This. was. an adventure…
We started out in Bangkok with a 6am train headed to Aranyaprathet, the border town with Cambodia. The train ride was 4.5 hours and it is only 150 miles. Wow. The train literally stopped every 10 minutes. It was a bumpy ride on hard bench seating but we eventually made it to the border.
We arrived in Aranyaprathet and crammed into a tuk tuk with Amanda, an American, and Phil, our jovial friend from Holland, on our way to the Cambodian border. We had read about many scams with tuk tuk drivers not actually taking you to the border but taking you to fake immigration centers where you buy overpriced Cambodian visas and generally get ripped off. We made it VERY clear to the driver to go straight to the border. He agreed…but then didn’t take us to the border. A friendly gentlemen greeted us at an unmarked building saying we have to go in there for our visas, yada yada. We politely declined, yelled at the driver for a few minutes, gave him money and just walked away. We still had another 200 yard walk in the hot sun (in the 100s now), breathing in hot exhaust as we weaved between stalled 18-wheelers and motorcycles waiting to cross the Thai border. We made it past Thai immigration without a hitch and then we entered No-mans land.
After leaving Thailand, you enter a 150 yard stretch of land that is technically Cambodia, but you haven’t gone through Immigration yet. You are in no-mans land. In this 150 yard stretch, it is a free for all of Khmer street vendors, loud trucks, scammers, casinos and somewhere in between all of this, a few Cambodian officials who are genuinely trying to help. The problem is that you have NO idea who to trust. There are many people in uniforms but some are fake. The official police don’t do anything about it. We read about this crossing in great detail before so we thought we were prepared, but we still messed up. We walked through this crazy no-mans land. Some official looking people followed us for a bit telling us we had to go to this official looking building to get our Cambodian visas. We didn’t trust them but turns out they were right. We waited in line for over an hour to cross the border, only to be rejected since we hadn’t received our visas at the other building.
Tired, hungry and angry (Thangry, will you), we walked back to this building to overpay for our visas. Even though the official sign said $20 USD, the immigration officer wanted ~$25 USD. Good old corruption. We paid, received our visas and got food before crossing the border. We then took a bus to the main bus station and hopped on another 4-hour van to Siem Reap. By 6:30pm, we had finally arrived in Siem Reap. what a day.
A few weeks later we talked to an English gentlemen who has been living in Cambodia for 20 years and we mentioned our adventures over the border. He exclaimed “If you can make it over the Poipet border in Cambodia without being scammed or robbed, you are a true traveler.” I’ll take it 🙂