Everybody move to the back of the Bus
Nothing too exciting in this entry. Just some information on crossing the border via bus from Thailand to Cambodia. Hope this helps somebody in the near future!
From Koh Tao, Thailand (to Chumphon to Bangkok to Poipet) to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
TLDR; Songserm Ferry—> Big Bus to Bangkok —> Mini Van to Shady visa stop —> Pickup truck to Thai border —> Walk across border —> Picked up by a big bus in Poipet —> Transferred to a mini bus to wait in someone’s “office” for 2 hours —> Picked up by a big bus —> Semi-shady tuktuk incident —> Arrive in Siem Reap
Cost: Around $20, I think? Shop around. Prices are generally same, same.
Time: 30 hours. Left Friday afternoon 2:30ish. Arrived Saturday around 7:30-8.
We bought tickets@ a travel agency in Koh Tao right next to where Good Time Adventures Diving is in Sairee Beach.
Friday 2:30 PM. We took an afternoon Song Serm Ferry to Chumphon.
2) Big sexy bus:
Friday 7:30 PM. We waited at the pier in Chumphon for the 19:30 Bus. Travelers were herded into two groups and branded with stickers indicating Bus #1 or Bus # 2. Get comfortable if you get Bus # 2, which did not leave until well after 20:00.
! Noodle soup stop! before finally arriving at Bangkok sometime around dawn Saturday morning. We then followed the map given to us in Koh Tao to a McDonalds to wait for our AM van to the border. This was interesting as you get to see all the Party People stumbling home or wandering around like Drunk/High zombies.
Saturday. 7:30 AM. A man in a minibus yells out Siem Reap! We hop on, stop to pick up three German girls, then another stop for two English lads and we’re on our way to the border.
4) Shady Visa Stop
Sometime in the afternoon, we stop at a random restaurant near the border. Everyone is told to hop out to transfer. They ask where everyone is from and separate us into groups by nationality. Each group is led to a different table by three separate men. From reading reviews of this trip online, we knew at some point we’d be asked to fork over money for “expedited” visa service. This basically consists of paying someone local taking your passport and going to the border to get your visa for you. There is no advantage in doing this that we know of. FYI: We applied for an e-visa in Thailand. The process is quick and they email you an e-visa to print. When the man mumbled something about our passports/visas we just calmly and casually responded that we had our own visas. He immediately took us outside and slapped some stickers on us so we could be picked up on the other side of the border. He then told us to hop into the back of a covered pickup truck.
It seems as if this was done so we did not recruit the Germans and the English to our rebellion. We did not see them after this point. There is an office at the border where you can fill out an application to pay for a visa. Make sure you have a picture.
5) Random ass pickup truck: After a few minutes, the pickup truck driver stopped on the side of the road stopped and motioned for us to get out. I asked him where we’re supposed to go as we did not see a border crossing anywhere. He waved vaguely forward in the direction he had been driving in.
6) Walking across the border: At this point we were confused. Eventually after walking in the direction he pointed us in we reached the border. At the time we thought maybe we were being punished for not paying them extra to get a visa for us. There was a ton of traffic coming into Thailand. Turns out that it’s just much easier for you to walk a few hundred meters than for the driver to take you all the way to the border and then get stuck in traffic when he turns around.
Crossing the border was relatively smooth. The line to get your visa checked has fans but the power went out so there was a bit of a delay where everyone just stood there sweating.
7) Private big sexy bus: Thank God for our stickers. I guess our driver on the Cambodia side wondered what the hell was taking us so long so he found us waiting in line to get our visas checked. We got onto a big bus. It was a bit odd because there were only two of us on a bus the size of a school bus. But after just a few minutes we stopped in a parking lot. We were then told we’d have to wait an hour at the man’s “office” and driven to by minibus. The office turned out to be a huge, cavernous garage large enough to fit two or three school buses in. There was a table full of random dudes playing cards. Perhaps this is the part where they harvest your organs? Also, in the garage: a naked baby playing in a giant tub of water where Mommy is washing dishes, a dog and a puppy. Ok, everybody relax.
The shirtless men were nice enough to put on the TV for us and offer us some cool wooden recliners to chill in. Good guys, thems were. After reading our books for what turned out to be two hours, we hear a honk. A big red bus was outside.
8. Pushy tuk, tuk incident:
A few minutes outside of Siem Reap proper, the big bus pulls into a parking lot. A horde of tuk yuk drivers await.
The deal: The driver will take you to your hotel for free. BUT you have to agree to hire him to take you to Angkor Wat the next day. After traveling a thousand hours on the bus, we did not want to wake up early the next day to do the temple thing. We told our driver we weren’t sure what our plans were so we’d rather just pay him to take us to our hotel and take his phone number to arrange a temple tour when we were ready. He did not want to do this, even when we walked. We walked for a little bit and found another driver who took us to our hotel for $2.50
Air conditioning! Shower! Nap!
Sidenote: We ended up asking the driver, Tinh, for his mobile # and ended up hiring him for two days at $15/day. Tinh was cool as hell. He was a people person and considerate enough to get a whole bunch of water and put it in a cooler for us to drink throughout the day, free of charge!
So there you go. If you have any questions on making this trip via bus, feel free to reach out. Goooood luck!