Siem Reap to Bangkok: Crossing the Cambodia/Thailand Border
We crossed the border from Siem Reap, Cambodia, into Bangkok, Thailand. We’d heard all sorts of horror stories about crossing the Poipet border. We’d heard about the huge queues, and being scammed from staff into paying for visas that are free, or additional bribes. It did not sound fun! The only slight saving grace was apparently coming the other way (Thailand into Cambodia) was worse.
Crossing the Cambodia/Thailand Border by Bus
We looked at buses, to find only 3 companies go the whole way, most dropping you at the border, for you to find a bus at the other side going to Bangkok. Two of the companies swapped buses in Thailand meaning you had to carry your backpack between the borders. We found GiantIbis, who for a mere $5 extra let you keep your bag on the bus, and offered a free guide to help you navigate the chaos. We decided this was worth the extra just to not have to stress about being conned (let alone not having to lug our backpacks across!). To our surprise, we even got a free breakfast and lunch on board! We set off an hour late, but this is pretty typical to us these days so felt ‘on time’.
Knowing where to go on the Cambodia side seemed like it would be pretty straightforward without a guide, but the bit after that would have been a bit confusing; opening you up to ‘friendly helpers’, aka con men. The queues weren’t bad at all, I’d prepared myself for a good 2-3 hours for both borders. I’m not sure if it was the time of day, or the fact we were there in rainy season, but it all went smoothly, taking only 1 hour.
On entry into Thailand, I was expecting to see hordes of buses conveniently there to take you to Bangkok. This is pretty typical of Asia; as chaotic as it can seem on the surface, things are always just there when you need them. But this was the only time there was nothing in sight, or at least obvious sight, so just keep that in mind if you plan to do the crossing a different way.
We like to travel on land between countries, as you can see the differences straight away. The roads were probably the first thing I noticed this time. In Cambodia, the roads were filled with pot holes and you spend most your journeys bouncing around. As soon as we entered Thailand, they were sealed roads. The buildings were much better standard too. It’s hard to believe that less than 5km away Cambodia is left to struggle.
We went to a service station not long after the border, and found an ATM there to get our Baht. Around two hours later than planned (again, the norm!) we arrived in Bangkok. The traffic was horrendous. There were way more cars (as opposed to tuk tuks or scooters) on the roads here than in Cambodia.
Lonely Planet had luckily warned us of all kinds of scams we would likely encounter in Bangkok, advising us of what things should cost. It said a journey around town in a taxi should be around $2. We got off the bus in the Khao San area, and heard a taxi driver quote a couple $20! They laughed and walked off, and he chased them saying ‘well what do you want to pay?’, never quoting them an honest price. Never get in a taxi unless they agree to put their meter on (scam alert!). We swerved the taxis, and went to a nearby restaurant and asked to use their wifi to order a Grab. It cost us 87bht for a 10 minute journey in rush hour ($3). Grab is essentially Uber in Asia, and with fixed prices for journeys – definitely the way to go!
Our first few days we sussed out that boats and the metro or sky train were the cheapest ways to get around. So if you haven’t booked accommodation yet, its worth checking if it’s near a metro. Bangkok is huge and it was hard to know where was best to stay. Khoa San Road isn’t near any metros, but is near a ferry stop (15bt for a journey). We stayed by the riverside (near Sanam Chai metro). We usually find it’s cheaper to stay in a guesthouse as a couple in Asia, and then just go to hostels at night to socialise. The area of Sukumvit is also a popular place to say, as long as the accommodation is close to a sky train stop.
Markets & Street Food
We loved our first few days in Bangkok! We hopped around different markets sampling lots of different street food! Hint: if you’re in Bangkok on a weekend check out the Chatuchak Market (Chatuchak Park BTS Metro Station). It’s one of the biggest markets in the world with over 15,000 stalls. It had a very different feel to other markets. Not just all the same stores selling elephant pants, but really unique stalls in their (whopping!) 27 different sections. It is visited by tourists and locals alike, and has a more modern feel to it.
We absolutely loved Chinatown at night. The whole area just comes alive and there’s so many different stalls.
Where else in the world would you find Michelin star food for less than a few quid!? Or a place where people queue in their masses to try a bread based dessert. It’s essentially a barmcake (or a butty/bread roll if you’re from down south) with a sweet filling of your choice.
With transport around Bangkok well and truly conquered, there was no limit to where we could go, and no scams for us!
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