Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 6 - Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia by bus/tuk-tuk

Spent another full day travelling from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We woke up early in the morning to catch our 8AM bus to the border of Thailand and Cambodia. There was a lot less traffic and congestion on the roads at 6:30 in the morning. We got there early and were able to take the 7:30 bus headed to Aranyaprathet. The entire bus trip took over 4 hours to get us to the border, with stops along the route to pick up and drop off other people. Good thing there was air conditioning! When we got to Aranyaprathet, we took $2 tuk-tuk rides to get us to the border, where we saw a bunch of other foreigners so we knew we were at the right place.

Again, we were overly cautious during this process because of the scams we heard where tuk-tuk drivers would take you to shops to obtain your Cambodian Visa on the Thai side, only to find out that these were fake. Luckily we got our Visas online and printed them out before arriving.

After leaving Thailand and before enter Cambodia where you technically aren't in any country, there is an area where there are plenty of Casinos, which I though was pretty random. After entering Cambodia in the city Poipet, everyone is shuttled to a tourist terminal, which took about 5 minutes. At this terminal, you can request a taxi for $12/pp or a shuttle bus for $9/pp to take you to Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Wat is located. Our taxi driver told us that the rates are a lot cheaper if you hail a taxi outside of the tourist terminal or even opt out of taking the shuttle to the terminal and find a taxi yourself.

Cambodia uses the US dollar more than their own money, perhaps because of the stability of our currency. Most of the larger purchases should be made with dollars, while small purchases for drinks and small snacks can be made with the Cambodian Riel.

The taxi ride took another 2 hours before reaching Siem Reap. Along the way, I saw numerous billboards about "protecting the Cambodian children," which I think was in reference to the significant problem of sex trafficking in the country.

After getting settled in our hotel, which had a resort-like feeling like most of the other hotels in the area, we took tuk-tuks to the street markets. The feeling was different compared to Thailand and Vietnam because it was so touristy. So many tourists were walking around the area, and many of the restaurants didn't look very authentic. One of them boasted that they had the best Mexican food in Asia... We settled on a dingier restaurant that looked like it served real Khmer Food. Again, small plates, but everything was delicious.

At the end of the night we walked the night markets, where you could dip your feet in fish tanks where fish ate at the dead skin on your feet. $2 for 20 minutes with a free beer included. There were also $1 foot massages everywhere. There were so many stalls selling the same things, and supply was extremely greater than demand, that you could easily bargain down the price of anything. If you don't get the price you want, walk away hoping they change their mind, or find another stall that sells the same items. I made my first purchase with my own money on the whole trip, which was like opening Pandoras box because I bought more than I should have. I told myself that I wasn't going to buy many souvenirs because I didn't want to carry them throughout my trip, but I ended up purchasing some tanks, South East Asian style traditional wrap around pants, and a traditional button up shirt. The total was no more than $20. I figure I'm going to trash some of my clothes anyways, since it's becoming a pain to hand wash my own clothing every couple of days and dry them in the hotel rooms...

The weather was nice and cool at night, again, different compared to Thailand and Vietnam. I am already falling in love with this country! Initially, I was a little cautious and uncomfortable, but I think it all goes away once you familiarize yourself with where you are. Anyone and everyone feels uneasy when they think they are lost or are in new surroundings, but that goes away once you just walk around and immerse yourself in the culture and life of the people. I think it usually takes a day or even less.

I hope to learn more about the history of Cambodia. There are many pictures of the King and the father and mother of the King around the city. Both Thailand and Cambodia have a monarchy. Makes me wonder how one country has a monarchy while another has a president... Does it have anything to do with the dominant religion in the country?

I've read little about the genocide that occurred during the Khmer Rouge rule. Around 2 million of the Cambodian people were killed in the span of only four years. And what were other countries doing about this genocide? The street markets were selling many of the books that were written about the atrocities that occurred during those four years. Hopefully the tour guide will have more information to share with us in our 3 days here, although I hear that many people don't even know much about what happened during those years because they are too young to remember. There is a museum dedicated to the genocide, but it is located in Phnom Penh...

Tomorrow, we head to Angkor Wat to sightsee and hopefully catch the sunrise around 5am. We hired a taxi driver to take us around the whole day for $25.

A welcome sign prior to entry into Poipet, Cambodia

Khmer Food - Fried Spicy Tomatoes with Beef

Khmer Food - Lok Lak Chicken with Steamed Rice

Khmer Food - Shrimp Lotus Root Salad

Night Market in Siem Reap - The kids are so adorable here!

Night Market in Siem Reap


  1. Hey Phil,

    Sorry to bother you, but Tony Cipriano would like to know if you can return from Cambodia immediately and handle this tax basis compilation for him. Lol. Hope you're having fun bro. Be safe!!

    - Brian

  2. Hope you are doing well too! Hope work isn't too stressful now that it's June. Promotion time coming soon?