Tuk Tuks, Border Crossings and no Bumpy Roads


13th June-

Walked across the road to the train station (very handy location is the hotel) and got tickets for the 0555 train to Aranyaprathet. This train is the only one to take if you wish to make it to the Cambodian border before it closes (it's open 8am til 6pm I think) the train was only 3rd class so we made sure we got seats. The train was very well priced at £2 one way for a 5 hour 40 minute journey.

We both fell asleep for 3 hours so that passed some time then we played card games. The journey wasn't too bad, until...

We then got Tuk Tuk to the visa place. We filled out forms and waited to get them processed. The visas cost us about £24 each. We heard the taxis to Siem Reap were a rip off but didn't think we had any other option so we agreed to share a taxi with to English girls Liz and Rachel, they said we were travelling light and Shannon said we left or bags in hotel in Bangkok their reply was 'did you forget them?' ! Oh ye damn we forget, wondered why we weren't weighed down...Eh no we were just fed up of carrying them duh.

We walked for ages til we got to immigration where we got our passports stamped and signed out of Thailand. (when we re-enter we only have a 15 day visa for Thailand as we crossed by land instead of the 30 day we had been given at airport- we only have 14 days anyway, nicely timed) this process went quicky then we queued again to be signed and stamped into Cambodia this all took about 2 hours which is shorter than iv heard it took other people.

We got a shuttle bus to get the taxi then 3 hour journey by taxi to Siem Reap. There has always been stories of how horrible the roads were but these have been tarmac'd and was a nice smooth journey if only the driver would give his horn a rest every minute he was beeping a bike out of way or a dog or just beeping for the he'll of it. But I didn't mind because I fell asleep for almost the whole ride.

We then arrived at our destination, the main area of Siem Reap, and checked into the Green Banana/ Angkor western lodge for two nights at $28 which is £16 (Cambodia uses US dollars and their own currency Reil) . The room is very basic with strange Cambodian wicker wallpaper but it's clean and cheap.

We took a walk up the street and had dinner we weren't very traditional at all- I had spaghetti bolognaise and Shan had pizza. We then went to a pub where the drinks were 50 cent a pint of their local beer Angkor. Tried to get to sleep early as we are up at 4am tomorrow for sunrise at Angkor Wat.

4am alarm wake up call, we headed to Angkor Wat for the sunrise, we got picked up at the hotel by taxi who would wait on us all day. We got our tickets which cost £15 for whole day visit round Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Bayon and other temples. We walked across the moat and down to the pond opposite the magnificent Angkor Wat.

It was still dark when we arrived and we got a very good spot and set up our tripod. The sun came up and even though it was unfortunately a cloudy morning so didn't get to experience the vivid colours it was still beautiful to watch the sky light up and the temple come in to full glory and be reflection in the water. We took lots of photographs as you can imagine, then went for breakfast in cafe over looking the Wat. .

We then walked through the Wat and explored every piece of the dramatic surroundings. We both found it all very fascinating and interesting.

Then 3 hours later we left and headed for Angkor Thom which was spectacular, everything has something carved on it, the stone Walls, pillars, doors- faces and pictures etched depicting stories.

We then went to Ta Prohm where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed, at the temple tree roots have grown all around the ruins. We had a really good day and very happy we got to experience these wonders, but we were glad when we finished as we must have walked about 10 miles in 30 degree heat for 7 hours!!

On arriving at one temple, we were approached by young kids trying to sell tat, we bought some fridge magnets as my dad has a massive collection. Upon driving back to the hotel at the end of the trip, the driver who had been great with us all day, pulled over to a 'petrol station' and informed us we should pay for the fuel. We laughed him off as we knew he was just chancing it, we had paid for the trip up front and knew we didn't need to pay anything else. The petrol station as you see was like no other...

Had lunch in cafe ajoining hotel then we went back to hotel and had a well needed nap, woke for dinner and headed to the night market, which was selling lots of amazing Cambodian souveniers, Shannon bought some lacoste polo shirts and I got some gifts to send home. We then went to a Cambodian street kitchen which was lots of side stalls selling traditional food. A kid came past trying to sell us tat, we weren't having any of it, but he was cute and kept chatting in very good English, he told us the British Royal family's family tree and told us about his school. He was adorable.

Afterwards we went to Bar Street and had some Angkor beer for again only 50cent which is 30p! Fantastic! We then went to get our dead skin on our feet removed by fishes! We sat with our legs dangling in a large fish tank while then nibbled away at our feet. Half an hour cost just $2 and we got a free beer. It tickled me far too much and I couldn't sit still I was splashing around like an idiot then 2 others came and they were making a scene too so didn't look silly, I became sensible and really enjoyed it so the lady let us stay on for free but we gave her a dollar tip and she was very thankful.

We bought some books from the poor children beggars at Angkor Wat, one was on all the Wats which I read and then acted as a tour guide for Shannon, the other book is called 'First they killed my father' by Loung Ung a real story about the Khmer Rouge set in 1975 in Cambodia, I would recommend the book, especially if travelling to Cambodia or interested in their culture.

Slept til 8ish was great to have a long lie then we got packed and ordered taxi from reception to take us to the Cambodian border in Poipet, the taxi was cheaper than getting here and I stayed awake for most of the 2 hour journey, the landscape is beautiful lush green endless fields and rice paddies and houses built on wooden stilts (as not to wash away during their monsoon seasons), kids cycling to school in their uniforms and big White Oxens wandering in the middle of the road.

As mention on way here the road is not a bumpy hell of a ride as many travellers before have complained of, the roads have been re-surfaced and are very long straight expanses diving the vast fields. We arrived at the border and crossed the road to the departures and got signed and stamped out of Cambodia, we were not told where to go and was unclear but we walked and found immigration where we filled out arrival/departure cards and then got stamped back into Thailand for 15 day visa.

We then walked across the border got a Tuk Tuk to the bus station then on bus to Mo Chit station in Bangkok. Crossing the border was quick only about 45 minutes, the bus was 5 hours long. We decided on bus even though it cost a little more because it was way to hot to travel on trains with little air con, also we were guaranteed a seat.

From Mo Chit we got the underground back to Hua Lomphong and checked in to hotel again, went to China Town for dinner and then had a well deserved rest. Overall we think that the experience of Cambodia was great but if you do travel overland don't just go for a short time like 2 days as it's a lot of travelling. The travelling wasn't bad and even border wasn't as dreadful as we'd heard, but I would say if we had more money or time flying would be much better.

#thailand #cambodia #travel #traveldiaries #southeastasia2011 #aranyaprathet #siemreap #angkorwat #angkorthom #TaProhm #Bayon #sunrise