From Bangkok to Siem Reap
With my Thai visa expiring soon, I needed to get out of Thailand. Now, there are two options from here: Laos or Cambodia. After some thinking, I chose Cambodia. Mainly because it will bring me closer to Ho Chi Minh City, with Angkor temples as a bonus. Another options branched out: how do I go there?
Bus was the answer!
Booking the ticket
So, I needed to book a direct bus ticket from Bangkok’s Mo Chit terminal to Siem Reap. As the cost of going to Mo Chit from Sukhumvit Soi 50 is rather high (it will cost me around THB 100+ to get there and back, that’s two heavy meals there!), I sought an alternative options. After some research, I found this website: http://www.thaiticketmajor.com, which sells bus tickets online, and only costs me about THB 20 for processing fee on top of the real bus ticket fare: THB 750.
So I did just that. I booked the ticket, and printed out the confirmation. As I didn’t want to use my credit card for this, I chose the offline payment. Thankfully, I can pay in all of 7-11 branches! You know what’s ubiquitous in Bangkok? It’s none other than those 24/7 7-11!
Well, several minutes after I came back from the 7-11, I got another email: my e-ticket. I just needed to print that out, then I was good to go.
Getting to Mo Chit bus terminal
At the D-Day, I woke up super early in the morning and directly checked out from the hostel. I went to Mo Chit bus terminal up north of Bangkok at 6:30 AM (right at the sunrise!) keeping in my mind that my bus was leaving at 9:00 AM.
I’m glad that I went to the terminal that early, as it took really long time to get to the Mo Chit bus terminal.
First, I had to get into BTS train, heading to Saphan Khwai station, 15 stations from my station of origin. I took about one hour to get there. Then the second leg of the journey to the bus terminal was continued by city bus. There are a lot of bus heading to Mo Chit bus terminal from Saphan Khwai BTS station: 3, 28, 77, … . I took the bus number 3 (it’s free!), but sadly it had to do a big circuit first around Catchucak Park, which is a big park, which took at around another 45 minutes! If it was a different bus, I guess it will only take around 10 minutes, as Saphan Khwai BTS station is just some 1 km from Mo Chit bus terminal. So, definitely don’t use bus number 3 if you’re in rush to get into Mo Chit.
The bus dropped me in the old terminal building, which is around 300 m from the main terminal building. So, I had to walk through a maze of hawker stalls to the main terminal building.
I arrived at the bus platform at 8:15, almost two hours later from the time I went out from the hostel.
I should had picked the 8 AM bus, I thought when I arrived at the departure platform. The 8 AM bus is run by Thai government and the 9 AM bus is run by Cambodian government, it seems. The difference is stark. 8 AM bus is miles better and newer and cleaner and more comfortable than the 9 AM bus!
Anyway, the bus went straight to the east to Aranyaprathet, Thai’s side of the border. It took us around 4 hours to get there.
The bus company gave us a brown bag of snacks which consisted of one fruit juice, one bread, and one canned coffee. Also, just before the border, we were given a 7-11 microwaved meal each. The service was nice actually.
When the bus stopped at the border, we got off and walk straight to the border. But, before the border gate, one should turn left, and look at the signage for Thai departure. Following the sign and keep an eye for further signs, one will arrive at a building with stairs in front of it. That’s the Thai immigration.
When I arrived there, the there was no queue at all, so I went by quickly there. The rest was easy, just follow the signs. Don’t forget to switch the side, as Cambodians walk on the right, unlike Thais who walk on the left.
As Indonesian don’t need visa to enter Cambodia, I just went straight about 200-300 m, past the Royal Crown Casino, and arrived at some sort of hut. That hut is actually the Cambodian immigration office!
Before entering the tiny hut, someone handed me an immigration form, which I took and joined the queue for stamp there. I was wary if that form was a scam and later the guy will ask me some money for that form, so I held it for quite some time, and I filled it when I already inside the hut to be sure. I was glad to be proven wrong, it was an official form.
The queue was rather slow. I spent a good one hour queueing for the stamp.
Once I got my 30 days stay stamp, I went back to the Royal Crown Casino to get in to my bus again, as they’re waiting there, just in front of the Casino. And once everyone was inside, the bus continued the journey to Siem Reap, which would took around 3-4 hours more.
It was quite different, the scenery of Cambodia and Thailand. Here, in Cambodia, everything is brown and dusty. It seemed that the drought had taken away all the greenery of Cambodian soil. Really, nothing interesting for me along the way from the border to Siem Reap.
So, fast forward for 4 hours, finally we arrived at the city of Siem Reap. Thankfully the bus’ last stop is in the very center of the town, which is really convenient because my hostel was in the city center. They also provide a free tuktuk for those whom the hostel/hostel are at maximum 4 km away from there.
My first impression of Siem Reap was that it’s really expensive! Want to eat fried rice? $3! Noodle soup? $2.5! It seems that Siem Reap was built for the tourist heading for the Angkor temples.
But anyway, that’s it for the journey. The bus ride was great, the service was good, and the bus staffs were friendly!
So folks, this is the best way to get to Siem Reap to Bangkok for cheap!