off we go! travel blog

3rd Class train

Miles and miles of paddy.......

Waiting for the bus

The bus!

Ok, so now we are beginning to think we can call ourselves travellers. We had left our hotel in Bangkok, bright and early, (actually it was before dawn) destination; Siem Reap in Cambodia, should be there by 4pm, it's a straightforward journey, what could go wrong?

The taxi arrived on time and we had plenty of time to find the ticket office and buy our tIckets to the Thai border. The official advised the train would only be going as far at Pachin Buri (about two thirds the distance we wanted to go) as flooding had closed the line, but we could catch a bus the rest of the way. Ok, so we decided to go for it; we bought our tickets and after a large black coffee boarded the train. The train was 3rd Class only, very, very old and a number of carriages had wooden benches (it was cheap - both tickets for 52baht, about £1) Fortunately, we found padded seats, spread ourselves out and waited for the train to go. It got hotter and more humid even though all the windows were wide open, and they were big windows. The train set off on time, 6 am, and at last we got a breeze to cool us a little. The train clanked and rattled its way along past rows and rows of shanty huts jammed right up to the line. After several stops the train filled up so we found ourselves having to give up all the space we thought we'd enjoy. The journey was sort of fun; it was packed with people but, surprisingly no animals. Food vendors kept walking the length of the train selling breakfast which seemd to consist of bags of hard boiled eggs and vegetables and rice. We declined.

Eventually, by now it was just after 9am (we'd travelled 122 km in 3 hours), the train arrived at today's end point and everyone got off the train, bundled across the track and out of the station. The locals made their own way to wherever but the backpackers and us were standing around wondering where the bus was. We were told the bus station was 10 minutes away by tuk-tuk. We arrived at the 'bus station' after a hairy ride on said tuk-tuk where we were advised the bus would be here by 10. So we bought tickets and pygmy bananas and waited, it was hot.

The bus eventually wheezed up about 10.30 and everyone rushed to get their bags on and grab a seat, luckily I managed to grab a couple of seats - my years as a commuter paid off! - some of the backpackers had to stand. The bus was pretty ancient though the ac did work; the on board toilet was definitely to be avoided. The bus creaked and groaned all the way to the border, some 3 hours away.

We were met at the bus by very friendly Thai who helped us fill out Cambodian arrival forms and then tried to sell us hugely inflated taxi fares to Siem Reap insisting it was more expensive in Cambodia. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The border crossing was chaotic, there were people rushing around and more scammers trying to sell stuff, taxis, buses etc. we were hassled the whole way through, and was still hot. The officials on both sides were friendly and efficient but they did seem to be bogged down by bureaucratic processes and idiots who either didn't have the right forms or who had not completed them correctly.

We eventually emerged on Cambodian territory and ushered on to a Government provided bus to be taken to the tourist bus station. Even as we were boarding the bus, people were trying to sell taxi rides and other stuff. More hassle at the bus station while we tried to find our best option. We found a taxi who would take us for 48USD but would also take four for the same price, so we found a couple of backpackers (and charming young ladies they were too!) and struck a deal. We jammed our bags and their rucksacks into this taxi and off we went. Arrived in Siem Reap along a fairly newly tarmac'd road after driving past miles and miles of paddy fields and only one section of badly pot-holed road - just like home!

Our hotel had lost our booking but given we had been up since four that morning and by now it was 7.30 the manager was summoned and we were swiftly booked in. Dinner, bed.

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