We have 2 or 3 nights leaving from Bangkok and can't decide between Siem Reap or Kanchanaburi. Trying to get a driver from Bangkok to Siem Reap has been a challenge, they just want to take us to the border, then tell us to pick up a taxi from there. I've heard wonderful things about both places, and we'll have seen temples in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, so any recommendations? Not only on location, but places to stay as well. Thanks!
#1 shaka317 has been a member since 3/5/2012. Posts: 5
It's kind of hard to suggest one over the other as they offer quite different experiences - plus we don't really know what you are looking for.
However, given that you've only got 3 days, and especially if you aren't considering flying to Siem Reap , then I'd suggest your time will be better spent staying in Thailand. Kanchanaburi isn't my favourite place in Thailand, but it's still a nice place to hang out for a few days, and there are some interesting places to see. For example, head out to the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum which I surprised myself at how interesting I found it, not being a fan of museums generally).
To get there, I'd suggest maybe hiring a car in Bkk and make your own way there to avoid getting caught up in the overpriced tours, and to give yourself a bit more flexibility to explore other areas that you will come across.
If you keen to see temples however, but don't want to lose the travel time getting to Siem Reap (nor fork out the cost of an airfare), maybe consider Ayutthaya instead. I haven't been there yet, but by all accounts it's a good substitute for Siem Reap, albeit on a smaller scale. And it's easy to get to from Bkk - I think an hour or so by train. You will find some good info on this site about that - in the forums and in the Thai section under the 'Places' link at the top.
If you are still keen to overland from Bkk to Siem Reap, I understand that it's easy enough to get a ride from the border into Siem Reap, so I wouldn't worry much about that. Alternatively, you can arrange a bus trip to see you the whole way through - but be weary of disreputable services that you will no doubt come across. Do your homework before booking a bus. But either way, you lose a good day in travelling time to do this trip - which is a significant chunk of your 3 day allowance for this. Personally, I'd jump onto a plane to maximise the time in Siem Reap if you do decide to go there.
Those 2 or 3 nights just aren't much time to drag yourself all the way to Siem Reap. I'd be concerned that you'll spend too much of that time getting to and from the place. The only way I'd try to sqeeze in that trip in such a short time is if I knew I'd never be back to southeast Asia and that part of the world. Otherwise I'd wait to give it a proper visit.
If you do decide to go to Siem Reap, taking a bus or train to Aranyaprathet or a taxi directly to the border and then picking up an onward bus or taxi once you get across to Poipet is pretty standard. There are tours out of Khao San Road and elsewhere that take you all the way but they are frequently riddled with scams and take far too long for your timeframe anyway.
I consider Kanchanaburi to be a great long-weekend getaway from Bangkok. It's a nice combo of small town Thailand, outdoors stuff, and eye-opening history with the museums and cemeteries. I highly recommend it.
Having said that, Lizzy's onto something with her suggestion of Ayutthaya instead. It is definitely a poor man's Angkor. It doesn't have anywhere close to the majesty of Angkor, but it does have good ancient temples and a few museums and a decent enough backpacker area. I like to take one of the river tours while I am there or find a restaurant on the river and kick back with a beer or three. But the real advantage is that it is close to Bangkok, which will mean spending far less time travelling and more doing. Plus, you'll be close to where your return flight departs, which makes for a boatload less of stress. If you have three nights, maybe take a day trip or even spend a night in Lop Buri too. It is a few more hours north by train or bus. Three nights split between Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya is not unreasonable either.
Let us know what you decide and how it turns out. Cheers.