Friday, August 26, 2011
The Border (Thailand-Cambodia)
I've read online that the border between Thailand and Cambodia is not easy. But I did not realize how difficult it was until I was able to try it. :)
I mentioned in my previous blog that we were picked up from the hotel by van. I was thinking, the van is new, the seats were comfortable and the aircon works. So we're ok. We left around 7am. And traffic in Bangkok was terrible. It took us an hour to get out of the city. I guess the van driver had to cover for lost time, he had to drive 130kms per hour. Scary huh?! Think how it was for us who didn't have seatbelts. There were 8 passengers in the van, all of us were foreigners , wanting to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia. :)
Finally before lunchtime, we reached the border. Almost, that is...
Let me explain.
About 100 meters from the border, the van stopped in a restaurant. The driver took our things and told us to wait for the incharge who will take us to the border and will take care of our ride to cambodia. Then he left. We were left wondering, umm...what happens next?
Then, somebody came to us , telling us that he is the incharge. He gave us the form for the exit clearance. And the form for the Cambodian Immigration. After filling them up, he explained that a) the bus from the border to Siem Reap usually takes 5 hours - even if the travel time is actually lesser because it stops often. b) if we take the taxi, SR will only take 2 hours. But we need to pay THB 350 per person.
I said , "what about us? We already paid THB1,200 per head yesterday. We were told that this include taxi to Siem Reap?"
He said, "no madame, bus only and that is 5 hours."
I said, "No. Bus is cheap. What we paid for is a van ride from Bangkok to Siem Reap".
But of course, I lost. His excuse is that the Bangkok travel agency did not pay them. Oh well, so we shed out Thb700 for both John and me. The others did the same as well. When all that was settled, we were taken by another van to the market near the border of Thailand.
We were asked to carry our luggages and walk towards the Thai border. Can you imagine walking under the scorching heat of the sun around 12noon, carrying / pulling your luggage? John and I looked at each other. lol It's a good thing I brought the luggage with its own tires.
We walked for about 600 meters and there I saw the border of Thailand. Stamping the exit clearance was fast and easy. We were finished after 15 mins.
Then, we had to walk again for about 500 meters going to the Cambodian border. I thought, what is going on with this place. Why don't they have a ride in between borders!
When we reached Poipet, the border of Cambodia, we went directly to the immigration office. They checked my passport and since I'm a Filipino, I didn't need a visa anymore. :) I was given a 15day stay in Cambodia.
I took care of John's visa online. http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/ , 2 weeks before our departure. The visa was sent to his email, 3 working days after I applied. The fee was only $25 . It helped because we got in pretty easy at the immigration.
After that, we were told by the incharge to wait for our ride. We sat in a dirty waiting shed at the back of the Immigration office.
The rest of Poi Pet is dirty. And there's nothing there, except large casino hotels. I love Cambodia, specially Siem Reap. But the border, I'm sorry for saying this, I hope I never have to go back there again.
If you're thinking of travelling to Siem Reap, just take a plane ride. That's what we're going to do the next time we visit Angkor Wat.
A few minutes later, our van arrived. I'm glad that the incharge got us one because there's more leg room than the taxi. This time, there were only 6 of us. I guess, the other 2 opted for the bus ride.
Before we left Poi Pet, the tour guide gave us a story , that we should have our US dollars exchanged into Cambodian Riel because once we're there, the exchange rate is lower. We're normally bright people, LOL. But I guess we were so tired already , we believed everything he said. So we stopped in a money exchange rate place (beside his office) and was given 3,900.00 per one dollar. Only to find out that the exchange rate in SR is 4,100.00 ... Plus there was no need to exchange into local currency because they mostly use US dollar there! You know, we planned this trip for a year and so, I've researched all these things online. Geee... I think I was already brain dead that time.
And one more thing, if you have to take a land trip to Cambodia, never buy anything on the road when the driver stops. Obviously they have a cut to whatever you buy, because we made a mistake of buying one bottle of mineral water for 10 dollars. :) The beer, for those who ordered, was 60 us dollars. So yeah, they're not nice!
I'm glad we travelled the way we did because we learned and we saw the countryside of Thailand and Cambodia. But we're definitely not doing it again the same way next time. Arriving in an airport is a better and easier option. :)