Since we'd be heading to Siem Reap in July, during the rainy season, we initially thought that we'd fly there and back. But the price of a RT air ticket made us take another look at the land route, and we're glad we did.
The tales of asia website has heaps of info on making the land trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap. It was pretty easy really. We caught a bus at the Northern (Mo Chit) bus station in Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. It cost 212 baht per person and took 5 hours. Then we hired a tuk tuk to take us from the Aranya bus station to the border for another 100 baht (for 4 of us). From there, we walked through the Thai border checkpoint and got stamped out.
The people who run the tales of asia website also operate the Two Dragons Guesthouse in Siem Reap. Since we'd got so much info from them, we decided to go ahead and book our accomodation with them too. The upside of that is that Two Dragons sorted out a taxi to take us from the Cambodian border town of Poipet all the way to Siem Reap. It costs $45 and takes about 4 hours. It is one of the bumpiest rides you might ever endure, but it was worth it not only to save hundreds of dollars for the 4 of us, but also to get to see a bit more of Cambodia.
Two Dragons also had their stringer, Mr. Sambath, meet us at the visa on arrival station in Poipet. He had forms in hand, and after we filled them out, he got our visas for us from Cambodian officials. The cost was $20 each, in cash, and we got a visa valid for 30 days. We'd heard that the Cambodian officials had been insisting on 1000 baht instead of the $20, but we didn't have a problem with that.
The stringer Sambath then boarded the free shuttle bus with us to where we got stamped in to the country, then introduced us to our driver, who accomanied us on yet another free shuttle bus to where the taxis and buses to Siem Reap are located, and we made the drive.
We wound up spending six nights in Siem Reap. I'd say that for most folks, four nights would be enough. Unless you are unusually interested in the Angkor complex, a standard two to three days out at the temples is typically enough for most people.
For the temples, we bought a 3-day pass for $40, although a 1-day pass for $20 is also available. For transport to Angkor, we hired the Siem Reap-style tuk tuks, which are these cool and comfy motor scooters pulling rickshaw trailers. This cost $10 per day and our guesthouse arranged it for us again.
We saw folks out there on push bikes too, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves, although it is brutally hot year round at Angkor and the distances between town and the temples and between the temples themselves is pretty far.
Of the four of us in our group, we all had favorite places out at the Angkor complex. My favorite was Angkor Wat proper, but Pam liked Bantei Srei the best, and thinks that it is definitely worth the extra $6 we paid to get out there - not to mention the amazing scenic drive along the way.
One thing we did on an extra day was take a tuk tuk up to the lake and hire a boat to take us through the lakefront village and then out onto the tonle sap for a few minutes. I wouldn't recommend this trip at all. It was expensive for what we got, and the trip through the village made us feel like voyeurs in a people zoo.
Another thing about Angkor and Siem Reap that you need to know is that you are going to be hassled essentially non-stop by beggars, touts, and vendors. The worst places are as you go in or out of temples out at Angkor, and at the old market downtown. But we had people hassling us at stop lights, every shop, in front of our guesthouse, and even coming up to our boat on the tonle sap. It is something you just have to deal with.
A really great part of Siem Reap was the food. At an average of $3 to $5 per meal, it wasn't cheap, particularly when compared to Thailand or Laos, but it was excellent. We had fantastic Amok and other Cambodian dishes in several places, but the best food we had was western food. There were three places up near where we stayed that I'd recommend. They are Star Rise Cafe, Hawaii Pizza, and Home Cocktail. The latter have pretty great happy hour specials on drinks too. Another spot in town that we enjoyed was Viva, a tasty mexican place run by a charming American bloke. I suspect that the dozens of places we didn't get to were equally great.
Our stay at Two Dragons was fantastic too. The rooms we had were comfortable and well-appointed, including air-con, cable tv, hot water, soap, towels, daily maid service, free tea and coffee on the balcony, etc. The staff was friendly, and did a good job arranging all our transport for us. The owner, Gordon, also helped us get our trip plans sorted out before we even arrived. We paid in the $13 to $16 range for our rooms, which we thought was good value for money. I spoke with people staying at other places, and they seemed equally pleased with their accomodations.
For getting back to Poipet from Siem Reap, we hired another taxi. It only cost $30 for the return leg, making that an exceptional bargain for the 4 of us. Border formalities went well, and it only took about an hour from the time we arrived in Poipet until we were back across the border in Thailand.
One last thing I'd recommend is to look around for a Bangkok taxi trying to pick up passengers for the return trip. We found one, and the guy only charged us 300 baht per person for the trip. We made it back in less than 3 hours, and he dropped us off right at our guesthouse on Sukhumvit Rd. That 300 baht per person was less than we would have paid in bus and taxi fares to get to our hotel in Bangkok, and saved us about 3 hours time and a bunch of hassle. You can hire a taxi to take you from BKK to Aranya as well, but I think the cost is something like 3,000 baht.
Let me know if anyone has questions. I hope this info is useful. Cheers.
Fantasic info! Heading there in about 3 weeks time. Had planned to stay at Two Dragons also. Do you know how far in advance you need to book there?
#3 tuckere has been a member since 10/8/2006. Posts: 11
very helpful. i have a few questions. i will be flying into siem reap, but leaving by road. so for heading back to thailand by road, it would be best to take a taxi from siem reap to poipet/the border, then cross the border, and then take a tuk-tuk to the bus station in aranya prathet?
#4 sideflip1 has been a member since 16/10/2006. Posts: 18
I'd recommend taxi and tuk tuk -- we've just added a new feature story to Travelfish covering this route in details -- you can read it here: Bangkok to Siem Reap overland.
Hope that helps!
#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,770
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#6 sideflip1 has been a member since 16/10/2006. Posts: 18