Fear and loathing in Cambodia (29.06.01 - 06.07.01)
Part one: From Poipet to Siem Reap
Don't believe what most guidebooks say about the hell-ride from
the Thailand border of Aranyaprathet to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I can
only say that their accounts are massively exaggerated. That is,
unless you choose to tuck yourself at the back of a minivan, or
worse still on a pick-up truck together with at least six other
backpackers and do the whole journey from Bangkok all the way to
Siem Reap (within the vicinity of Angkor) in a day.
As claimed by some of the tour agents operating at Khaosan Road,
Bangkok, they offer a straight trip for 600 or 650 baht (I asked
another tour operator just around Hualumphong Railway Station and
she quoted 800 baht), the transport leaving at 7am, reaching Siem
Reap at 6pm.
But speaking to people who have actually done the trip easily justify
my point of not going for this deal. They reached Siem Reap at 9pm,
Instead, we broke the journey up. We took the third class commuter
train from Hualumphong (which left at around 1pm, 48 baht) and stayed
one night at Aranyaprathet.
No doubt you have nothing much to do there, but it's still a nice
town to replenish supplies before heading into Cambodia proper.
Siam Guesthouse, 300 meters away from the railway station (turn
left onto the main road after you come out of the station), is new
and cheap (one single for 150 baht), and gives out a basic map to
navigate you to some grub. Significantly populated by Chinese descendents,
I was pleasantly surprised to be able to speak my native tongue
with a shopkeeper in town.
The catch to breaking up the trip is finding transport once you
reach Poipet to Siem Reap. It really pays if you are in a group.
By the time we (the three stooges from Singapore) were at the Cambodian
customs, we were joined by a 65-year-old Washington-based German
named Gunter, two Norwegian girls and a San Francisco-based Japanese
While waiting for the others to pass through the customs, Gunter
came up with a brilliant idea to have me sneak pass the few touts
cornering us, to see whether we can find a better bargain somewhere.
Suddenly, a young Cambodian man rushed up to me and asked me where
I was going. I lied, saying I just wanted to loiter around the market.
Of course, he knew I was full of bullshit, and I knew he would know.
But then, he begun his mad ranting in barely comprehensible English.
'Heroin' was the word that I caught him repeating.
I told him I did not do heroin. Again, he rambled on agitatedly
and I finally made out the gist.
He meant to tell me there were a lot of Cambodians on heroin and
I should stick with him to be safe. I figured he would say anything
to earn my fare. Meanwhile, another Cambodian offered to take me
to Siem Reap on a minivan at a cheaper rate. The two guys started
abusing (I think) each other.
After being 'ushered' back to the group at the customs, we managed
to do the trip in four hours for USD$5 each. There were two more
Japanese tucked into the minivan with us who had paid USD$26 together.
Gunter remarked that the Japanese does not have any concept of budget