Siem Reap ... Not!

Discussion in 'Cambodia Road Trip Reports' started by rob7711, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    The original plan of riding to Siem Reap during the muslim fasting month of ramadan was eventually called off as Seb, one of the bikers amongst us three, could not make it back to Malaysia on time due to work exigencies. This was to have been a first foray on a motorcycle beyond the Land Of Smiles for Recky and he was really looking forward to it. The rainy season we were currently experiencing couldn't have dampened the mood more than having to cancel this ride.

    Two days past the planned departure date, a flurry of whatsapp messages saw the beginning of an alternative ride for Recky and I. Its the kind of ride that only bikers would truly comprehend. "Anywhere .. so long as we get to ride is fine by me bro" so the message goes. Hence an impromptu ride to Betong, a small border town in the restive south of Thailand, was hatched up.

    Now Betong is a quiet backwater of a town nestled in a valley surrounded by lush forested hills and rubber plantations and enjoys a relatively cooler temperature and crispier air compared to the pollution and heat induced inversion clime of Kuala Lumpur. By sunset the town comes unto its own with the glare of neons of pubs, bars and karaokes a beckoning. In a gist that's Betong the border town, a hop skip and a jump from the Malaysian border. Even then changes are a coming unto Betong. There are apparently plans to clean up the image of the town and move and contain the night entertainment to a designated area eastside of the town but for now everything seems "same same but different".

    What's Betong got to do with Siem Reap over 2,000km away? We found ourselves in Betong around noontime on a drizzly Sunday after crossing the border nearby at Pengkalan Hulu in Malaysia. Over a lazy lunch of rice noodle soup at a roadside hawker stall, Recky mulled over the missed opportunity of Siem Reap. As this period was the only window for Recky to take some time off from his business and to see it all slip us by was most unfortunate. It was then that we decided to resuscitate the original Siem Reap ride albeit with a shorter time frame. We leave for Siem Reap first light the next day and thus began our unplanned ride.

    That night I pondered over my mental map of Thailand, long etched in my brain from the numerous hours I have scoured over every square kilometer of this amazing country seeking out routes and towns of interest. I figured that in order to keep to the limited days that we had left, we would have to do some hard riding. In order for us to get to Siem Reap in two days we would have to try to get as far north as possible the next day. Furthermore since we were in Betong, we were not in an ideal location to get onto AH2 which would take us northwards. Traversing the Betong - Yala - Hatyai stretch coupled with the wet weather would be slow going. So we would have to return back into Malaysia and head to another border crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam crossing into Sadao on the Thai side and onto AH2.

    The crisp morning air heavy with dew greeted us as we departed Betong for the border crossing back into Malaysia. We breezed through the border formalities and were soon making our quick run to the next border crossing about 200km away. After about 2.5hours we found ourselves stuck at customs on the Thai side at Sadao. Our early morning customs exit details at Betong had yet to be keyed into the computer systems and as such we could not be issued fresh temporary import papers. The human interface was definitely working on a much lower "bitrate" on the Betong end. A friendly custom officer came to our aid and made a telephone call to his Betong counterpart to update our vehicle's exit details and after two ziggy's wait we were finally through. LOS never fails to amaze us.

    From last night's mental map, I figured that we had to make it to Petchaburi today in order that we could make Arranyaphratet and the border crossing by 3:00pm the following day and always mindful that we also had to find our bypass of the big mango that was Bangkok. We rode through alternating periods of rain and sunshine and made Petchaburi's Phetkasem Hotel around 9:00pm and crashed out for the night.

    The next morning after a quick american breakfast (included) we hit the road again at 7:00am. I crafted a quick route on my gps which brought us through Nakhon Phatom and eventually to Route 1 just north of Bangkok and hopefully onto Route 33. The route did work to a certain degree but it was still not far north enough and we soon found ourselves crawling in bumper to bumper traffic. After what felt like hours and a clutch hand numb from lack of blood circulation we eventually found Route 33. We felt elated to be heading east and reckon we could be at the border by 3:00pm as planned.

    Well we made the border alright. The Thai side formalities were pretty straight forward. We surrendered our bike temporary import permits and then immigration and we were soon in "no man's land". We found the Cambodian immigration office, filled out the immigration cards and were duly stamped through. We then rode through on Poipet side and duly found the custom's office. When we found the customs officer and asked for clearance to bring our bikes into Cambodia temporarily his reply was "Is this all the paper you have got?". "You need travel agent permit and approval". "You must apply at least 2 weeks in advance" which of course all translate to an emphatic "No". We tried all manner of pleading etc etc including our willingness to pay for "services rendered" but all were in vain. Well we had to give it a try eventhough we have heard of various nightmares at this crossing. Our only recourse was to leave our bikes in "no man's land" and to find alternate transport to Siem Reap. After scurrying around like some wet rats we finally manage to convince a casino hotel to allow us to park our bikes in a sheltered carpark ten paces from the hotel security post. At the price of 500thb per day per bike it was gladly accepted by us both just for the peace of mind that our bikes are secured.

    Well this was one of those rides that rates as "almost but not quite". We were only another 150km to Siem Reap and mental images of our bikes with Angkor Wat in the background all but evaporated. Still we made the best of the situation and enjoyed ourselves with a vow to do it again one rainy July day.

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    Dawn breaking over Siem Reap
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    Price of gasoline in Siem Reap
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    The Royal Crown Hotel & Spa, Siem Reap
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    The throngs of tourist queueing to purchase entrance tickets to the Angkor sites. At USD20 per pax ever wonder where all these money goes ...
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  3. VietHorse

    VietHorse Ol'Timer

    Great bikes you guys brought along.
    Don't know if you have ridden to Phnom Kulen. Worth it for a adventure ride.

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    Có đoạn phải nép trong vách núi thế này:
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    Có đoạn thì thênh thang:
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    Có đoạn lại chênh vênh:
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    Đất ở đây không "đỏ" lắm:
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  4. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Thanks VietHorse ... I will have to lookup those places you mentioned as they look fabulous. Will have to try riding in your country one day as I have read of wonderful places and scenic vistas. Cheers!
     
  5. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    nest time u want to ride in DON'T try it at Poi Pet or Pailin

    u can take ur bikes in at the Trat/Koh Kong border or up at Osmach (south of surin)
     

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