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Thailand here we come!

Bangkok, Thailand
Saturday, April 6, 2013

The cheapest journey so far?

The journey is only 400km's but is probably the cheapest we have taken yet. Without any railways in Cambodia, well operational ones anyway the trip to Thailand was spilt between road and rail. We could have done the whole journey by road but:

a) we wanted to stick to the train where possible and
b) we have heard the road journey on the Thai side can be precarious

We have had some very exciting/dangerous journeys already but we have heard this is particularly bad, and surprisingly only on the Thai side. The Cambodian side has a good road and the Government bus to the border is okay. However you are then herded onto minibuses which are renowned for driving like maniacs. Also apparently the road is shocking for the first few hours. Rumour has it that it's a ploy to get people to fly as the route is served by Bangkok Airways, we have no idea if this is true but it wouldn't surprise us as roads are normally good in Thailand.

We chose to travel from Siem Reap to Poipet on the Thai border by bus for just US$6 per person. You can charter a taxi for approx. US$30 more which at the time felt like a luxury. However for peace of mind if we ever did something similar again we would weigh up the pros and cons first before going for the cheaper option. The bus left at 8:30 with a supposed 3 hour journey, but with 2 breaks on route so the driver could get his customary backhanders for dropping a bus load of walking wallets into random shops and restaurants the journey was nearer 4 hours. The bus driver didn't appear to be concerned about the journey time as he can only manage one round trip in a day, as the border is only open from 07:00 - 20:00. The driver was not concerned about onward transport as he just feeds the minibuses which leave when full and if you do miss your train unless you want a lengthy wait the minibus is your only option to get to Bangkok.

It took approximately 15 minutes for the formalities to leave Cambodia followed by approx 10 minute walk to the Thai border through no mans land which was full of casinos. Immigration on the Thai side took approximately 35 minutes. Luckily we weren't stopped at customs as by this time it was approaching 1pm.

We found the taxis and tuk tuk's quite quickly but for the first time in weeks when we were in a rush nobody hounded us for business. We had to hassle the drivers to even get a price and unbelievably the taxi drivers couldn't even be bothered with the journey so we had to take a tuk tuk for 80B (just under £2)

The journey to the train station was approximately 15 minutes so we arrived with about 40 minutes to spare. Enough time to get the tickets, just 48B! and some food and drink for the journey. Now if we arrived 40 minutes early for a train in the UK we would be kicking our heels and wishing we had left later, but it was way too tight for a comfortable connection. If immigration was slightly busier or we were stopped by customs we would have missed the train.

The train is a slower option but was safer. Also chilling out in 3rd class watching the Thai countryside pass by with all the windows (and doors!) wide open is a great experience. Contrary to belief 3rd class isn't that bad the whole train was classified as 3rd class but some carriages were much nicer than others. We managed to bag ourselves some padded seats and time ticked by quite quickly until we reached Bangkok. Having been to Bangkok before and knowing the taxi ride from the airport to downtown is approximately 25 minutes spending an hour of the 6 hour journey to just to cross the city was painful. Equally so 6 hours on a wooden bench might not have been much fun either!

In total the journey cost us:
Bus US$6
Tuk Tuk 80B
Train 48B
Total Approximately £6.50!

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