We decided that we were going to head back into Cambodia, but did not want to go through the Poipet border, as the last time (coming into Thailand) it was a ridiculous, long, badly organised experience taking hours, to stamp out, walk a hundred metres, and stamp in again.
As we wanted to go to Battambang anyway, we decided to take the one of the quieter, southern border crossings – Ban Packard to Psar Phrum which, I discovered online has very little relevant info. Some sites suggest it’s the adventurous route, but actually it was really, very easy.
To get there, we broke it up over two days. We jumped in a minivan from Bangkok’s Victory Monument (Anusawari Chai, if you need to tell a taxi driver) to Chanthaburi, which cost two hundred baht per person, and around three hours.
Here’s a top tip, if you want to get to Chanthaburi as soon as possible, make sure you show a map to the booking people, because apparently it sounds a lot like Katchanburi when we say it. Katchanburi looks like a nice place, but it’s two hours in the wrong direction when you’re trying to get to Cambodia.
Chanthaburi is a provincial capital city, It seems like there could be a few nice things to discover and explore with a bicycle. There is also a night market, with a whole heap of eating options, but most of them are take-away only very few street vendors have tables and chairs. We did however found a cheap, awesome street style restaurant next to the 7/11 near the hotel – Delicious.
Unfortunately our Thai visas were running out and had a date set to meet friends in Vietnam. Not this time, Chanthaburi.
We stayed at the river view hotel, which had a very helpful lady working in the morning and directed us to the bus pick up just across the bridge – Less than 100m away. It was quite lucky for us that we had seen this hotel in a guide book and just decided to try it out. It was adequate and cheap, but ideally located to get ourselves (and our packs) to the border bus in the relentless heat.
As far as we could work out in the broken English conversation the bus pick-up only runs once a day. There is another company which is somewhere near (around a couple of corners) the KP Grand Hotel which is directly opposite the 7/11 on the map. They apparently run three buses a day, at 0930, 1030 & 1130.
A few posts I had read online suggested all kinds of issues with getting to the border, or across the border or even away from the border at the other side, but it went without a hitch, for us.
We checked out the bus stop before breakfast – the man there spoke no English at all, but had a little card that said ‘0940 – 150B’ so we came back then. The minivan arrived about 1010 and we had an entertaining one (ish) hour journey to the border with a bunch of octogenarian Thai’s headed to the Casino in Pailin. The journey was punctuated with beautiful scenery and the occasional squawking -between naps – from our Saga holidaymaking companions. We made up their conversations for our own amusement, it mostly involved a new handbag that was excitedly passed around a lot and how one of the ladies, who was huffing and puffing all journey was “too old for this shit”. Much fun was had by all.
We got out at the gate, walked through the Thai side, stamped out; across the very short dividing area and into Cambodia in less than five minutes. Apart from a couple of Cambodian girls, we were the only people at either passport control and sailed through. The Cambodian officials were very nice and polite with no mention of a bribe or ‘special charge’ at any point. They even wished us a nice holiday.
At this point we’re thinking, ‘this is where it’s gonna get hectic’, because there’s two confused looking white guys with backpacks and over half a dozen taxi drivers all waiting to separate us from our dollars.
The first guy who was very eager to speak with us, took the piss and quoted 1200B ($37USD) to get to Battambang (around 100KM) in a private taxi, or 400B each in a shared taxi. We read online you could pick up transport in Pailin so he quoted 300B for both of us, but said there wasn’t a bus station there. We weren’t sure if he was lying or not (websites only seem to talk about a taxi stand?) but we went with our instincts settled on another guy who offered $8USD each to go straight to Battambang central market. We ended up sharing part of the journey with five; yes five other people in his Toyota Camry but it was all quiet enjoyable really.
We left Chanchaburi at 1015 and were eating lunch in Battambang at 1400 – A very enjoyable four hour run.
Why did we take this route?
Because the border is the closest to Battambang
Because we had no interest in spending all afternoon queuing at Poipet.
Because we had even less interest in giving the Poipet transport mafia any of our money. if you’re not aware there’s countless stories on blogs and forums about how you are taken to a ‘free transport centre’ in Poipet where you are forced to pay massively inflated prices to travel onward – it’s in the middle of nowhere and the police are in on it too.
Because travel is all about fun – We have such better memories of the times we ended up doing things the untouristy way than the ‘VIP AC bus from X to X’.
Minivan from Bangkok to Chanthaburi : 200B per person
Tuk-tuk from Chanthaburi bus station to the River View Hotel : 60B (two people)
Minibus from Chanthaburi to Ban Pakard/Pong Nam Ron border : 150B per person
Visa charges : $20USD per person
‘Taxi’ from Psar Phrum to Battambang : $8USD per person
River View Hotel : 290B for a double with fan/TV & attached bathroom. The TV didn’t work and it was the smallest double bed ever, but it was OK. They also had a shared bathroom option for 190B.
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