I’m back! Due to a combination of factors; a change of school, no wifi, a touch of laziness, and frankly nothing happening, I have been tardy in posting. So it gives me pleasure to write about my latest adventure; a border run to Cambodia!
As you may have read before in my previous post about my visa run to Laos, you can see and do a lot as well as meet some great people to make your time worthwhile. The difference in this trip, to the Baan Pakkad-Phsar Prum border crossing, is that it was not the destination that was the highlight of the trip but the journey itself!
I mentioned to a co-worker that I needed to go to Cambodia to get my visa stamped for another 30 days on arrival back in Thailand and he suggested I take my motorbike. I think he was half joking but I took him seriously, did some research, asked a friend to join me, and that weekend off we went!
My friend and I, another Canadian, met up for breakfast and did some last minute fact finding before we set off. As our luck would have it, it started to rain heavily. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see in front of me from all the rain distorting my vision that I put my sunglasses on. This helped me somewhat and ultimately helped persuade me to stick to the mission and not head back.
What really made the drive more enjoyable, after the rain had lightened to a drizzle, was the beautiful scenery; luscious green landscapes for miles around, mountains off in the distance, the occasional waterfall, and the bemused looks of soldiers at occasional checkpoints to see a farang that far out in the countryside driving a motorbike.
For those who are interested in driving motorbikes on long distance journeys, as opposed to just jetting about in town or on an island, I found no problems on my small bike and I just followed what other Thais on their bikes were doing; stick to the side of the road and you should have no problems! Occasionally this is not possible and you will have to mix it up with cars but if you just drive responsibly and move out the way for oncoming cars, it shouldn’t be an issue.
At the Thai side of the border, Baan Pakkad, things were very simple. We just went to the immigration building, got our passport stamped, had them inspected again at the checkpoint, and walked over to Phsar Prum in Cambodia! After walking a couple hundred meters through the ‘no man’s land’ we went to the Cambodian immigration building and filled out some forms to get our Cambodian visa which cost 1500 baht but could be cheaper if you pay in USD, which is the de facto currency in Cambodia. They asked for a picture for the visa but we didn’t have any and it was not a problem.
Now, because we were only in Cambodia for the afternoon we didn’t write how long we expected to stay in Cambodia. When the immigration official asked how long we intended to stay we were vague and said a day, this turned out to be important for when we went to leave. They said ok, and then handed back our passports with the green Cambodian visa attached.
Immediately after walking down the main road to have a look for somewhere to eat we had guys on motorbikes asking if we needed a ride and if we wanted to go to Battambang. We politely declined their offers and kept on walking. The main attraction of Phsar Prum seems to be casinos. I had not known it before going there but there were at least four casinos in this small town. My feeling is that because gambling is illegal in Thailand, wealthy Thais come to the Phsar Prum to gamble. We went inside one of the casinos to have a look and inside we were surprised to see how busy it was. Inside were mostly middle aged men smoking while playing slot machines, blackjack, poker, and roulette. My friend inquired as to whether he could play with just 1000 baht and they said yes but what I figured was going to happen would be that he would have to buy in to certain games and that ultimately if he won big, he might not walk out of there with money as we were just two foreigners in a country famous for scams and corruption. He wisely decided against playing and we left to find a spot to eat lunch and enjoy a beer before crossing the border back to Thailand.
At the Cambodian immigration building we were thinking about what they were going to say considering we had just come to Cambodia a couple hours ago and now we were leaving but figured they must be used to it as to my knowledge quite a few foreigners were doing the same as us; dipping into Cambodia to return to Thailand to get the 30 days on arrival visa*. To my mild surprise the official said that we had to stay the night because the Cambodian visa was for a minimum of one day. I said that we had to get back to Thailand that day because we had urgent business. Then he said, ‘ok, 300 baht’. I honestly laughed because this was totally something I was half expecting to happen. After a brief discussion we agreed to pay and then the official promptly stamped our passport and off we went back to Thailand. I suppose we could have argued with them and asked to see their superior but I felt it just wasn’t worth the hassle.
Back on the Thai border we had no such problems besides a funny look knowing we had just left and came back, clearly just for the purpose of getting the 30 days as our visas were about to expire. And with that, we were back on our bikes with a sense of relief and accomplishment with the rain having stopped. With the rain having stopped and there being less traffic, we were able to cut the drive down to about an hour and a half. All in all it was a productive day and a new experience for me; a road trip on my own bike in Southeast Asia. The first of many I hope!
Stay tuned for more posts and thanks for your continued support! J
*I should also state that 30 days on arrival by land is for G7 countries and was only relatively recently changed from 15 days.