I have always said there is nothing quite like a good old border crossing. Whether your crossing the border from Chile to Argentina to get over to the Mendoza side to just sample some the amazing wines that are on the Argentina side. Or maybe even crossing the Bulgaria to Turkey border where as you have to take out everything in your backpack in order for the Turkish police to check your things for drugs or weapons.
Ah but today I want to share with you one of the most adventurous border crossings that is right here in South East Asia. The one and only border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia! This has got to be one of my craziest border crossings as it goes for border crossing over here in this region. The whole day is go go go go until finally you’re at the end of the day sipping on some awesome local beers on pub street in Siem Reap.
On this new tour I had a very mixed group of ages and nationalities that seemed like they were very much up for an awesome adventure from the start of the tour. I had about 12 passengers for this fun leg of the journey. So for those who have not been to Bangkok and have not taken some of the local long haul buses to border towns this should be a fun one for you. At the start of the day I get my group going at about 6:30am to depart our hotel, and have a briefing before setting out into the start of another blazing hot day in South East Asia. We have our chat and everyone is ready to rock and roll as I say when out on tour, ( with TL Brian, or you can just call me TL Bri). So on this Tucan Travel adventure tour we use local transport, by taking local taxis, buses, tuk tuks, and well at times ferries too.
Out we go onto the main street to find our taxi’s, but I always call it taxi fun as most of the taxi guys seem to always have their meter broken for me and well maybe every western in Bangkok. Or they don’t know where one of the biggest bus stations in Bangkok is or better yet they think that I just fell off the turnip truck and try to have me pay 300 Baht (close to $10 usd) for a trip that should cost about 125 Baht or about $4 usd. After many taxis go by that don’t want to put their meter on for us I finally get the four I need for my group and head over to the huge bus station that is Mo chit bus depot. At this point when we get to the bus station it’s about 7:30am. I get the group to get some fast breakfast items and we all get on the next bus out of Bangkok and off we go. We take the local bus out of Bangkok to the border town of Aranyaprathet in Thailand
The local bus from this now second leg of the journey is just awesome, as there is me and my group all westerners tossing our backpacks under the side of the bus and then slowly trying to find our seats, all the while the local Thai people look at us as if we have just entered onto the wrong bus. Somehow there is always a crying baby or a the perpetual crying baby for this 5 hr bus trip. Stopping a few times along the way. When we have finally made it to the Aranyaprathet border town. We get dropped off in one very dusty random bus parking lot. All of my passengers stumble out and say oh hey Brian is the border very far from here. Where I eek out “naa mate just a short tuk tuk ride and we are there.” After a very long bus trip with spotty air con and random stops along the way the passengers always seem to love the less than 10 min tuk tuk right directly to the border. With everyone holding their backpacks between their legs or has it teetering on the middle bit of the tuk tuk we peter off into a dust cloud to loads of “whooo ahhhh here we goo” from my group.
Just as all the people on my tour are just starting to get into the tuk tuk trip we finally arrive at the border. “Ahhh Brian how much further from the border are we now?” and I go “mate, it’s right behind you there but first let’s get some lunch supplies for the next leg of the journey”. ‘The huddle’ I should call it now is when I get the group to just drop off all their backpacks in one pile and run off to the 7/11 or random fruit sellers at this border, or one mean ice coffee from the guy that always remembers my name even though I see him once every 2 and a half months.
Right, so off the local transport for a moment and onto our feet to walk across this awesome border. This tour had about 6 people still needing to get their Cambodian visa. Which is great as I feel it gets everyone to stop and look at all the local wagon pushers and random casino workers hurrying to work. The local wagon pushers stack up their goods so high in their cart that it’s sometimes hard for just one of the guys to push it or to even keep it level. These guys, I should point out are all covered from head to toe in sun protection gear as the sun always seems the strongest at this border crossing. They have these hats that cover their head, face and neck completely from the burning 36C heat and they are always wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants.
As we are now slowly leaving the Kingdom of Thailand and entering into the Kingdom of Cambodia it’s always great to stop and remember that one burning hot moment on tour, with a photo.
One of the many roles I play out on tour, team photographer is one of them capturing this awesome group shot moment.
After we have finally gathered everyone together after crossing these two border crossings it will compete our 4th leg of the journey and that was by foot. Finally we have made it into Cambodia to the non-stop hectic busy border town that is Polpet. From there we jump onto the local bus transfer to the bus station. We than climb aboard our private mini bus to our final destination of Siem Reap home to the famous Angkor Wat.
As everyone is just thrilled to learn that this will finally be out last form of transport until we can finally check into our hotel. After we check into the hotel I give the group the low down and the ins and out outs of Siem Reap as it will be home for the next few days. The last and maybe best part of this day is finally taking my group out into town for our orientation walk into this awesome town of Siem Reap. As we stroll into town everyone will hear the call of the tuk tuk guys, “hello lady/ hello Mr. tuk tuk, tuk tuk”.
As I always like to bring the group to one of the best spots in town for our first night, it has great local food and awesome culture. This could be none other than the Temple balcony bar and restaurant. This is where we get our first taste of local Cambodian food and drinks too. The awe inspiring traditional dance of the Cambodian people is called the apsara dance.
This is one awesome day out on tour with Tucan Travel and one very adventure filled day as well. It is followed by an awesome celebration in Cambodia as well an awesome meal and show right in Pub street. For those that were counting along the way up until we ended the day with our meal on pub street you would have then 7 total legs to finally make it to our dinner table that night. As for Tour Leader Brian it’s all in a day’s work.