Overland travel from Thailand to Cambodia was surprisingly easy and convenient (sans the long 9 hour travel time) especially now that the road conditions in the Cambodian side has improved significantly. When I was still planning the trip, I expected to travel from Thailand to Cambodia on my own so I already had an idea how to do it. It was my first time, nevertheless, and even though I’ve thoroughly did my research nothing, in travel amongst most things in life, is better than personal experience. Fortunately, my new travel buddies Kawajan and Bubbles knew their way around Bangkok and Thailand, which made my trip almost glitch free.

The most popular and easiest way was to cross the Aranyaprathet, Thailand – Poipet, Cambodia border gate. From Bangkok, the bus ride to Aranyaprathet lasts around 5 1/2 to 6 hours. An alternative is to take the train, which takes roughly the same time but only runs twice a day. Most of the buses from Bangkok to Aranyaphratet is stationed at Mo Chit (Northern Thailand) Bus Terminal, which is accessible though the Mo Chit BTS (Bangkok Sky Train)Station.

Bus ride from Lumphini Park, Bangkok to Aranyaphratet Border Gate

I was expecting to ride the bus in Mo Chit so I was surprised when Kawajan and Bubbles told me about the ‘Lumphini Park – Aranyaphratet’ bus, which was a better option since Lumphini Park is just within Bangkok City Center (at the end of Silom Road). I only know that the bus service is numbered “99.” The rest of the bus details were written in Thai (see photo above). The bus was stationed at the southern side of Lumphini Park. We left Bacngkok at around 6:00am … bus fare was 200 baht and comes with a small water drink. The bus was air-conditioned, spacious, comfortable, and features an onboard toilet.

Exiting Bangkok, the bus passed though extensive elevated expressways. I can’t help but compare the road infrastructure between Thailand and back home, in the Philippines. Thailand has come a long way compared to the Philippines. Even along the Thai countryside, the roads were excellent and the roadsides were decently organized. To think that both countries were among the upcoming “Tiger Economies” of Asia, during the 1950s-60s … sadly the Philippines wasn’t as successful in industrializing its economy.

Arrival at Aranyaprathet, Thailand Border Gate

We arrived in Aranyaprathet around lunch time, it was the peak of summer and the sun was merciless … it didn’t help that there wasn’t much cover around. Aranyaprathet has a huge market selling lots of cheap assorted stuff. It’s a popular destination for bargain hunters.

Before crossing the border, we ate lunch at a native-style food stall. Ordered Pad Kapao Mu (40 baht). A bottle of mineral water costs 20 baht.

Crossing the Thailand – Cambodia Immigrations Border Gate

At the Thai side, the lines were bearable, I only had to present my passport together with the departure card, which was filled out before arriving in Bangkok. Once done, I crossed to the other side (right side) of the road to get to the Cambodian immigration counters. I filled out the Cambodia immigration card while lining up for the counters. The whole process was hitch free and took 30 minutes.

Philippine Passport holders do not have to get a visa to enter Cambodia. I was warned prior to the trip to be vary of scammers at the border gate and not to believe anyone who tries to charge you anything to cross the border, even to hand out your passport to anyone (except, of course, the immigration officers). Just go directly straight to the immigration counters and inform anyone who tries to stall you that you’re a Filipino citizen. Foreigners are charged $20 for a visa to enter Cambodia.

Arrival in Poipet, Cambodia
Entering Cambodia for the first time, I was surprised with the huge buildings that welcomed us. It was an unusual sight for me since I was expecting third world proportions. I soon found out that Poipet is a popular gambling destination in this part of Indochina.

There’s a free Government sponsored bus that takes travelers from the border gate to the public transportation center. The pick-up point was within walking distance.

Poipet to Siem Reap Transport

While we were lining up, a tout approached us an offered a US$30 taxi ride to Siem Reap City. Even though we openly refused his offer, he followed us on the bus all the way to the transport center (less than 30 minutes away). When we arrived at the transport center, we searched for the shared taxis for the ride to Siem Reap. The fixed rate was US$40 per taxi. You could choose to wait for other passengers to split the fare with. There were already three of us and only had to share the taxi with one more person. Just before riding the taxi, the good for nothing tout demanded a tip from us … preposterous!

We passed by seemingly endless plains of barren land scantily dotted with what vegetation could survive the arid conditions. I wasn’t hoping for it but it started to look like the Cambodia that I was expecting. Kawadjan tells me that the Korean Government spends for huge infrastructure projects in Cambodia. In exchange, the Cambodian Gov’t allows Korea to lease large tracts of land for crop cultivation export for Korean consumption.

One and a half hours into Cambodia, we had a stopover along the highway. I had the chance to talk to the vendor, who was a charming girl probably in her teens. As with most kids in Cambodia, she spoke good English. It’s strage for me knowing Cambodia used to be a French colony and never occupied (lengthily) by a primarily English speaking country. US$ is the de facto currency in Cambodia. Their official currency is called “Riel” but it is seldom used. A tourist could probably visit Cambodia and never have to exchange their dollars to the local currency since US$ is accepted almost everywhere in Cambodia.

It was an approximate 3-hour travel from Poipet to Siem Reap. You will know when you’ve entered Siem Reap when huge hotel buildings come into view. At the time, I was seriously scratching my head whether we were headed the right way. This couldn’t be Cambodia!?