We’re now sitting in our surprisingly large and nice hotel room in Siem Reap after a long day’s travel from Bangkok. The havoc created by the “Shutdown Bangkok” folks became clearer than ever when it took us more than an hour to get to the bus station this morning. We had just enough time to grab some food and get on the bus and I felt quite anxious about it, wondering what I would do if we missed the bus. But we got off fine and enjoyed the 4 hours travel to the border where more anxious moments followed. A man came on the bus and told us we needed to go into a small building to fill out a Cambodia visa application form. We did so and paid the man about $30 USD each. Then we noticed that we were the only two people on the bus that did this. We surmised that the others had already purchased their visas online so they didn’t need the bus company’s help. But when the bus left that area we realized the man who had taken our money and passports was not with us and that we seemed to be the only 2 people without passports. After about 15 minutes, he returned to the bus and gave us our passports so we breathed a sigh of relief about that.
Exiting the Thailand side of the border was a little slow as they collected our “entrance/exit” cards, did a computer check on our passports and took our photographs, all with only 2 clerks. From there we moved on (without much clear guidance about where to go next) to the Cambodian entry side. Here we stood in a long line where they handed out “entry/exit” forms to us and we scrambled to borrow pencils/pens from the few that had them. It took about 45 minutes for the 30 or so people on our bus to get through the line. For each of us, the clerk examined our visa, passport, entry card and took fingerprints for all 10 fingers.
Those of us who got through the line first ended up waiting about an hour for the others to finish. We killed time loitering on the sidewalk and checking out the casinos which line the border and attract bus-loads of Bangkok patrons regularly. Altogether, it took over two hours to get from the Thailand side to the Cambodian side, much longer than seems reasonable or necessary.
Once we entered Cambodia, we enjoyed the view of the Cambodian countryside for another 2 or 3 hours before arriving in Siem Reap. Our hotel had someone with my name on a card there as we got off the bus and he took us directly to the hotel. After dinner we walked around the thriving “pub street” scene – there are hundreds of shops and restaurants here and the currency of choice is the US dollar.
We’re now ready for bed and will meet our Angkor Wat guide in the morning at 8am. Looking forward to seeing the ancient temples!