Crossing the Thai-Cambodian border

3 02 2010

After all the stories we had read about the scams people get them selves involved in our border crossing into Cambodia and the ride to Siem Reap was quite unimpressive.  We just walked through, negotiated on a price for the taxi to Siem Reap and off we went.  Maybe it went so well because we were well prepared and knew what to do.  For those that want to make the same trip I’ll start from the beginning in Bangkok.  Other might want to skip this section.

The scams that we had read about before hand were:

  • Visa scam – offering to speed up take care of the visa application for you at ridicules prices
  • Consulate scam – same as above
  • Visa border control scam – border police asking for bribes or they will not process your application anytime soon
  • Money changing scam – say that you need to change into Cambodian Real and giving you horrible rates
  • Guesthouse commission scam – taxis delivering you to a guesthouse for a commission.  The owners getting angry if you don’t stay

Before we came to Bangkok we had already applied for a visa to Cambodia online.  It did cost $25 instead of the regular $20 but the process was smooth and would save us some hassle later on.  Since we had to wait for our visa into Vietnam until 15:00 we decided to take the 16:30 bus from Bangkok to the Thai border town Aranyaprathet since the hotel would be a lot less there than in Bangkok (300 Baht instead of 800 Baht).  We got the skytrain from the Vietnamese embassy to Mohchit station (40 Baht), moto taxi from the sky train station to the close by northern bus station (40 Baht) and a ticket to to Aranyaprathet first class (207 Baht) at booth 30 inside the station.  The bus ride to Aranyaprathet was about four hours and we arrived about 20:30 at the Aranyaprathet bus station.  We took a tuktuk to a hotel we had selected (80 Baht) but that was full so the tuktuk driver suggested The Market Hotel and we agreed.  The Market Hotel was very nice, clean and quite cozy.

We had arranged for our tuktuk driver to pick us up at 08:00 in the morning and take us to the border.  The lady that drove us the night before picked us up but after a 5 minute drive she jumped off and a colleague jumped on.  We weren’t too happy since we kind of trusted the lady but what the heck, I guess there was nothing we could do…  After about 5 minutes of driving the drive wanted to turn left when the sign for the border said straight.  I suspected that he wanted to try the consulate scam where they try to sell you a Cambodian visa for up to twice the price.  I told him I already had a visa and we wanted to go straight to the border.  He complied and drove us as far as he could go and we had to walk the rest.

We saw the signs where to go and followed the Thais that were also crossing.  First we had to fill out health check forms to see if we were healthy enough to enter Cambodia.  None of the Thais had to fill those out so it was a slight annoyance but again, what the heck.  We filled out the forms and were allowed to continue.  After that it became a bit unclear where to go as we skipped the visa application process.  We were soon picked up by a guy that seemed very helpful but we knew right away that he wanted to get us into the “free” bus to the bus/taxi terminal in the middle of nowhere.  He guided us along the long road towards the visa check point.  Along this road were several casinos where the Thais try their luck.  According to our self proclaimed guide, the Cambodians would never gamble – they are too poor.

At the visa check point we filled out another form with more or less the same question we had already answered, both in the health check and on the online visa application.  As we arrived we met some African guys that were having problems getting through but the place was not busy and we were through in 5 minutes.  After the check point our “guide” reappeared and told us that we had to get into the bus that would take us to the bus/taxi terminal.  When he saw that we were resisting a bit he raised his voice and said that the bus was leaving and we had to get in now!  As we were the only foreigners around I told him quietly that we could do what ever we liked, we would just come back later as there were lines of busses there and I was sure that we were not missing out.

Then we walked a bit and were offered a non-union taxi for $35 and we went to check it out.  There were a lot of police men and tourist police men around and some of the seemed annoyed that this guy had us on his hook but we followed anyway.  We negotiated a price of $30 for a taxi for just the two of us the whole way to Siem Reap and all the way to our guest house, paid on arrival.

So off we went and the ride to Siem Reap was un-eventful.  The road was wide and smooth, a really enjoyable ride.  We stopped once to fill the metan-gas tank of the Toyota Camry we were driving, once the driver stopped to pee and once he stopped in front of a sales booth and said he had to use the toilette.  A woman came out and said they wanted to clean the car so we had to go out.  She had all sorts of cool drinks for sale but we had water so we were fine.  Of course no one cleaned the car and the driver came as soon as he saw that we weren’t buying anything  …they have to try, don’t they?  In Siem Reap we had picked out a guesthouse from the Lonely Planet book and told the driver to head there.  He made some phone calls and then stopped at another guesthouse where we were told that our guesthouse was out of business and we should check out theirs.  We told them we weren’t interested and named another one and the drive took us there immediately.  We paid our driver a little tip plus the $30 agreed upon.

We walked around town and with the help of a tuktuk driver we found a likable guesthouse that had a double fan room for the right price ($7 per night).  Tomorrow we plan to start exploring the magnificent temples here including Angkor Wat, the biggest religious building in the world.

We really like the Cambodians so far, even if they are trying to trick us they are polite, soft and gentle.  When they see that we have had enough they leave us alone or do as we wish so it is all good, they are just like the rest of us – just trying to make a living :)

Next post will be less practical and more fun, I promise!

Advertisements




Cambodia

3 02 2010

Later today we are going over the Cambodian border.  We have read a lot of stories from people going this way.  It seems like there are a lot of scams to be aware of and dirty border guards as well.  I haven’t seen that it is dangerous, more that there are a lot of scams where the people are trying to trick you out of our money by over paying for the Visa in several ways or tricking you into exchanging money with a ridiculous rate or setting you into a guesthouse where the drivers get paid for delivering the guests and everyone gets angry when you, the paid for guest, don’t want to stay at that particular guesthouse.

We decided to go on our own to the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet and go by our selves to the border.  I’ll post later how that goes.  We are quite excited after reading all the stories and we better get going….