After arriving at Poipet Railway Station from my Phnom Penh – Poipet Line (PNH-PS-BB-SS-PP 07:15 AM) train from Phnom Penh, I immediately headed for the border to cross into Thailand where I will be spending the night. Knowing that the border would close at 10pm, while some websites say 9pm, or even 8pm, I decided to take no chances in wasting time around the station and to quickly get to the border before 8pm, just in case.
Poipet Railway Station is located on the single main road, National Highway 5, to the border, and in front of the station, there is a highway sign pointing to the border. So, no issues in way-finding here.
The walk from Poipet Railway Station to Kbal Spean Circle, the main roundabout at the Cambodian immigration office, took just 5 minutes, which was faster than I had expected.
Near Kbal Spean Circle, I took a detour to walk along the path of the railway instead, since it’s a rare chance that I’m doing this border crossing again, and if the border shuttle train service starts, I don’t think I’ll ever do it again anyway. Here’s looking back at the line towards Poipet Railway Station and Phnom Penh. The railway track bed seems to follow the Airport Branch Line with concrete slabs rather than ballast.
As the line has not been used after the delivery train of the Hitachi RHN DMU, litter, stagnant water and mud has filled the gaps of the railway line. Argh, looks like the line needs a rehabilitation project already.
Not a good track condition at all.
Looking towards the Cambodia-Thailand border. Here, you can see how close the railway line is to the neighbouring shops and buildings.
Approaching the Kbal Spean Circle, the railway line transforms into a random car park. Drivers probably think that this is free real estate.
Cars fit into the railway track alignment as available, as long as they do not block the main thoroughfare.
Looking right towards the departure checkpoint.
Do not turn left – that’s for arriving people into Cambodia.
An upcoming monument on Kbal Spean Circle, with the railway line running under it. Sigh, there’s more things to fix in Poipet than to build a new monument.
Heading to the departure immigration office.
At Poipet, immigration is rather open, in the sense that you can actually choose if you’d like to go through it or not. (But in case you were thinking: YES GO THROUGH IT.) Those who are bypassing immigration are probably those with border passes for Thais and Cambodians, or those who are visiting the casinos on no man’s land.
Here, I kept my camera and readied my passport for immigration, where I was met by the above group of ununiformed men standing around the entrance to the departure immigration office.
“Hi, where you going? May I see your passport.”
Okay, fine, so I showed him my passport, thinking it’s like an entry pass into the immigration area like JB Sentral. And he wanted to take it from me. So I asked him,
“You are from?”
“Oh, you need a visa.”
“I don’t need a Thailand visa, thank you. We are ASEAN.”
And so I headed into the immigration office after he realised that there was nothing he could probably scam me in to buying, and he muttered a rather sad “okay”.
Boy, that was slightly scary.
There was no one in immigration and the two officers behind the counter were watching TV when I had to call for them. The one serving me asked,
“Where are you going?”
“To Bangkok”, I replied.
“Okay. *returns me my passport* You sleep here first, tomorrow morning you come back.”
“Oh? No, but my hotel tonight is in Aranyaprathet.”
“Oh okay, you want to go to Aranyaprathet, not Bangkok. *shows me a 100 Baht note* You want to go Aranyaprathet, you pay 100 Baht.”
Ah, fine. Not that I could have done anything anyway, since my other option was to follow his first instruction to overnight in Poipet first, and he was holding my passport. So I paid the 100 Baht to clear immigration.
Cost of stamping out of Cambodia at Poipet: 100 Baht
Feeling of being back in Thailand later: Priceless
Even after paying the 100 Baht and getting my passport stamped out, my passport was still scrutinised by the two officers for about half a minute, before handing it back to me with a smile,
“Okay. You can go now. :)”
Okay, thanks, but not really.
So it seems that even for visa-free requirements into Cambodia, the Poipet “official” hustle still applies. Sigh. I hope things get better on the railway side of immigration once the cross-border train is up.
Heading out to the walking path on the railway tracks, after escaping from all the motorbike taxis calling out for my business to bring me to the Thai side. The railway track is the official footpath in no man’s land.
Heading between casinos. I have no intention to make any pit stop on this walk though, lest the border somehow closes.
Heading past some shops by the railway line.
After the main casinos, the walk was surprisingly rather pleasant, though I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong since it’s almost too pleasant as compared to the last time I came here.
I headed out to the main road, leaving the railway track, where I see the problem. The welcome arch into Cambodia is now gone, with some severe construction going on, leaving no space to walk. No wonder everyone was taking the railway track detour.
Continuing on the railway tracks.
Approaching the end of the track path just before the new and historical Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bridge, linking Cambodia and Thailand over the actual border line itself over the former alignment of the Phrom Hot River.
Barricades block pedestrians from straying into the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bridge.
Thailand is literally just up ahead, with the Ban Klong Luk Border Railway Station gates closed in front of the Thailand end of the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bridge.
Taking the small, congested lane back onto the main road.
Here, traffic changes sides as Thailand is just ahead.
Walking onto the Friendship Bridge on the left into Thailand.
The last parts of Cambodia just before the actual border.
The namesake of the Friendship Bridge in the middle, right on the border.
And hello, Thailand.
Walking into Klongluk Boundary Post for proper Thailand immigration. Here, I picked up an immigration form from the information counter before the actual immigration hall. As it was night time, the upstairs counters for foreigners were closed, and I was directed to the downstairs one for locals after an immigration saw me looking lost (“Farang, here!”).
Thailand immigration was serious and strict as usual, lots of signs around saying no photos allowed within the immigration complex. The officer attending to me (there was no one else there who needed their passport stamped, everyone else was a border pass holder) even flipped through my passport thoroughly to check for overland entries (there is a limit of 2 overland entries into Thailand per year for most passports), before his supervisor turned back to tell him that it isn’t necessary for Singapore passports.
What a stark difference as compared to Poipet barely 10 minutes ago.
Heading out of immigration, the path lead to the customs channel first where passport and border pass users merged, before being officially led out to Thailand. And what a breath of fresh air it was, despite Poipet literally being just behind me meters away. What a huge sigh of relief to be back in Thailand.
The whole walk from Poipet Railway Station to the exit of Klongluk Boundary Post took only 32 minutes including stopping for immigration on both ends. Impressive.
What made it better was seeing my hotel for the night, @Border Hotel, right in front of me. They weren’t kidding with that hotel name at all.
Looking back at Klongluk Boundary Post.
As I wanted to see Ban Klong Luk Border Railway Station first, and to make this truly a walk from Poipet Railway Station to Ban Klong Luk Border Railway Station, I went to check out the area.
A new level crossing was just up ahead from the junction.
And hello, Ban Klong Luk Border Railway Station.
Looking up towards Bangkok. See you tomorrow.
Right behind the level crossing was a big 7-Eleven. Thailand’s 7-Eleven is the best 7-Eleven in the world.
As there are no trains for the night, the station is closed with fences.
The station sign of Ban Klong Luk Border Railway Station outside the main entrance of the station.
Here, I headed off to @Border Hotel to check-in for the night.
Overall, walking from Poipet to Aranyaprathet is like walking from hell to heaven, with the various dodgy people loitering around the border and asking for your passport in Poipet, the Poipet immigration officers themselves wanting a slice of the money pie too, and no clear signs around the border to proceed on. I had to rely mostly on my previous experience to figure out where I was going crossing the border as there was simply no one else walking from Poipet to Aranyaprathet at that time. Most started their walk from the various casinos in no man’s land, only converging on the entrance to the Friendship Bridge.
The moment I crossed the border on the Friendship Bridge, everything felt exactly as it was supposed to be in Thailand with prim and proper immigration officers, and locals couldn’t be bothered to harass you if you wanted a ride on their motorbike or tuk-tuk when everything is in a transport station beside the border.
Will I want to do it again?
Probably not, especially if the cross-border shuttle train is starting in future.
But will I actually do it again?
If the cross-border train hasn’t started running, I guess I have to.