As an avid lover of traveling I am lucky to have been able to visit the famed Khmer temple of Angkor in Cambodia just a few years ago.
I never had the time until now to mention this brief, but worthwhile trip when I discussed my adventures in Thailand. However, both trips actually took place simultaneously. Back in May 2014 I had submitted my second and final thesis dissertation to my alma mater AU. Nine hours later I was bound for Bangkok, Thailand on a Jeju Air flight from Korea’s Incheon airport.
Unlike my Thailand solo trip, I traveled to Cambodia for 3 days with three Korea University classmates who had been excited to visit Southeast Asia for some r+r time. Meeting in Thailand’s BKK (Suvarnabhumi Airport) upon disembarking me and my classmates debated about the best way to travel across the Thai-Cambodian border. Our options were bus, train, or simply flying again. After some debate over time, price, and semi-convenience going by bus was chosen. At that time I could have chosen to start my own separate Thailand trip, but instead I decided to join my classmates on a cross-border adventure to visit the temple ruins of Angkor. Little did we all know that we would be spending nearly 12-hours on a bus ride from the Mo Chit bus station between Bangkok and Siem Reap.
Along the bus path I would say the most heart-racing moment was the Thai-Cambodian border check point or as some natives called it – cross over point. After 7 hours or so into our bus ride we arrived at the Thai-Cambodian border. Asked to disembark and leave behind our bags all bs passengers were told to form a single line and prepare to present their documents and papers. I was neither afraid or too nerve racked as I had prepped well in advance for the trip and received my Cambodian travel visa at the Cambodian embassy in Seoul. However, without checking my purse I realized that I had forgotten my Thai entrance papers(*papers in which I received upon entering Thailand’s custom & border at the BKK airport). When it was my turn to approach the Thai customs official and present my entrance papers I was dumbfounded that I did not take it from my luggage.
After the sway of the hand the Thai customs official called on the next passenger from my bus, and I was told be another Thai officer to return to my bus and retrieve my entry documents. By this point I was separated from my classmates who seemed to have carried all of their proper documents and passed through customs & border with not harm. For me on the other hand I was lost. Upon leaving the compound I started feeling like I was going to be left behind. I remembered the bus driver telling us to move fast as he would only be waiting 20~25min on the Cambodian side for us to return. That’s when my heart sunk. The bus was no longer on the Thai side of the border, but had already crossed over the dividing bridge. Realizing this I slowly turned around and walked back to the compound. Once again I followed the crowd of newcomers this time and entered into a single file line. Not recognizing any faces I started to worry that the bus I was on would leave me behind on the border.
When I was called once again to the open Thai customs official (*different then the previous official who serviced me) I told them that I did not have my arrival documents, and would need new ones. Giving me a shrug the Thai official serving me handed me new entry papers. Ushering me to go to the open tables I quickly proceeded over and began to fill out the paperwork. After finishing I was cleared and released. Crossing through the compound I found myself at the corner of an old almost relic type large bridge. It was the Thai-Cambodia Poipet bridge crossing.
Crossing the bridge I followed the crowd that I entered with across, passing by side-restaurants and pop-up markets set up alongside it. After successfully exiting Thailand I needed to make my way to the Cambodia customs & border office for stamp entry and new arrival documents. Thankfully the atmosphere seemed more friendly even though the Cambodian customs official who serviced me spoke little to me, quietly stamped my passport and papers, and called on the next entry person. After finishing all border requirements I left the Cambodian custom & borders office and started looking for my bus. After scanning the busy street and flock of parked buses along the curb of the bridge I recognized my bus and saw my classmates sitting down not too far away. It was nice to be reunited, and know I was not left behind.
But, my enthusiasm quickly disappeared. None of my classmates seemed to show concern or ask me what took me so long. They didn’t seem to wonder where I went. My bus driver, however, did. He came up to me and said I was one of the remaining few he was waiting for. Hearing that gave me some relief that I had someone watching out for me in this country that I was still very unfamiliar with. After 20-30 minutes, everyone from my bus were back on and seated, and we were off again traveling through dirt roads and jungle tropics. Unfortunately, we ended up with some engine trouble 3 hours later.
By this point we were merely 2 hours or so from Siem Reap. During out wait while the driver worked on repairs I spoke with my classmates about our 3 day trip together in Cambodia before my departure. We all agreed on resting upon our arrival in Siem Reap, but we also agreed to spend the majority of our time touring the renowned Angkor temple ruins. Luckily 3 hours later we arrived safe and sound in Siem Reap. For those who’ve never visited Siem Reap, it is very small urban town in Cambodia that has many old historical buildings constructed in the early 20th century. Possessing many colonial like architecture Siem Reap also maintains its rural state with it lush green lands, farms, and swamp-lands that surround nearby Angkor. Upon arrival me and my classmates, hired a tut-tut driver for our entire stay together and agreed to stay at a hotel near the city square.
When arriving at the accommodation called Okay 1 Villa I quickly learned that my classmates had booked their own separate room online together without notifying me. Already jaded by our 12+ hour bus ride I felt like a 4th-wheel in their presence. So, I decided that I would just get my own hotel suite and try to enjoy the new experience than the company. My bedroom suite turned out to be quite large, with a queen size bed, big bathroom,TV, and lots of free condiments. Having my own private room had its perks. After taking a long overdue shower and slipping into new clothes I decided to venture out to a money exchange center to change some of my Korean won into Cambodian Riel. Little did I know then that Cambodian Riel was undervalued and Cambodians enjoyed using American $USD as their preferred currency for business.
After settling on convenient store food for dinner I returned to my room, ate, and slept. The following day was Day 1 of my adventures in Angkor.
Please continue to Angkor & Siem Reap to read more about my 3-day Cambodia weekend adventure (´∀｀）