AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

When we first arrived in Siem Reap we researched how to get to Bangkok. We read about the main bus company which goes as far as the Cambodian border, then a short walk through the border and through the Thai side to meet a minibus on the other side. We read about the bus storage doors not been locked and bags getting stolen. We read about fake border police and them charging for a visa then disappearing. We read about the minibus on the other side not turning up and leaving tourists stuck at the border town. There were so many bad things about this company that we decided no matter what we would not travel with them.

A bit more searching and we found a new bus company which is now operating a direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok, called Nattakan. We went out to find their office and check on availability and prices. It was a bit steep at $28 each considering the bad bus is about $10 each, but we can afford it and we’re willing to pay that for convenience and a hassle free journey. We didn’t know the date we would be leaving Siem Reap because we had two parcels coming from the UK, but we left the office happy in the knowledge that we book 1 day in advance and we can get the best bus around. Free WiFi, snacks and lunch included.

Our parcel arrived on the 27th (9 days from the UK to Cambodia) which meant we could stick to the schedule we had hoped for. We walked straight to the bus ticket office from the post office to get our tickets for the 28th to Bangkok. None available! 29? None available! Nothing till the 30th, which would mean two days in Siem Reap with almost nothing to do, sounds like a waste to us so we left the ticket office.

We went to a hostel which we’d visited a few days ago, the woman in there had told us about a direct minibus to Bangkok for about $24 each. That was full too, and the next day. It seems everyone had the same idea as us and wanted to get to Bangkok (or at least to Thailand) for the new year.

So we went back to our hotel, which also had tickets and stuff. We asked about the direct bus, the guy behind reception said yes he knew which one he would ring and see if we could get a seat. He rang, two seats available the next day, $22 each. “It is the direct bus?” We asked him more than once and each time he confirmed that it was. Free WiFi, free water and snacks. Direct to Bangkok, only get off to check passport at the border. So we booked it and went out to eat feeling quite pleased with ourselves, everything was going to plan and we were perfectly on schedule.

We came back to the hotel after eating and the bus tickets were at reception for us. We looked at the tickets and couldn’t believe our eyes, they were the tickets for the company I described at the top, the worst company around, the one that everyone said to avoid.

We had paid almost twice as much as face value (and almost as much as the best bus) for this. The tickets are non-refundable (the hotel is the middleman and won’t do anything to give money back). To say we were angry would be an understatement, absolutely furious. Annemarie went and spoke to the guy on reception, he maintained this bus was direct and he had sold us exactly what we had asked for.

So our choices were

  • Take a chance on the bad bus
  • Stay in Siem Reap for at least two more days (at a different place because the hotel we were in had no rooms available after the 28th).

Option two would also cost us another $56 plus nights in Siem Reap and food costs. It was pretty obvious that we would have to take our chances.

The next morning we were up bright and early for the 8am bus. We were due to be picked up at 7:30 from the hotel, finally at 7:45 we were collected, onto the back of a pickup truck. We then toured a few hotels picking up others, collecting the last person at about 8am, just as the bus was due to leave. We didn’t need to worry, the bus was running about 30 minutes late.

The ride to the border was uneventful, apart from the lack of facilities on the bus. We’d taken the Giant Ibis bus to Siem Reap and it was great, free WiFi, free water, free snacks, movies, loads of leg room and comfortable. This bus was comfortable, but nothing else.

At the border we were given a red sticker and told to meet on the other side. It took about 45 mins to get through passport control and into Thailand. At the other side a guy wrote a number on our red sticker. We then had to stand on the pavement and wait. We (along with maybe 50 others) then stood on the pavement for about an hour and a quarter waiting to be picked up. A small pickup truck was cramming in 12 people at a time and taking them somewhere. Finally it was our turn. The ride was only a few minutes and it was to a cafe. We were told we could eat and drink whilst we waited for the minibus. After about 45 minutes of watching minibuses come and go we were starting to get fed up, this company was useless and incompetent (why weren’t the minibuses ready when we arrived?).

Finally we got on a minibus and the driver told us it would be about 4 hours to Bangkok. Then proceeded what felt like a race. Our driver was driving like a man possessed. My GPS showed we were doing 70-75mph (120kph). The signs stated 90kph speed limit. The motorway had bridges, which were curved and rose about 2m every mile or so. Going up them made the minibus bounce and wobble, coming down off them the back wheels would often scrape the wheel arch. We swerved through traffic and I think only a few cars overtook us for the whole distance on the motorway. The driver would sit inches from the car in front constantly pressing the accelerator in preparation to overtake. He also spent a lot of time on his mobile phone, giggling and laughing like a crazed man. How he didn’t lose control on the corners or the tyres didn’t burst from the fiction I don’t know, but surely it’s only a matter of time, then people will get hurt because of this maniac.

When we reached Bangkok it wasn’t any better. We raced through the streets, weaving through traffic and watching the blur of the cars as we passed them. Taking the slip roads at a tremendous speed and somehow getting around the steep bends saw us overtake the last of the minivans. Our driver was racing the other minivans.

We reached Bangkok at around 6:30pm, almost 11 hours from the pickup (the better bus quotes 6 hours). What a day, we knew it would be bad but not like that…

Posted from Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand.

2 Comments

  1. What an experience!! Wait till you get to India, they are just as mad!!

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  2. Andrew

    I hardly ever get bitten, maybe once now and again but very infrequently. I currently have 8 bites on one leg and 3 on the other and a bite on my arm. I guess I was bitten when standing by the road waiting.

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