The ride to Cambodia wasn’t as bad as I had expected. While waiting for my 3:30 am bus departure at the Bangkok bus terminal I met Vlad, another traveller who was also travelling to Siam Reap. We were basically the only foreigners on the bus probably due to the early AM hours.
It took 5 hours to the Thai border. From there we walked across, went through Thai immigration before stumbling upon the Cambodia visa center. Luckily I had gotten an e-visa because this whole overland crossing had me quite nervous from the start. Vlad had to get his visa though and I waited patiently. He had to pay them 100 baht atop the $20 visa fee for them to process it immediately. Apparently the bargaining had started at 2000 baht ($60) and somehow ended with 100 ($3).
From there it was 300 meters to Cambodian immigration, literally a hole in the wall with 3 guys sitting there and only one working. There was also another guy sitting there trying to sell the arrival/departure cards. Playing dumb works wonders!
As soon as we got out of immigration people started with the offers. We actually went with the first guy we met, maybe cuz we were tired but it turned out to be ok. He claimed the shuttle bus was free to the terminal which was 5K away. We got dropped at the terminal (a huge empty building, serving no real purpose at all) when he started to tell us that we could wait for more people but we should go now. We gave in and ended up paying $15USD each for a share taxi (more like a local man driving his car) to Siem Reap. It took about 3 hours because now they have paved the roads for half the route. During the other half of the route Vlad and I were left wondering if we were going to make it alive. It was crazy to think that this dinky little car could deal with the dirt roads. On both sides of this road were miles and miles of nothingness. It was the real Asia I had been anticipating all along.
Once in Siem Reap we were then transferred to a tuk tuk (in Cambodia this means a scooter which is pulling a rickshaw) at no extra cost because this was part of the service as we were told by our second guide.
The heat in Siem Reap is like nothing I have felt before. Thailand’s warmth was bearable but here I am refusing to head outdoors between the hours of 11am and 4pm. It’s humid and dry with warm breezes. It’s as gross as it sounds!
Siem Reap is a tourist town that shuts down at 10pm. Everything here caters to the traveller who is here to see what put this place on the map – Angkor Wat. There are 4 markets all selling the same things and everyone speaks enough English to call me lady.
I do feel a bit eerie walking alone at night though. Vlad has also gotten propositions while walking the streets at night, the pity of being a female and missing out on the real night culture!
It’s refreshing to be somewhere that is not flashy or expensive as Thailand. It’s exactly what I had imagined Cambodia to be. People are friendly and smiling. The children are dirty yet cute. I really like it here.