I booked my ticket from Siem Reap to Poipet through my hotel, which I thought was more convenient than heading down to the bus station on the day itself to get a ticket. I didn’t want to miss the connection to the train from Aranyaphrathet to Bangkok, neither do I want to get on a transfer van to Bangkok, as that would defeat the purpose of rail travel.
Price I paid from Siem Reap to Poipet: US$10 in cash (around S$14, rounding up)
I thought that was a fair price, since they claimed that I would be offered a pick-up directly from the hotel and head straight to Poipet. I did however take that with a pinch of salt as I have read comments online about the bus from siem Reap to Poipet, and it wasn’t the best bus journey in the world.
But why did that company name sound familiar?
A Google search in my hotel room brought out articles that I have read before – Hang Tep Travel is one of, if not the worst service provider on the Siem Reap – Poipet route, and possibly on other routes in Cambodia as well. I braced myself for the long journey ahead of me the next day.
I got up early to have breakfast and check out of my room, as the bus company told the front desk that the window of my pick-up would be 7am to 8am. I chose a departure time of 8am by the way, I factored in 3 hours for the bus ride and another 3 hours to do the border crossing from Poipet to Aranyaphrathet, just in case.
After waiting in the lobby for almost an hour from 7am, the bus attendant came in at around 8am to pick his sole passenger at the hotel up. In my mind, I was still assuming this would be a transfer bus to the terminal where I’ll get herded with other passengers already waiting, so I picked a front seat so I could get off the transfer bus first and hopefully get a proper seat on the actual bus. Now that I get picked up at 8am, there’s no way I’m going to make a departure time of 8am from Siem Reap.
The bus went to another location in Siem Reap where there was another cluster of hotels, and the attendant went off to pick more passengers up. Great. I’m probably going to miss my train if this persists.
To my surprise, the bus headed for Poipet after that last stop. Well this could possibly a first surprise in a good way for travel in this part of the world.
We passed by local “gas stations” on the way to Poipet.
I’m also glad that I’m in a proper bus with air-conditioning. I wouldn’t want to ride a tuk tuk through this sand cloud.
The scenery along the way.
The bus made a 30-minute stop at Kralanh for a toilet break.
Actually it was more of a roadside shophouse rather than an actual rest stop. Possibly operated by Hang Tep too. Toilets were “free”, but according to the staff there, you buy something first. I got a fridge magnet of Angkor Wat which was cheaper than the peddlers in Angkor Wat itself.
The toilet was far from western standards though. It was good enough for me, as a guy, but I don’t think many others would find it satisfactory.
The interior of the Hang Tep Travel bus from Siem Reap to Poipet. Many online reports, if not all, say that Hang Tep Travel pack 60 passengers in this 41-seater bus. On my trip, however, everyone had their own seat, and there’s no plastic chairs blocking the aisle too. Guess Hang Tep has finally woken up? Or maybe I was just lucky.
A look around the road outside the shop. Possibly my first and last time that I may make a stop in Kralanh.
The bus proceeded on and made a brief 1-minute stop at Sisophon to drop off two tourists. From here on, the highway ran parallel to the railway line to Poipet. And it was good to see the line in tact, hopefully to restart services by the end of this year.
Another reason why it felt great to see the line in tact is because the section of track between Sisophon and Poipet were donated rails from Malaysia on the old Rawang – Ipoh route, before the electrified double track project. Good to see them given a new lease of life here.
If you get bored along the way, you have these kilometer posts running along the highway which tells you how many kilometers you have left to reach your destination. The top part in red is probably the distance from Phnom Penh.
The bus ran directly to the border, where we arrived minutes after 11am. No stops at any Poipet offices first, with the exception of a petrol stop at a proper gas station a few kilometers before Poipet. There, someone came up to explain to everyone (in English) that they have to change buses at the border and handed out stickers for passengers with tickets onwards to Thailand, which was everyone but me. Everyone had to walk to Aranyaphrathet from Poipet to catch their connecting buses or vans, which is normal. After taking my ticket and trying to convince me to take his Thai bus because he will “give me good price”, I picked up my bags and walked solo to immigration and to Thailand.
There were also no kids trying to pick up your bags and be your porter for the border crossing. Bags were laid out in front of the luggage compartment by the bus staff, and you pick out your bag and proceed along.
The bus journey wasn’t so bad at all. Or maybe it was because I paid a premium? Either way, I had no complains with Hang Tep Travel on this trip.
Next up, negotiating the Poipet – Aranyaphrathet border crossing.