The bus from Siem Reap dropped everyone off here, just before the border and the casino duty-free area (aka no man’s land). Things weren’t so orderly here though, it was far from being the easiest border crossing to cross, and I don’t mean being held up by immigration or customs problems.
The departure immigration counters are located on the right, as per driving side of the road. Enter through the back door, where you queue to the front, and then exit from the front door where you will get back to the exact same place you came from. There’s no way of differentiating the people who have left Cambodia or not simply by looking at where they are standing. Luckily, the immigration officer at my counter was kind enough to tell another local to help direct me to Thailand.
From there, backtrack to where the bus stopped everyone, and enter on the other side of the road, where the arrival counters are.
See the (lack of) logic here?
I soon figured that this confusion is probably due to the construction of the final rail link between Poipet and Aranyaprathet, cutting through the casino duty-free zone. Ok Cambodia, you are forgiven.
I continued walking straight, past the casinos, to a local shop selling SIM cards under the famous arch to Cambodia (which I didn’t get a picture of since there were kids begging for money there), and got a DTAC SIM card. The familiarity is coming back.
Oh, I didn’t make a stop at the casinos even for a toilet break as I was worried that the queues on the Thai side would be a bit long, and thus possibly missing my train. From the outside of the casinos, they look a world of difference from what is surrounding them though.
Crossing the Friendship Bridge between Cambodia and Thailand. And back to familiar ground.
There were visa counters on the ground floor which I could skip. There was a man at the table with immigration cards before the staircase up to the immigration counters. I was expecting him to operate a similar service like the border of Rantau Panjang and Sungai Golok, but he didn’t say anything when I just helped myself to a card and proceeded upstairs.
The queue for immigration took around 20 minutes. There were two guys ahead of me, one wearing an NUS shirt, so since I haven’t spoken Singlish for quite some time, I decided to ask them if they were Singaporean. Turns out they were. They were doing an overland trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, and they were actually on the same bus as me from Siem Reap, but they had a sticker because they were continuing their journey by bus to Bangkok.
Sensing that I did get a mark-up on my bus ticket from my hotel, I decided to ask them how much did they pay from Siem Reap to Bangkok.
Price I paid from Siem Reap to Poipet: US$10 in cash (around S$14, rounding up)
Price they paid from Siem Reap to Bangkok: US$10 in cash (around S$14, rounding up)
But it’s okay, I’m taking a train soon. Keep calm.
Once out of Thai immigration, with a seemingly-surprised officer who saw Padang Besar and Bangkok stamps a few flips away from the Russian and Belarus visas and the Mongolian, Chinese and the Vietnamese stamps, I was once again in Thailand. And it felt great to be stamped in to Thailand once again.
Until one of Hang Tep’s staff, camping outside the door from immigration, questioned me if I had lost my sticker. And we walked down the stairs together, me unwillingly, while this conversation took place.
“Sir where is your sticker? Where you go?”
“I’m not taking a bus.”
“You come from Siem Reap?”
“Then where you go?”
“Bangkok. But I’m taking the train.”
“No train here, only bus.”
“Have train. Rotfai. 2 o’clock.” (It departs at 1.55pm by the way, not 2pm.)
“Today train close, station is far, here only bus to Bangkok.”
“I came here before.” (totally untrue)
“Okay you need tuk-tuk? I get you tuk-tuk.”
“No, I have tuk-tuk. No tuk-tuk.” (again totally untrue)
And thankfully I think I accidentally managed to confuse him with my last sentence, and another pair of tourists bearing stickers came behind and asked where their bus was. Seriously though, what was I saying.
And so I proceeded straight towards Aranyaprathet, not knowing where the tuk-tuks were. I do know that the station is around 6km from the border though, so the tuk-tuks or motorbikes were bound to be somewhere on this straight road.
Barely a few steps after popping out of the shelter from the immigration post, there was the tuk-tuk and motorbike stand. Just like how I anticipated it. Guess the fun is almost over.
I took a look at the fare board, trying to figure out what it’s trying to say, to no avail. Either way, I asked the first tuk-tuk parked there.
“Satanee rotfai. (railway station)”
“How much?” (I used English here.)
Even though I had no idea what the number he quoted was. But I do know that sip is 10, and something that comes before the sip is the number in the tens position, similar to Chinese and Malay numbers, so the fare is definitely less than 100 baht. Fair enough, no need to bargain. Anyway the official fare board didn’t have many destinations which costs 100 baht or more, so it should be right.
So off we went. And it really feels good to be back in an honest tuk-tuk with the scams behind me. And this definitely feels safer than the Cambodian tuk-tuks thanks to the windscreen in front.
Upon arrival at the station, I handed the driver a 100 baht note, and as if he already knew, when he turned back to get my money, he already had a 20 baht note in his hand. Paet Sip was the word I missed.
Price I paid from Aranyaprathet Border Post to Aranyaprathet Railway Station: ฿80
The familiar railway smell hit me after not riding in a train since Ho Chi Minh City. I even smiled unknowingly when I got off the tuk-tuk to the sight of the awaiting third class coaches at the platform. I went to the washroom immediately since I just completed a long journey (no breaks since Kralanh), and somehow, instinctively, knew where it was located in the station.
I had my lunch at a stall in front of the station as the ticket counter was still closed, since I made it to Aranyaprathet early. I had khao pad or fried rice. My first meal in Thailand after a long time, and possibly once of the best fried rice I’ve tasted. The stall holder thought I was Thai at first till I didn’t respond to one of her calls for me.
Everything seems like it has been.
I guess the adventure ends here.
I’m interested in the psychological aspect of your very interesting journey. At what stage did the exhilaration of the trip turn to that dull feeling that the adventure was surely coming to a conclusion?
I wouldn’t call it a dull feeling, it’s more like the feeling of knowing how everything works from that point on.
Enjoyed your blog very much. I did my London-KL rail odyssey last year. Took 56 days.