The border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia from Trat (Hat Lek) to Koh Kong (Cham Yeam) is a little bit of a pain in the butt, but I hear you get less hassled than the Poipet border and no one (that I know of) tried to pickpocket me or break into my backpack or luggage. I chose to go this out of the way border because 1) I wanted to see a little bit of the south before I ventured onto Siem Reap or Phnom Penh and 2) I didn’t want to follow the stream of Khao San Road travelers going through Poipet straight to Siem Reap.
My journey began with leaving my beloved town of Lang Suan on a bus headed for Bangkok. As soon as I alighted the bus at the Southern Bus Terminal after a seven hour ride, I was inundated with taxi drivers looking for their next victim. I was somehow swept away by one of them and his “caddy,” which I wasn’t aware I was paying for her services until I was demanded 100 baht at the taxi. I had originally asked for the meter and as the taxi driver began to pull out of the driveway I reminded him of this fact. When I refused to pay him 500 baht for the 30 km to the Northern Bus Terminal, he did a quick U-turn and made me get out of the car.
I piled all my stuff into a driver that agreed to put on the meter and 155 baht later (I was feeling smug that it was so much less than the 500 the previous driver was demanding), I arrived at the Northern Bus Terminal with the mission to buy a bus ticket to Trat.
The first bus for Trat left at 6AM and unfortunately it was 4. I nestled into an extremely uncomfortable bus station seat and as I watched the Thai man with a combover practically snap his neck while he nodded off, I attempted to finish the nap I had began on the bus. Two hours later, I was lugging my baggage around trying to find platform 83, which conveniently was not located where I thought it was going to be and after asking a uniformed official at the information desk, who clearly wasn’t qualified for the job, I discovered the bus on my own and was once again on my way.
Now that was the easy part.
I arrived at the Trat bus station and was convinced to take a sawng thaew for 300 baht to the border (apparently there is a minibus for 120 baht, but I was sick of waiting around and decided to just go with the quick shot to the border). Once to the border, a man grabbed my bags and ushered me through customs. Of course, after I had received my health inspection, I was ordered to give him a tip, something I found was expected here if someone does even the smallest of duties for you. I discovered that the station only took baht (1000 to be exact, which does not equal the normal amount of $20 that its supposed to be) and after much frustration I surrendered over the baht. I was then commanded to give the man who helped me through customs a tip as well. Seriously?! Everything I had to tip for today I had not asked for and it was getting on my nerves!
I was being continuously hounded by a private car driver and since no other option for transportation presented itself, I had to take him up on his offer to take me to Krong Koh Kong, buy me a bus ticket for the next day to Sihanoukville, and find me a guesthouse all for 1000 baht. I kept telling him I’m not stupid and I know that it shouldn’t be that much, but I had to concede in the end.
He did in fact buy me the bus ticket and found me accommodation at the Koh Kong guesthouse, which was actually pretty good, room was reasonably sized and clean, so he held up his end of the bargain.
I’m just hoping the bus does in fact pick me up at the guesthouse tomorrow!
Note: A bus did not come and pick me up the next day. I had to pile all of my luggage (a slightly oversized carry-on bag, my backpack, and my packed purse) on a motorbike and I wish I had had a picture of this. I’m sure it looked hilarious, but then again, its probably not a rare sight in these parts!