Cambodian Border Cross from Hell
Crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia has to be one of the most terrifying experiences EVER!… We had just gotten the train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and then a tuk tuk to the border crossing in Poipet.
Inside the border crossing office were some desks and we were given some departure and arrival forms to fill out. We were then asked for our passports and 2800 TB, that’s almost £55. We then realised something wasn’t quite right.
We told the man, now in possession of our passports, that we needed to discuss some things first before we crossed the border and asked for our passports back. However, he refused to give us back the passports until we had paid the fee. By now we needed to come up with something quick, and luckily we realised you need your passport to book into a hotel. We told him that we would return in the morning, but now we needed our passports to book into a hotel. Thankfully he bought it and returned the passports. A woman then came in fuming and demanding money back for her Visa. She was shouting at the man and saying that the visa he had given her was a fake and the border control would not let her through. We quickly left the office and walked this time to find the real border crossing office, which wasn’t too far away. For future travelers, the real border crossing office is right next to the actual border. And don’t trust the tuk tuk drivers.
Finally we were in Cambodia, although our troubles were far from over, and we were approached by a gang who asked if we wanted a taxi ride to Siem Reap. It was where we were heading, but we certainly was not paying for a taxi all the way there. We continued walking to the buses and tried to ask bus drivers how we get to Siem Reap, but they just ignored us when they saw the gang following behind. It was as if everyone was scared of the gang following us.
The gang then approached us again to talk and said to us that they would take us to Siem Reap for $15 each, but they also told us that the driver was allowed to drop us off in the middle of nowhere if we didn’t pay him more. We continued walking away, trying to get rid of them, but they continued to follow us, and no one would help because of it. It was beginning to get a little scary and we thought we would be stuck forever! I turned around to the gang, angry and frustrated! I was tired and hungry and getting fed up with them. I shouted and swore at them at the top of my voice, which actually made them disappear, but not without them glaring at us and pointing a finger in a patronizing way. I realised I had put us both in danger and even though they had gone we didn’t feel safe.
We continued to walk far away down the road when we were approached by a young local guy asking if we needed to get to Siem Reap and if we did, we needed to hurry. We decided to follow him and he told us to clamber in a mini bus full of locals. We paid $10 each, which is a lot more than we would have liked to have paid, but at least we were getting away from this crazy place.
The minibus finally left, but stopped along many places and more locals clambered in and I was squashed up against a transvestite, sharing my seat with 3 other people. Not one person could speak English and as we drove further away I began to feel worried…what we were doing had finally sank in. For all we knew, we could be getting kidnapped, and these are friends of the gang we had left behind in that awful place! We both kept asking different people where we were going and if it was Siem Reap. All we got in response was “Yah, Siem Reap, Siem Reap”
Everywhere outside was dark, and thoughts kept passing our minds…where were we going? were we being kidnapped? Are they going to kill us? this has to be a setup after what happened. We hoped for some signs to show where we going or city lights to make it feel like were close to somewhere…There was nothing. Nath whispered “If anything happens, then run to the biggest tree you can find”….At the time I was like yes, feeling more panicked that even Nath was scared. But looking back I realise what a stupid idea that was, I mean there were thousands of flipping of trees outside, but it felt right at the time.
Then suddenly we saw a sign for Siem Reap, a wave of joy spun through us. We weren’t being kidnapped! After what felt like forever, we were finally in Siem Reap at 10:30pm and thanked the driver like our life depended on him. We quickly waved down a tuk tuk, who took us around the city to find somewhere to stay. We eventually found somewhere for $8 and then asked the tuk tuk to come back at 4:30am to take me to Angkor Wat for sunrise.