On February 29th I started my journey from Thailand to Cambodia. My plan was to travel to Anlong Veng and use the town as a base to visit Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border. My second goal was to see Banteay Chhamar, a seldom visited temple in Banteay Meanchey province. Much of the following information will be included in the existing Thailand and the upcoming Cambodia pages.
Bus number 1485 departs the terminal in Surin Thailand for the Chong Chom border crossing every 15 minutes between the hours of 05:30 AM and 06:30 PM. This is a regular intercity bus which makes many stops, dropping off and picking up passengers as it works its way down highway 214 towards Cambodia. The trip takes at least an hour and a half and costs 45 baht. This bus is not a full sized motor coach, any baggage storage that the bus had was not utilized and my bag took up an entire seat which no one seemed to mind. The final stop in Chong Chom is about 300 feet (92 m) from the Thai immigration booth. This step is the same as departing Thailand from an airport, hand over your passport, receive an exit stamp and you are free to go.
Another 300 feet past Thai immigration on the Cambodian side is a small building with two windows, one signed “visa service”, the other “immigration”. Go to the visa service window to receive a visa application form. Complete the form and return it to the same window with your passport, one passport sized photo and $30 USD. It should be noted that the fee for tourist visas increased from $20 to $30 USD on October 1st, 2014. Your passport will be handed back to you with a 30 day tourist visa decal affixed in it. At this point you need to take your passport to the immigration window, complete an arrival form and wait for an entrance stamp. The entire process from departing Thailand to entering Cambodia takes about 40 minutes.
While going through the process of completing forms and waiting for Cambodian immigration to hand the passport back, taxi drivers touted their services virtually non stop. At immigration I was quoted a fare of 1500 Thai baht to Anlong Veng which I declined. Taxi and tuk tuk fares always decrease the further you get from the bus or train station exit. It is no different at a border crossing, as I walked down the road the taxi driver reappeared with a counter offer of 1000 Thai baht. Looking down the long road from the border I really didn’t see too many other options. I took this particular taxi but unfortunately when we arrived in Anlong Veng he just dropped me off in the center of town, refusing to try and locate my guest house.
Upon being dropped off at the roundabout that serves as the town center, a moto taxi stopped at my side and offered to take me the rest of the way to my guest house. After checking in to my room and eating lunch I went for a walk around this dusty little town. Many motor cycle taxis stopped and offered to take me sight seeing and were more than willing to take me to Preah Vihear the next day. The trip up to the temple should have taken at least an hour and a half each way. The small motorcycles that are the popular among the locals were not my ideal transportation choice for a number of reasons. I never did ask for prices as I put this idea on the back burner.
There is not a bus station or terminal in Anlong Veng but at least three busses owned by different companies operate from the town. They each have a parking space and next to the bus is a plastic table and chairs which is the ticket “office”. No one I met in this town spoke more than a half dozen words of English, this makes it difficult to do much more than to determine the departure time and buy a ticket. After “talking” with the ladies at the plastic table I was informed that I could get a ride at 06:00 AM for Preah Vihear. I assumed it was a share taxi and had some doubts about the return trip to Anlong Veng.
I arrived at the bus stop at 05:45 the next morning for the trip to Preah Vihear but after speaking to different women it was confirmed that it would be a one way trip in a van operated as a share taxi. I could only return the following day with another share taxi. It quickly became apparent that it would be much more difficult to arrange transportation than I had anticipated. At 06:30 I made the decision to go get my bags from the guest house and get on the 07:00 bus for Siem Reap. When looking at the list of destinations posted at the bus stop you can’t help but notice that one bus is scheduled to make numerous stops in cities and towns which are nowhere near each other. In fact, some are in completely opposite directions. What happens is that the bus stops at major highway junctions and passengers are transferred to share taxis arranged and paid for by the bus companies. About forty minutes from Siem Reap I was put in a car with two other passengers for the remainder of the journey. The entire trip took around two hours and cost $5 USD. The share taxi stops at a bus station on the outskirts of the city but from there it’s very easy to find a tuk tuk into the city center for $3 USD.
I spent the last four days in Siem Reap visiting the temples of Angkor, the former capital of the Khmer empire. In addition to sightseeing I have been planning another attempt at the country's northern most temples. In Cambodia it is not possible to rent a car without having a local driver. To hire a car and make the round trip drive to Preah Vihear or Banteay Chhamar costs in the range of $110- $130 USD. In the case of Preah Vihear, one can join a group tour which departs Siem Reap at 07:00 and returns at 05:00 for around $70 USD. I may do the latter, but in the mean time I believe that I have a bus route sorted to Banteay Chhamar and plan on making this trip on Saturday. Regardless of how this trip pans out, I will have a full report on the journey next week.
Until next time,