiculous as this? And to think that we even pre-arranged it with him that one of us will want to sit in front while the two stayed at the back. So we told him that we will not pay the extra $5 dollars and my friend, Ed, just transferred. A few minutes after, the driver stopped at a corner to pick another passenger up. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Don’t worry, I will not cuss here.

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Anyway, that taxi ride took about two hours and we were all anxious to stretch our legs. We arrived at our guesthouse just in time to wash up and eat out.

I will stop here for now and write Leg 2 of this trip on my next entry.

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