There’s a lot of information online about how to get around in Southeast Asia, and we found dozens of articles about travelling from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Quite rightly, as it’s a route plagued by scam artists who take every opportunity to pocket as much tourist money as possible.
But we were travelling in the opposite direction, from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Scam artists weren’t going to do very well off us, since most of the scams involve convincing tourists to pay more for their visas, and we didn’t need visas to get into Thailand (although they have reduced the period that we can visit for from 30 days down to only 15 – it appears that Thailand doesn’t really want our money after all).
We decided to trust to fate and book a bus trip all the way from Siem Reap to Bangkok – exactly what you’re advised against doing in the opposite direction. We organised it through our guesthouse, paying US$8 for the journey – slightly more than we’d seen advertised in town, but we were feeling lazy and it included a transfer to the bus station. And as it turned out, we didn’t do too badly – other travellers paid up to $12 for the same service.
We were collected from our guesthouse at 7.30am by an over-punctual but friendly driver, who had to move a television out of the back seat of his car before we could get in. He dropped us at a petrol station, saying that the bus would collect us in the next ten minutes or so. One traveller was already waiting, next to a guy with a motorbike who ripped our tickets, and a tuktuk full of other travellers arrived soon after.
At about 7.55, a 24-seater bus stopped in the middle of the road and we all got on, slightly surprised, firstly that it was early and secondly that it wasn’t the large air-conditioned coach that we’d been promised. This one was just to take us to the border, not the whole journey.
After an hour we stopped for one of the ubiquitous rest stops we’d become accustomed to – squat toilets and a chance to buy a drink. Usually, though, the bus doesn’t drive off, leaving you stranded in the restaurant, as ours did on this occasion. I was convinced the driver had absconded with our bags under the excuse of having a flat tyre changed (after reading about all the scams on the Bangkok-Siem Reap run) but he came back 40 minutes later and we were on our way again.
We arrived at the border at around noon, where we were met by a well-dressed man with a folder, who took our tickets, gave us yellow stickers, and led us to the line for passport control. He waited for us all to be stamped out of Cambodia, then walked us along the road and across the bridge to Thailand.
Passport control was a longer process than leaving Cambodia, but all five of us from our bus made it through, where we met a similar-sized group of other yellow-stickered tourists and a man with a yellow-stickered nametag, who led us to a ute and encouraged us all to hop in the back, along with our bags. The guy who had our tickets turned up, gave some money to the driver and waved as we set off to our next destination – lunch. While we were eating, the promised large, air-conditioned bus arrived and discharged hordes of (blue-stickered) tourists, obviously arriving from Bangkok.
After a bit of a wait, we left the restaurant in the large coach and headed towards Bangkok. The roads were good and the journey smooth and interrupted by only one stop at a petrol station.
We knew we’d arrived when the driver started shouting “Bangkok, Bangkok!” We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere – we certainly weren’t anywhere near a bus station. Luckily one of our busmates knew the way to the backpacker district, so we dodged the tuktuk drivers and touts who had congregated around the bus, and found ourselves where we wanted to be after a 10-minute walk.
So although the route involves a taxi, a small bus, a walk, a ute, a larger bus, and another walk, travelling from Siem Reap to Bangkok is relatively straightforward. Just don’t lose your little yellow sticker!