The Road to Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Thai-Cambodian Border

After around 4-5hrs, we woke up to an announcement from out arrived at the Cambodian Consulate in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Poipet.

If you have heard or read anything about crossing this border then you have no doubt heard of the various visa, taxis and bus scams that tourists can get stung with… So, without having any first-hand experience (this is my first overland border-crossing) you can understand me wanting us to be as prepared, sorted, polite and ready as possible for any of these hustlers.

Lucky for us, leading up to the Cambodian Consulate Channa (Tour Leader) had ensured that everything was sorted and ready with our passports. She now gathered them together, took them into consulate office and was out again within 15mins!! So, without us hanging about in surrounding shops or restaurants there were no opportunities for us to be propositioned into a scam and thus no Shaolin/Ninja-moves or Jedi Mind-tricks were needed…  We quickly boarded our bus and continued along our b-line for the border.

The ride wasn’t far and we were soon at the busy boarder crossing. We alighted from our bus, ensured our luggage made it on to the trailer and made for the small Thai customs office situated on the right side of the road.  Inside the atmosphere was slightly tense and in the sticky heat everyone kept to donning their serious faces – as always in the line for customs. We were lucky to get there when we did as the queues were too long and after 10-15mins, a few stamps and a mugshot our group was all clear and heading to the next check point, Cambodian customs.  On the way we crossed over train tracks and got side-by-side to locals trading their goods and children playing on the tracks.  It was a nice busy scene, a bit like a market but on either side of a train track (and yes, I quickly whipped out my camera between custom’s offices to soak up a few shots!!).  We soon arrived at the large white/cream customs building (stashing the ol’camera away) – Time for some more best behaviour, queuing, stamps and mugshots and Boom (!!), we were officially in Cambodia.  We found our new ride, check that our luggage had made it and continued our journey. Remaining journey time – 3-4hrs…

It was getting close to lunch-time and bellies were beginning to rumble. Luckily, Channa knows the area very well and arranged for us to stopped at a restaurant close by for our first taste of local cuisine. I tried the Amok Chicken, a saucie flat-noodle dish with various veggies including morning glory (not what you think!!) – a kind of leafy cross between cabbage and spinach. The whole meal was very tasty. You have to try it. There were Agee other dishes around the table all good raved reviews however, I forget what they were called – guys, if you’re reading this please share the names of the dishes and any ‘food porn’ pictures.. 🙂

Next, bellies full, we piled back into the bus. Final stop – The Claremont Hotel, Siem Reap…

Props to our Tour Leader

Before I move on, I have to give it to Intrepid and Channa because what I was expecting to be chaos-unchained, with opportunists rushing the bus as soon as we pulled in, was instead seamless and stress-free. In fact, our tour guide was brilliant and having a small group (of 7) made it easy for us all to get to know her and each other well. More about this funny lot later…

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