Thursday, April 05, 2012

No Man's Land: crossing the Cambodia-Thailand border

The tuktuk ride at the border of Cambodia and Thailand. This photo taken using my Nokia N70.

For someone living in an archipelago of 7,107 islands, crossing the border of one country to another is a thrilling experience. And so when I decided to embark on a Southeast Asian backpacking trip in 2008, I made sure that I'll do land trips just to be able to experience border crossings.

The first I did was cross the Mocbai-Bavet border of Vietnam and Cambodia, which entailed a 10-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap (read my previous post: Saigon to Siem Reap by Land).

I planned to take the train going to Bangkok from Aranyaphratet, right at the border of Cambodia and Thailand.

If you're gonna do it, here's how I went through. Please note that this is kinda dangerous. But yeah, I'm still alive:

1. Book a taxi that would take you to Poipet, the Cambodian town at the border, with your hotel or hostel. Mine costs $35 for the whole thing, meaning it would have been cheaper if I had companions to split the cost with. Had I decided to look for a cab myself, it would have cost $30 (because hostels or hotels take a cut from the cabbies). There are plenty of cabs at Sokimex, although I'm not sure which Sokimex station is that since there are a lot of them around Siem Reap. Better ask your hostel about it. The taxi ride, by the way, is about 3 hours. I passed by several Cambodian towns with dusty roads. The roads should have been paved by now as I've read that the Asian Development Bank lent millions of dollars to the Cambodian government just for this.

2. Have your passport stamped at the Cambodian immigration office.

Cambodia's portion of the no man's land going to Thailand.

3. Cross the border! This is it! And walk towards the Thai immigration office. I was asked what was I going to do in Bangkok. I showed the immigration guy my hostel reservation and he drew a conclusion that I was in transit. Whatever. And since I'm a Filipino, I don't need a visa to enter Thailand so better check with your respective embassies in order to secure a visa to Thailand ahead of time.

Looking back: That's Cambodia right there!
Inside the Thai immigration office at Aranyaphratet. It's a big no-no to take pictures there!

4. From the immigration office, walk going to the... well that place looked like a market to me.... and pick a tuktuk that would take you to the Aranyaprathet train station. The tuktuk ride cost THB 80 (or was it excessive?).

5. Third class trains without air-conditioning leave at 5:55 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. Travel time to Hualamphong train station in Bangkok is approximately six hours and costs THB 60. It's a slow but breezy ride, and the view of countryside is great (the view must be super scenic for Westerners. For me it's not as breath-taking since Thailand and the Philippines have the same terrain!).

At the Aranyaphratet train station.

The Aranyaphratet station.

Inside the third class trains. Not bad, eh?

So there you have it. But a piece of advice: as always be very careful, watch out for your belongings, and don't be too trusty.


eye in the sky said...

I've braved many borders but that's one that I have consciously dodged away from. In fact, it's the only border I managed to avoid in one of the trips that started from Hanoi to Laos to Thailand to Cambodia and then Saigon. (I flew instead.)All the feedback I read have been unpleasant. Yours actually seemed manageable, even painless. Interesting post!

Gerard said...

Thanks, Eye for checking my blog after... uhmm... almost three years of absence here. Hehe

encef said...

sana fixed or iisang size lang ang pictures.