Koh Chang (Thailand) to Seam Reep (Cambodia)
I leave independent Bo early in the morning to be in time for the mini bus to take me to the border. It’s a windy and cloudy day and feels like way below 20° when I have a quick breakfast at white sand beach around 7 am. The bus is a little late but empty, the ferry is a “seelenverkaeufer” as we say in german – more rust than steel kept together with strings at some places. I always wonder how floating catastrophes like this do not kill thousands of tourists each year in many countries….
The way to the border takes several hours and including a short coffee break we arrive there between 2 and 3pm being dropped off at a restaurant. A guy takes food orders, hands out visa forms and collects passports, pictures and money (1500 baht plus 100 baht tip). I have been asleep in the mini bus and by waking me up he has an easy game on me unfortunately. I get a visa for 3 months which costs 900 baht if applied for between the borders after leaving Thailand. Damn, but what to do. As we all had paid the trip all the way to Seam Reep we cross the 500m between the borders walking and wait together for thee promised bus on the other side while a guy who is obviously in charge and paid by our tour operator tells us where to change money for a horrendous rate and more things he wants us to do. But after the visa scam most of us don’t listen to him that much anymore.
A bus comes and takes us another 500m to a bus terminal where we are told the bus will come in an hour and arrive in seam reep around nine o clock which makes a ride of 3 hours for 150km plus waiting for an hour. We had heard that the bus will drop us at a busstation where we will be easy victims of commission hunting Tuk tuk drivers taking us to the hotels who pay them. A mini bus from the border takes only two hours and would leave immediately so we would be in seam reep center (no need for tuk tuks) at 7pm – for 150 Baht each which is around 3.5 Euro. The operator guy who is in charge arranges a mini van for us. A group of 10 people including a dutch couple, a few guys from Switzerland and me is quickly found so we leave. A little later we find out the operator guy is not only responsible for taking us aver the border but is also the boss of the taxi company. Very strange (/sarcasm).
5 minutes later we have to stop in a small traffic jam for 5 minutes. Passing an accident we see two obviously dead bodies on the street. At around half the way we ask the driver for a cigarette break – “10 minutes” he says and drives on. 20 minutes later and a little less than half an hour before seam reep he pulls over and stops at a big restaurant maybe 200 meters next to the street. He asks if we want food but so close to seam reep we agree we wouldn’t even need a cigarette. Driver wants to stop to make us eat there so what can we do. Seconds later two big buses with people who had crossed the border with us stop next to us. Do I need to write that they get commission from the restaurant? We have to wait for the driver who is eating for more than half an hour and then go on to Seam Reep. We agree not to pay him the full price because he is in no way faster than the buses and even wasting time at the restaurant to punish us for not eating – he even threatens “you want to sleep here? We can drive tomorrow morning too” when we complain.
He drives ridiculously fast on the last 50km in the dark so I have to think of the two dead bodies on the street we have seen before and become a little worried. The humor in the car is in the through when he turns right 5 km before town. We start asking him where he is going but he doesn’t answer and just accelerates the car. We become really worried about the situation. Some of the guys see their hotel and ask to stop which is being ignored. Minutes later we stop at a dark bus stop out of town where several bus drivers surround us quickly. I get out of the bus last and try to make pressure but the others had agreed to pay him full before I had recognized. Usually when I have a deal with local people wherever on this planet I stick to it so I try to make pressure to make him bring us to the center which he refuses to do.
While I draw the attention of the bus drivers on me the swiss guys silently disappear which leaves me alone with the dutch guy who is the only one to have enough cochones to stay. Seing the others run away the driver starts hitting me and as nearly all witnesses have gone the last of us including me quickly jump on a Tuk Tuk to get away. A little later I recognize my left hand bleeding so he obviously had something more than his hand with which he was hitting in my direction. I remember some cruel street arms I have seen in cars in Thailand and a warning about people using Crystal Meth here. I remember now the strange crazy laughing of our driver earlier and am even more happy all of us were able to escape the situation. It would have been less dangerous if not more than half of the guys (we are all at least a head taller than the locals) of our group would have ran away so quickly. But this is life.
When I get of the Tuk Tuk in town I ask the first guy in uniform I see for the police. He speaks not a single word english and ask a nice woman in front of a restaurant. She is extremely nice, obviously very very sorry for what happened and after she had given a first aid treatment to my hand she calls a friend who is the manager of a hotel. When I had left the bus stand the driver was shouting after me that he would find and kill me which somehow proves that he had been on drugs when driving us. This worries me a lot at that moment so I don’t want to take a hotel right where I had been dropped off. The lady tells me her friend has rooms vacant, 20$ per night and an employee of the hotel will come and pick me up in two minutes. The hotel is amazing! Neverending hot water, AC, TV, WIFI, very nice style for 20$ per night? I must be dreaming! Bravo, the manager is extremely kind, calms me down and makes sure that I feel save. He tells me that Seam Reep is save and that the border is another province – problems with drivers from there are well known.
I take a hot shower and get an amazing dinner at the hotel. I take a mango shake to the room and after making a quick look at the internet and having another shower I decide to make a little walk to the night market Bravo had recommended. Seam Reeps only purpose are tourists – obviously. But still the place is not wasted people are very friendly though you have to haggle hard (but friendly) for everything. Im in desperate need a shave so I stop at a massage/barber parlour. Seems to become interesting – I have never before been shaved by a woman. She starts at my head using a machine and when half the head is done I recognize feeling hear stubbles around my neck. When I ask if she could but a towel around my neck we both burst out laughing and she says sorry still laughing many times. When the machine work is done she starts searching for the knife for a while, while I start to like her. We talk as usually talking at the barber and she asks me in a totally innocent way if I am travelling alone. When I say yes she ask in a tiny little bit less innocent way if I enjoy it. I say “A lot!!” and we both burst out laughing again. I am as all of you hopefully know, not at all interested in prostitution – but I have to admit this was by far the most nice offer I ever got! Not at all distgusting for the first time but rather funny and likeable. Knife seems to be in the drawer in front of her of which the key was missing at the moment because her children had had it to play at daytime…. I am not the only one who hasn’t had his best day today. She says sorry again and makes me promise to come back to get shaved tomorrow. I do, and I will.
Conclusion of the day: Try to avoid the all inclusive trips from Koh Chang to Angkor Wat, but if you have to cross this border overland it still is better to go there in a group – the bigger the better. DO NOT take a minivan at the border if you do this trip. If you choose to take a taxi choose it yourself and judge the driver wisely. Amongst all the borders I have ever crossed this one is amongst the worst. Officials are cool and fast forward, no problem. But the scams on that border are never ending and can really become very dangerous quickly. If you want to cross this border try to arrange a hotel in Seam Reep before and ask them to send a taxi to the border to pick u up. This is probably the only safe way.
My hotel for example, the Bayon Shadow Villa, which I really really want to recommend a lot, will be happy to arrange this for you.
Contact for the Bayon Shadow villa:
Reservation: (+855)888 888 651
Booking: (+855) 63 756 443