“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” –Helen Keller
Inspired by the drive to make each day count and see the world one day at a time, we decided to take on another adventure—this time, in Cambodia and Thailand (our fifth and sixth country together respectively). And truly, we experienced the best of both worlds in the two countries. Cambodia and Thailand are so unique in so many different ways, but we openly embraced the respective diversity of their culture and people. And it’s so cool that a single border manages to remain witness to two completely different cultures, with completely different sets of values and people happening at the same time.
Bangkok to the Border
We arrived in Bangkok during midnight, and the plan was to immediately proceed to the Aranyaprathet border, the border between Thailand and Cambodia. We got the cab directly from the airport, but we mistakenly rode a Toyota Camry Taxi (the more expensive type compared to the regular fuchsia pink cabs all over Bangkok). Supposedly, the plan was to ride the regular pink cab to take us all the way to Aranyaprathet. But because we were unaware of taxi agents swarming all over Suvarnabhumi International Airport upon arrival, we were intercepted and led to their persuasion.
Eventually, we considered their assurance of safety and felt that company-related taxi cabs (like the Toyota Camry) was safer although it was much more expensive compared to the regular pink ones that nobody is moderating or monitoring. Considering that we are going to travel in an unknown place, towards a border that we don’t know exactly what to expect, we gave in to 3000 baht after much bargaining (from 4000 baht) and negotiation. After all, safety will always be priceless and should be prioritized at all times.
Mostly, the regular pink cabs would charge around 2000 baht, but we felt it more important to prioritize our safety especially that we our just starting our journey in Thailand and Cambodia. But don’t worry, I’ve had many friends who have tried the regular pink cabs, they arrived to Cambodia unscathed. So you could choose between the two options, but the Toyota Camry was already a good choice even if it was more expensive because the driver was being closely monitored by the company and there is a lady butler accompanying the driver while the guests are being taken to the destination. But if you would not like to take the Camry and just opt for the regular pink cabs, you might as well motion towards the exit upon arrival right away and just ignore the taxi agents approaching you. I tell you, they can really get persuasive– but you’re assured you’ll get to your destination safe and sound.
Another possible option in getting to Cambodia via Bangkok is through public bus or by train. To get to Aranyaprathet, the train is the cheapest mode of transportation, while the bus comes next to the train in terms of affordability, and the taxi of course is the most expensive one but the fastest one. Whichever you prioritize, you could take any type of transportation as you can very well choose your own adventure. The train costs around 48 baht (about $1.50). But the cheap fare comes with a price as trains only have a schedule of two trips per day. On the other hand, if you consider taking the bus, most buses leave from the Northern Bus Terminal more commonly known as the Morchit Bus Terminal. Fares for first class buses are roughly in the 200 to 220 baht while ares for the second-class buses are roughly 150 to 170 baht. But due to increasing petroleum prices, the fares are subject to change.
We were supposed to reach the border just in time during its opening hours, with travel time of 6-8 hours, but we got to the border super ahead of time because our driver was such a speed racer and was able to breeze through the highways, motorways, and expressways of Thailand in just 3 hours! Because we were so early, we had to wait in Aranyaprathet police station around 4 am to 7 am just in time to cross the border in Poipet.
Finally, 7 am approached and we left the police station while hauling our luggage through the rough road of Aranyaprathet towards the border. In Thailand, English is not their first language thus making them experience difficulty comprehending English statements. In many attempts our questions and queries were mostly lost in translation as Thais could not decipher what we would like to express. Finally, after much trial and error, we made it to the building of the border!
Monks cross the borders on a regular day-to-day basis. Usually, the carry along a big basin where they can put the money that people usually give them. My mom told Pao and I that monks lived on charity and how charitable other people are to them. The more people are charitable and generous towards them, the more they can sustain at satisfy their basic daily needs. While at the border, we were approached by a monk, and were asked to shell out some spare change if we had some. We willingly obliged, thanks to my mom who briefed us before the trip. After dropping the money, the monk prayed for us in Khmer or Thai, and blessed us for our generosity. It feels nice to be prayed over, even by a different religion. That way, we experienced culture at its best, the kind of culture that nourishes the soul. One of the reasons why I am in love with traveling.
Most foreign travel blogs usually caution tourists about the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border on the presence of touts or scammers or something similar to “mangagancho” that we call in local language. It pays to be vigilant and to have background knowledge on the matter, especially being in a foreign country, because we managed to yield away from these touts who approached us. But because we kind of looked Thai to them, I guess they weren’t so persuasive towards us. I guess they were preying more on western tourists compared to Asians. But thank God, we did not have any traumatic experience while crossing the border.
At the border, you will need to follow the certain SOPs, and you will never go wrong as long as you know how to follow directions. Most foreign countries necessitate a visa when visiting Cambodia. But fret not, if you are a passport holder from Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Laos, consider yourself lucky as you save 20 USD for being visa-free for entry into Cambodia. For the rest of the nations, they are required to secure a visa (which they may apply for at the border). After securing a visa (for those who need), Thais and foreigners are given separate queues, and foreigners can line and have their passports and identities checked on three immigration counters. Upon approval, you just head out of the building and welcome yourself to Cambodia!
But after the nitty-gritty protocols in crossing the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border, we made it alive to the Kingdom of Cambodia!!! After crossing the border, one would feel the distinct difference between the two countries which is so apparent in so many different ways. Completely different as they may seem, Cambodia had significant influences on Thailand’s culture, something that many Thais fail to acknowledge. We did not waste any time as we immediately proceeded to the transportation station to ride another cab going to Siem Reap. We walked towards a “Free Transport Station” where Toyota Camry taxis abound to take eager passengers to Siem Reap for a fee of about 35 to 40 USD. To minimize the expenses, you might want to share the cab with other foreign friends you might meet along the
Let’s go to Siem Reap!
And this marked the beginning of an adventure that we will forever remember. For the first day, we explored the temples in the outskirts of Angkor Wat. We felt that Angkor Wat would be more beautiful if we see it during the sunrise, so we assigned it for the next day.
And these temples are definitely worth a separate blog entry as they are just majestic and indescribable in their own way!