I had a sleepless night. I had pre-paid my plane seat at my Cebu Pacific flight to Bangkok so I could snag seat 14F, window emergency seat, for better leg room. Anyone who has taken a Cebu Pacific flight knows that its planes are one of the most notorious for its small seats and narrow leg rooms. Once on a flight from HCMC to Manila, a Russian man asked to be transferred as “it’s too small.. I cannot fit.” Unfortunately for him the flight was full.
Unfortunate for me, whoever is in charge of assigning the aircraft, put on a differently configured one from the one at the online booking page where you click on your chosen seat as the emergency rows were a good 2 rows in front. The guys I were seated with, a hefyt Caucasian in a suit and a Filipino gay with an accent were quite upset, the latter demanding his seat. It delayed the flight a bit as two guys from the airport, tried to do something but to no avail. The best he could do was apologize and say he would write a report so we could get a charge back on our credit cards. Good luck to us.
I managed to get some sleep in spite of the cramped conditions and arrived in Bangkok. The flight was pleasant and smooth.
Stingy me opted to just spend the night at Suvarnabhumi rather than heading to the city. The bus to Aranaya Prathet was due to leave at 8am, so why not stay at the airport and save some time and precious bucks.
Found a spot at the 3rd floor near the toilets and restaurants where a few people were also asleep. It was past midnight so the restaurants and other outlets were closed by then. Not much foot traffic either. Secured my large pack with a bike lock and rested my head on my daypack. It was not that easy though as the metal seats were bitingly cold inspite of covering it with my sarong.
Woke up at around 6 and drank my breakfast cereal. I didn’t really get a good night’s sleep because of the cold. The airport was starting to wake-up and people were arriving. Headed to the ground floor where stalls sold tickets to Phuket and Aranya Prathet. Only the Phuket stall was open and there were quite a number of people snapping up the bus ride. A Korean girl was waiting at the stall and asked if I had transport to Siem Reap already. We both agreed to share a taxi from Poipet with her friend who was seated at the waiting area guarding their luggage. Problem No. 1 solved! Other than us, there didn’t seem to be anyone else heading to the border. Perhaps most travelers take the 5am train from Hualamphon as it was cheaper and departs much much earlier.
Crossing the border. In spite of the sign saying the bus was at 7:15, the ticket girl said it was at 7:40. We left around 8 am on a big comfortable air-conditioned bus with hardly anyone there. It was free-seating and I snagged the front window seat on the right side. Got a good sleep on the bus.
The bus let us off at the market of Aranya Prathet and immediately a couple of guys in black uniforms went on board and pointed us to the border while distributing visa application forms. I told them I was a Filipino and needed no visa. The Koreans were handed ones. Scam alert! I told them that we can go directly to the border and process their visas there.
It was a 15-minute walk to the Thai border all the while shrugging off attempts from touts offering visa services. I really didn’t know the way but based my orientation on the looming casinos that I knew marked the Cambodian border. I’ve only crossed this border once and it was the other way around followed by a bus ride to Bangkok from a parked bus at the lot just outside the Thai immigration office so I never saw beyond it.
We finally found the Thai office and walked into its cool confines. Tot our passports stamped out of Thailand then walked the few meters to the Cambodian side where I waited for the girls to fill out their forms. Another Korean guy from the same bus had joined us. He was a sculptor on the way to Siem Reap to look for an assistant.
Got stamped in at the small Cambodian immigration office then was promptly herded out by a guy to the free shuttle bus to the international terminal. We survived the Aranya Prathet-Poipet crossing scam free! Well, the shuttle bus service is an officially-sanctioned scam so it doesn’t really count as a scam. Technically, you could simple walk out to the streets and head to the bus stations for a cheaper ride.
The newish international bus station is about 15-20 minutes from the border. It didn’t look too busy as there was hardly anyone there. I was glad I was sharing a taxi with someone as I could imagine waiting for ages for a bus or mini van to fill-up. We paid our taxi fare at a counter and were shown to our vehicle. The share taxi, an old Toyota Camry, cost $48 which we split between the four of us. It was a little slow going and it took almost three hours to Siem Reap. I let off at King Angkor Villa which I booked earlier in the internet.
The $6 room was okay for its value. Big double bed, clean room and bathroom. A/c cost extra but I opted out of it as Siem Reap right now is a little cold.
Bought my $6 ticket to Kompong Cham for the 26th. Will stay an extra day here as I think I do not want to see another bus just yet. Will also break down the trip to Banlung (12 hours!) with an overnight at Kompong Cham.