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Are we crazy taking a train to Cambodian border from BKK?

Are we crazy taking a train to Cambodian border from BKK?

Old Oct 30th, 2011, 10:17 AM
  #1  
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Are we crazy taking a train to Cambodian border from BKK?

We are 5 women travelling to BKK in March and will have 9 full days. We are torn between taking 2 day trips and staying in Bangkok OR going to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat.
We're thinking that the "experience" of taking the train to the border then taking car/van to SR would be interesting even though it takes a day to get there and it's only a third class cabin. We would fly back to BKK and splurge on Hotel de la Paix.
At the moment the one way ticket on Bangkok Air is $261.00.
Given that visiting Angkor would represent 4 days, one day travel to, 2 days to visit ruins and half day back to BKK, is it worth it? We are all keen on visiting the ruins but not sure it's too much in a short time. Your input is appreciated!
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 11:10 AM
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With just 9 days in the area, do you want to spend a whole day just getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap?

It takes three full days just to visit the so-called major temples. Do your research and decide how much time you want. We were there a week and would have enjoyed even more time there. Others get "templed out" in a day. Get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples to help you decide.

Have any of you been to this part of the world before? That may play a part in what you want to do. Also, is this your only stop in SE Asia? Will you arrive jet-lagged and unaccustomed to the heat or will you be flying from somewhere nearby and be well-rested and ready to go?

Bangkok itself has so much to do and see. My first trip to Bangkok was for 9 full days and I loved every minute of it and have returned more than 2 dozen times since.

If you opt to fly both ways, you could divide your time between Bangkok and Siem Reap and have a nice amount of time to explore each.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 11:48 AM
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Kathie, we are arriving from hot and sunny south florida and it's a long haul to Bangkok. We are torn because we want so badly to see Angkor, however it adds a lot of travel time. Some in our group will be "templed out" after two full days and some of us could stay all week. I personally am leaning towards visiting Ayutthaya on a day trip and Kanchananburi on another. If we decided to go to SR than flying would be the better albeit more expensive option but it would only take half a day.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 11:53 AM
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seat61.com/thailand details your journey not too bad..

Largest complex of temples in Asia well wotrh it for me.

theangkorguide.net good guide

Grand Angkor booking.com otel.com goldenbanana.info all nice

Personally I think it is one of the neastest sites in Asia

a do not miss... Happy Planning
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 12:02 PM
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Neither Kanchananburi (especially) nor Ayutthaya hold a candle to Angkor. Angkor is truly one of the wonders of the world.

Since members of your groups have varying degrees of interest in Angkor, why not divide into two smaller groups, one going to Angkor, the other staying in Bangkok and taking a couple of day trips?
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 12:36 PM
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Kathie, it's a great idea, however this is a "family" trip, mother, daughters and grandaughter, so the point is spending time together. Besides I'll have my head cut off if I suggest splitting up.

qwovadis, I have no doubt Angkor is well worth a visit. I just wish we had more time. What do you suggest we see in only 2 days? If we fly into SR in the morning, and it appears we will be doing that, what do you suggest we see in the afternoon/ evening?
I'll check the sites you mentioned and already went to seat 61, which is a fantastic source.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 12:47 PM
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While seat61.com is great on trains, the best site for travel to/from/in Cambodia is talesofasia.com When I went overland SR to BKK I took the bus from the border, even though I'm a big fan ot trains - should be faster and more comfortable, but take a "real" bus, not one of the KSR scams. (Read talesofasia to see what I'm talking about.)

If anyone in your party is unlikely to be in SEA again it would be a big mistake to miss Angkor Wat, especially in favor of BKK (but I'm not fond of BKK - too big, too polluted, horrible traffic....)
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 01:07 PM
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If 2 days is all you have, I still say go to Siem Reap. Personally, I would NOT take the train. Spend the money on the flight; your time is your most valuable commodity. Everyone has their favorite temples. Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon, and Banteay Srei would give you a good overview. In your short time, you could do the first three fairly easily and maybe give the last one a pass because it's farther away, although it's gorgeous.

Cambodia is a special place and very, very different from Bangkok. I'd highly recommend you include it in your trip.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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A couple of things to consider:

The round trip on BKK Airways is only $345. Your savings will be $80 less the cost of train & car.

Another option is to fly Air Asia to Phnom Penh at $114, then take a car ($40) or bus ($15?) from there to Siem Reap. Lots cheaper, less time and you'll avoid that whole awful border crossing into Cambodia.

I'd certainly choose Angkor over Kanchananburi & Ayutthaya. I don't think you'll save enough time or $ on the two day trips vs one 3 trip to Siem Reap. In addition, Siem Reap has a lot to offer even the non-temple types. Lots of great restaurants, bicycling, horseback riding, ATVs, craft places, etc., and it is all very cheap unless you are really set on Hotel de la Paix.

Frangipani Villas rooms run from $40 to $60 and are lovely. http://www.frangipanihotelangkor.com/
Seven Candles guesthouse is only $20 and is a really clean, lovely place to stay. www.sevencandlesguesthouse.com
Many other hotels are available for under $100 night vs the $250+ at H de la Paix. I've stayed there, and while it is a great hotel, it is extremely expensive for Siem Reap. I'd much rather splurge on my transportation than splurge there.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 03:11 PM
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Thank you everyone, this is great information! We have decided unanimously to fly to SR and spend 3 nights. We are going to look into the hotel and guides so your recommendations are very helpful and appreciated.

Icyu I checked BKK Air earlier and got a price for a flexible RT ticket of $561, seems high. You mentioned they are always $345, what am I doing wrong?
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 10:39 PM
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The flex rate is their most expensive ticket. I'm surprised that is all you found as march isn't usually a busy time going to Siem Reap. If you are on a date where the other 3 rates are sold out, you might try moving it up or back a day or two.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 12:08 AM
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We did the trip from BBK to Siem Reap via Aranyabprathet in 2008. It was certainly an "experience" and cheap by comparison with flying but it does take a very long time. You will need to get the very first train @5.05am to avoid crossing the border aand driving to SR in the dark -NOT advisable!

The carriage have very hard seats which is ok for a couple of hours but the journey takes 6hrs so it may be a bit much for some of your party. It is however a great way of meeting and chatting with ordinary Thai people.

I have crossed many overland borders in various parts of the world and this sticks out as one of the worst (with the possible exception of Sierra Leone). Scams abound on both sides of the border starting with the Thai officials who will tell you that there are now "special fees" for leaving Thailand and then the Cambodians will tell you that it is not possible to pay entry fees in USD (despite the signed clearly as day above their heads! Instead they will try to insist thta you pay in THB at hugely inflated forex rates. They even tried to insist that our online visas were not valid and when we argued they ripped up our immigration forms and tried to send us to the back of the queue.

Once through teh immigration you will be inundated with touts trying to sell you bus rides or car rides to PP and SR, Far better to pre-arrange with your hotel or guesthouse in SR and sport out a meeting place, time and get a mobile number for the driver as he is certain to turn up late! When we did the trip it was a dust road most of the way from the border to SR but I believe it has now been tarmaced so it should be quicker and more comfortable now.

Travel with an open mind and it can be a quite entertaining experience but if any of your parties are nervous travellers then they could find it traumatic.
It is easily the cheapest way of getting there - rail fare is $1.50 pp and a car fot 5 will cost around $50 but it does take a long time - I would say around 12-14 hours door to door.

In answer to your question "is it worth it?" - not this way! Personally, I would stay at a cheaper guesthouse such as www.peaceofangkor.com and spend the savings on a flight.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 03:57 AM
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Crellston thank you for sharing your experience, it certainly sounds unforgettable. I have been to SEA before but I know that 2 in our party will definitely be more than uncomfortable on the train and with border hassles. We are flying instead and will be looking at other hotels besides de la paix. Will look into peace of agnkor as you suggested.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 04:04 AM
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AY has been severly flooded. i'm not sure what condition it will be in by march. i personally would not waste a full day just going to kantchburi---its a boring place imo...
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 08:12 AM
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>>

We had two full temple days when we were in Siem Reap last March (plus the day of arrival - we arrived around noon from Saigon and just had lunch and poked around town that afternoon). We visited the above four (Ta Prohm being our favorite), along with Kbaal Spean, Beng Melea and sunset at Phnom Bakheng (not really worth it as the crowd was stupefying). Admittedly, we go for the overview, not the in-depth study.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 10:25 AM
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Wow, you really packed them in... especially as Banteay Srei takes nearly two hours of travel time.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 11:58 AM
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Siem Reap is a do-not-miss and well worth the flight money. You may think it was the best part of your trip. Make sure every person has two empty facing pages in their passport. Cambodia is very strict about that. I didn't and was keep in passport control for more than an hour and finally they let me in because the people were there from my hotel (Raffles) and they knew what to do to get the officials to sell me a visa. It did cost me extra. People have been put back on the plane for this. Just an fyi...
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 12:02 PM
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A good reminder, Elainee. Also, many countries in SE Asia require that your passport be valid for 6 months beyond the end of your trip. You won't be allowed in if you don't have that much time left.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 01:26 PM
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Thank you all, your advice is well noted.
Elainee I knew about the minimum 6 month passport requirement but had not heard about the 2 facing pages. I just checked my passport and I don't have the 2 empty facing pages! I'm so grateful you pointed that out now when I still have time to add pages to my passport and alert the others in our party.
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 03:56 PM
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Don't you love it when fodorites give hints that are truly useful and save someone a real hassle?

Good tip, elainee!
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