Getting to Cambodia from Bangkok was a crazy experience. It was such a last minute decision, but I just wanted to get out of Bangkok so I googled the best way to get to Siem Riep, Cambodia. The websites all said to go by bus or by train. I had never been on a train before so I thought that would be a good option. Then I googled train times to Cambodia, saw that the last one for the day was leaving in two hours at 1:30pm, I quickly googled how to get to the train station, packed up my things and left. I google everything by the way. Not sure? Ask Google!
So many thoughts were going through my head at this point. This is crazy! Was this a good idea? I don’t have any plans. What do I do once I get to Cambodia? Will I even make it to Cambodia? How do you buy a train ticket?! All of these thoughts were racing through my head, but I was glad to be leaving that hostel. And man was I excited for this next adventure!
From my hostel on Siam road, I caught a cab and told him I needed to go to Hualamphong station. Luckily this was a metered cab because I hate negotiating the prices for cabs without a meter. The cab ride ended up costing about a dollar since the train station was only 2 miles from my hotel. I walked up to the train station and had no idea where I was supposed to go. There was a lady in the front who spoke English and saw how lost I looked so she was able to point me in the right direction, to window 8, she told me. I walked up to window 8, the lady asked me where I was going, she said okay, one o’clock, 48 baht. Nice! It was $1.50 USD for a train ride to a new country! Score.
I had enough time after buying my ticket to eat before my train came. So I walked around and saw all the different shops and food places. I ended up just getting some eggs and rice since I wasn’t too hungry.
Hualamphong Train Station
More waffle hot dogs!
Once I got on the train, I tried to contain how excited I was. It was my first time on a train and I was headed to Cambodia! I picked my seat and waited for the departure. I saw people walking around on the train selling lots of treats for the people on board, kind of like flight attendants, but for a 3rd class train, and they were people from random villages who just got on board.
Holding in my excitement! lol
While I was waiting, I saw this other solo female backpacker looking for a seat and struggling to get her bag up in the storage space. This older Thai woman walked over to her and demanded the guy sitting near them to help her with her bags. I walked up to her and introduced myself, told her I witnessed her struggle and we laughed about it, then the old lady made us eat some fruit. We couldn’t say no…she was intense. But it was hilarious, we laughed about that too. She ended up sitting by me for the train ride and I found out she was from France and that she was also headed to Siem Reap. She mentioned she had booked a room and that I could join her since I told her I didn’t have a place to stay yet and we would be arriving late in the night. Very nice of her 🙂 . That saved me from having to hunt down a hostel once I got to Cambodia.
The train ride was so nice! All the windows were down and the weather was perfect. The countryside was beautiful and so green! I’m from Arizona where green landscapes are very rare, so when I get to see it, it’s pretty refreshing. The train made quite a few stops in small villages and it was interesting to see the different people from these villages getting on and off the train.
These kids were so bad! They were like wrestling on the train lol. But still cute 🙂
One of the many towns we saw on the train ride.
We rode the train to the last stop, Aranyaprathet and hopped on a a tuk tuk. We told the tuk-tuk driver to take us to the border and he said okay. He drove us to some shady looking office building and said, okay get off here for the border. I asked him if he was sure this was right and if we could try to get closer to the actual border. I knew he was trying to scam us.
This is a tuk-tuk. A popular form of transportation in Southeast Asia.
He insisted that this is where we needed to be to get our Cambodian visa. A guy from inside the building came out and told us we were in the right place. So with this, we got off and followed the man inside. He sat us down and had us fill out a form and told us the visas would be $50. Fortunately for me, I read a lot of blogs and they all mentioned this exact same scam. I told him the visa is actually only $20 and that we would like to go to the border and buy our visas there. He knew the jig was up so he pointed to where we were really supposed to go for our visas. Then he asked us if we wanted a cab ride to Siem Reap. After he just tried to scam us! Why would we want to try and take a cab from you when you just unsuccessfully attempted to scam us?! No thanks.
The visa process was pretty straight forward. After you get your visa and right before you cross into Cambodia, you enter a stretch of land known as the no man’s land. It’s a area about a quarter of a mile long that doesn’t belong to Thailand or Cambodia, it doesn’t belong to anyone. I have no idea how that works, but I didn’t want to stay in it for long enough to find out.
We finally crossed over the border into Cambodia! We were told we wouldn’t be able to take a bus to Siem Reap from the border and would have to take a taxi since it was so late, it was around 8pm at that point. So my new friend recruited two more French-speaking girls to share a taxi with us. Brilliant idea! Because the moment we stepped onto Cambodian soil, all we here is, “Cab?! Cab?! Miss, you need a cab?!” all from about six different cab drivers all at once. We asked how much they were charging for a two hour trip to Siem Reap and they all said about 40 dollars. To my other companions, this was unacceptable. They wanted to pay 1000 baht or 33 dollars and nothing more. I was just going with it, because they were all speaking French so I had no idea what was going on.
But I was starting to get scared because it was getting later and later in the night and we were in a strange country and we still had a two hour ride to Siem Reap. When my group didn’t budge on the price, the other cab drivers all left except one really persistent one. He was saying $40 was the firm price and he dared us to find better. So we said fine, and walked to find a different cab. He followed us, taunting us the whole time, saying we would never find a better deal and he will wait 5 minutes for us to come back. In my mind I was just like, why can’t we just take the $40 cab and be done with it?! I’m starting to get scared! What if we don’t find another cab?! But right after I thought that, another cab pulls up and says he’ll take us for 1000 baht. Phew!
So we headed to Siem Reap. The driving in Cambodia was crazy! Everyone tries to pass everyone else and everyone is honking at each other. It seemed like they would just try to pass cars without even checking to see if other cars were coming from the other direction! After two hours of this, we stop somewhere that doesn’t look like where we need to be. The cab driver says, in broken English, I have to stop here; these two tuk-tuk drivers will take the four of you from here for free because cabs can’t go into the city. It was weird but we got out of the cab and loaded our things onto the tuk tuk, the two French girls got into one and we got into the other. They drove off in their tuk-tuk while our driver wanted to sit and chat with us.
He told us he could take us to the temples the next day for two hundred thousand Riel. We had JUST gotten to Cambodia, so we had no idea how much a Riel was and two hundred thousand of it sounded like a lot of money! We tried to explain to him that we didn’t know how much that was yet and we didn’t even have Riel; we only had US dollars and Thai baht as currency. And that we needed to get to our hotel before we could give him an answer. He persisted and at first he was asking nicely, then he was rudely telling us that we needed to let him take us on a tour the next day for two hundred thousand Riel or our ride to our hotel wouldn’t be free. Not another scam!!
I was so irritated at this point. I just said, “Well we don’t know how much that is so we don’t know! Just tell us how much the tuk tuk ride to our hotel will be.” He said it would be seven dollars each. We both were like, PSH yeah right! We’ll walk thanks. I was so tired of this crap. I just wanted to get there! So in the middle of the night in Cambodia, we grabbed our heavy backpacks and started walking down the street. And literally two seconds later, another tuk-tuk driver drove by and we stop him for a ride, we ask him how much, and he says $1 each because it’s only about 1km away…seven dollars my ass! So we hopped on and headed to our guesthouse.
Finally we made it to our guesthouse!! We felt so much relief the moment we stepped foot inside our room. That was a long journey, totaling about 11hrs, with a lot of pushy people. This was my first glimpse into this country and I was already not impressed. If that is what it was going to be like in Cambodia for the rest of the time I was there, I would be really disappointed.
We celebrated our accomplishment with nachos and strong margaritas at a Mexican restaurant on Pub Street, Cambodia’s backpacker street (I know I’m supposed to be eating local foods but I love Mexican food and it’s hard to find so when I see it, I have to eat it! It’s the closest I can get to Chipotle.) But we did it! It was a challenge getting from Bangkok to Cambodia, but we made it safely. And I think we knew from that moment that Cambodia was going to be quite an adventure.
My celebratory nachos and margarita!