New Cambodia / Vietnam border crossings reviewed

Discussion in 'Cambodia - General Discussion Forum' started by rectravel, Aug 20, 2005.

  1. Suor sdey na Kampuchea.
  2. Many thanks for this info. I am a resident of Phnom Penh and so many times I have heard "Riding into VN? No problem" Yet when I ask the VN Embassy they answer "No way". The last time I asked was two weeks ago. I plan on going to Chau Doc via the river next Sunday and will ask there as well. Sure there are stories of people who have bluffed their way past the border officials but the problem could be inside VN or at the border getting back out. If they do accept the nothing over 175cc the problem still exists. Nobody rides small bikes over long trips

  3. Hello all!

    This is my first post, but I have been reading along since a couple of months, ever since I decided to move to Hong Kong from Hamburg, Germany.

    A quick summary: The border beween Thailand and Cambodia is easy, the crossings in the South between Cambodia and Vietnam proved to be impossible for 200cc and up bikes. (Note: This doesn't mean you can enter with smaller bikes, this is just what we had with us)

    I have been to Vietnam and Thailand before and rented small bikes there to zip around towns.

    Since I had no experience whatsoever riding motorcycles, I learned it in the crazy traffic of Saigon. I guess this made me pretty much oblivious to the danger.

    I will write a longer trip report, but I'm at work right now...

    Anyway, I was at the border crossings from Thailand to Cambodia, from Cambodia to Vietnam.

    Here is what I have experienced (2 bikes, 250cc Yamaha Raid and 200cc Suzuki Djebel):

    The border between Thailand and Cambodia was no problem at all:
    We tried the border crossings at Hat Lek/Pak Klong and one farther North but still South of Aranyaprathet/Poipet. It's not on the map on this webside, but I will look up the names on my map at home.
    We also tried some smaller local border crossings, but were denied entry. I guess one could walk across, but only if one comes back the same way. Definitely not with a bike.
    We asked the local guards, the local police, the local government office and all told us it's not allowed.
    We also tried to sneak across the border on a newly constructed road (actually, it's not yet finished) but were stopped by Thai soldiers. We had almost made it, but didn't want any trouble, so we stayed with them, gave them 2 bottles of German vodka and stayed overnight at their jungle camp in the mountains.
    Well, we finally decided on the Hat Lek crossing, drove throuh Cambodia towards Phnom Penh (one of the coolest roads anyone can travel on, a real challenge).
    We tried the border crossing south of Phnom Penh, close to the Mekong river. It's a tiny outpost and we had hoped to have better chances there.
    Well, the Cambodians had no problem with us leavin, even though we had no papers from when we entered and also just Thai papers for the bikes that didn't even show our names.
    The Vietnames on the other hand just said "No".
    No explanations given, and they DID NOT take a look at the engine size.
    We were exhausted from a bumpy trip, so we decided to stay at the border and try it again in a few hours, possibly after a guard change.
    Well, it became rather late and at 6pm when the border closed we were still there.
    We ended up stayin one night in the no mans land, wetween the borders, talking to the guards.
    We were turned back the next day, had to haggle with the Cambodians to go back inside without gettint a new visa.

    We tried again at the Bavet/Moc Bai border, no chance! We stayed there for 5 days, trying again and again. I even got Vietnamese friends to come from Saigon, we tried to bribe the border guards with 500 Euros (approximately 600 US Dollars), nothing helped.
    The best bet is to either smuggle it (if you have anyone in your group who can talk to the Cambodian truck drivers, ask them. They don't get checked at the border, if they have a truck that's allowed to enter Vietnam.) Other then that, you might be able to transport a bike through Vietnam if you load it on a sealed truck on the Vietnamese side and let some company transport it for you to the exit border, but who would want to do that?!? This was the only option they left us with, so we turned back, sold the bikes in Phom Penh, lost a ton of money (bikes were legit in Thailand, so more expensive, but which Cambodian would care?).

    If you get into Vietnam at all, then only with a small bike, such as a Honda Wave, a Minsk or something.

    Bye, Arne!
  4. Hey Arne, thanks for the post. However, it is not true that Cambodian trucks going into Vietnam are not inspected. It may seem this way when you are standing at one of the border gates with Vietnam, but it is not true. Before the drivers pay the crossing "fees", their trucks are inspected in detail, just like the public buses.

    Sorry to hear that you lost tons of money on the bike that you bought in Bangkok. For new readers, see the post on

    Link removed

    for notes about the 175 cc restriction in Vietnam. Updates are encouraged.
  5. Hi again!

    Well, actually I meant Vietnamese trucks coming from Cambodia, going to Vietnam (so they have Vietnamese license plates & registration).
    I stayed at the borders long enough to see what's going on.
    They have to pay a fee to cross and some get inspected... but not all. But I guess one would have to pay quite a lot to find a driver willing to take the risk, and if it fails you'll probably lose your bike. Also, I wouldn't know what will happen if someone takes a closer look at your bike once inside Vietnam. And getting it back outside would be pretty much impossible, unless one finds some way to smuggle it again.
    So it probably wouldn't be worth it anyways.

    One I'll find some more time I will write a long report, but right now I'm totally busy with work and keeping visiting friends entertained.

    One thing I forgot to mention, I saw a Yamaha Raid (250cc) in Hoi An, a small town in Vietnam. I couldn't find the owner though, so I wasn't able to find out how he got it there, but it did have Vietnamese plates.

  6. Hi all, Hi rectravel!

    I'm home now, so I have my map at hand (it's "thailand" from Reise Know-How Verlag in Germany, a very detailed map of Thailand 1: 1,200,000 on a plastic material, almost indestructible).

    I started my ride in Pattaya on rented bikes, we went all the way down the coast to Hat Lek and wanted to find out about road conditions, both in Thailand and Cambodia, about border formalities, about my riding skills (bear in mind that it was the first time ever on a bike for me).

    Since the bikes were rentals and we did not have proper papers to cross, we weren't allowed to leave Thailand. We had fake German plates and papers, as to try to get across and explore a bit before actually buying bikes and to avoid problems with the police/soldiers inside Thailand. We figured they wouldn't know how to deal with German papers if they ever stopped us.
    The military had a few roadblocks on the way but always waved us through with a friendly smile.

    Since we werent't able to cross at Hat Lek we wanted to find out if there are any other routes into Cambodia.

    We decided to try all roads leading away from the coast, toward the border with Cambodia, between Hat Lek and Pong Nam Ron, a small town north of Chantaburi.

    Since there is a mountain range between the two countries, most roads were either dead ends or turned away after a couple of kms.

    However, there is one new road across those mountains under construction, somewhere between Mamuang En (south of Trat) and Khlong Yai (north of Hat Lek0. I can't find the spot on my map right now, but since this strech is only about 50km, it's not hard to find. It's south of a gas station, leads into the countryside for a few hundred meters, there's a camp for the road construction workers there and you'll see all the dirt on the road from the heavy trucks coming from that dirt road.
    The road is not paved yet and leads up into the mountains really steep, so you can only really manage it on a cross bike. They have build a handful of new concrete bridges, yet without and rails.
    After a few kilometers we ran across some more construction equipment and since one of our bikes with the smaller gas tank was running low we almost decided on turning back, but then our craving for adventure kicked in.
    We followed the road a bit longer and saw more and more signs of the Thai military (black and yellow striped poles, roadblocks etc.). But no people.
    Then we reached a plateau with a few wooden buildings, a few young men in sports dresses playing football and more importantly a few concrete roadblocks (wide enough spaced to alowed bikes through) and a lot of barbed wire around them.
    We stopped, not sure what would happen if we would just speed on. Who knows if there were any actual armed guards, how far this road would really lead (what would happen if we needed to turn back?) and if there were any mines (a danger that I definitely did not want to underestimate in Cambodia)?
    One of the young soldiers came running towards us and we tried to ask if this was the border with Cambodia, if the road was open, if we were allowed to pass (flashing our German papers and so on). Well, the road seemed to be completed to Cambodia, but we did not find out about the Cambodian parts.
    They wouldn't let us pass, they answered our question if the road would be openend to foreigners some time in the future with a definite no, but also told us that locals wouldn't be allowed to cross. This surprised us, but they said it's only for the military. From how good the bridges were constructed, I suspect this road wil be used for logging in Cambodia, now that the Thais have killed all the good trees in ther own country.
    We decided the best course of action would be to tel them that our one bike was out of gas, so we couldn't turn back just yet. They were very helpful and also wanted to take a closer look at our bikes and our protective gear, so we stayed for a short time. I then decided it could work if we tried to give them our German vodka, have a nice round of drinks and then take of, once we're friends. They offered that one of them would drive to the gas station and get some gas, but we stopped them, had some drinks, had some more, had even more (we now switched to local alc). We found out that these young men (a group of about 30) were Thai soldier border guards who livded in small wooden houses without electricity or running water out in the jungle. They had a TV and a karaoke, powered by a generator that would run from 10-10 every day. Later on they got out some small battery powered lights, got us something to eat and talked a lot to us.
    It became really late, so they asked us to stay and their commander offered us his hut. We gladly accepted, since the ride back would have been hell.
    It had become clear we wouldn't be allowed to cross and tey had guards out at night, we heard them shoot animals at night.
    The next day we left after breakfast and continued up to Bo Rai, the next border crossing we found. It's only open on certain days and only for locals. We spend 3 hours talking to various government officials to get this information.

    The next try was at Khlong Yai close to Pong Nam Ron (not to be confused by the village of the same name down colse to Hat Lek). This is the crossing to Pailin on the Cambodian side.
    The roads leading there are being overhauled, right now they are wide smooth dirt roads with only limited traffic and even less people living close by. Perfect for speeding.
    That border crossing is open for foreigners, as far as we could find out. They had already stamped our passports when they asked us for the import papers for the bikes (because of the German plates/papers). Of course, we did not have any and told them we had them in BKK. The customs guy started calling the office in Bangkok, which was the signe for us to tell him really quick hewouldn't have to do that, we would drive back and get them :)

    Well, that was kinda close!

    We decided it was time to give up, now that we knew it would be possible to cross and I had gotten some experience riding a motorcycle.
    We met some Thai friends on the way to Chantaburi who had just gotten back from a weekend trip to Angkor. They were riding in a group of about 20-25, with two cars with spares and stuff. We stopped at a restaurant, had a great evening and then continued to Chantaburi where we stayed at one of the friends house.
    We looked around for bikes to buy and bought us a Suzuki Djebel and a Yamaha Raid, with papers, no plates.
    We brought back our rented bikes to Pattaya, took the bus back to Chantaburi, picked up our bikes, decided to stay for a few more nights, because the weather was really shitty and we had a great time there.
    We then went over the border at Hat Lek without any major problems, the Thai guards were not entirely happy with our papers, since the bikes were still registered on other people and we only had photocopies of their IDs and letters saying we bought the bikes.
    The Cambodians just wanted the money for the visa (25$ each), some money for a "health inspection" and asked us for any papers from the Thai customs, but since we did not receive any, they let us go after a little bit of talking. Always good if you have some photos to show, talk a bit about football and smile alot.
    We decided on the south route, because the road from Koh Kong to Sre Ambel (150km) is one of the worst in Cambodia. It's mud, loose rock, washouts, rivercrossings and steep hills.
    The road is still under construction and Cambodians use it with normal 2WD cars and minibusses, but we saw 4WD pickup trucks stuck in the mud and there are slopes where they needed help from the military or tracks based vehicles to continue on. In some parts mud and water were almost 1 meter deep.
    It's fun to drive, if you're not scared easily and if you don't minde bumpy rides.
    Also, you'll have to pay a few dollars at each ferry (3-5 ferries), bring enough gas and water and if you refill you will only get gas from coke bottles.
    There is also no official hotel/guesthouse on the way, so do it on one day or you'll have to camp somewhere. The ferries don't run all night, and I would advise you not to ride in the dark, as we crashed our bikes twice when washouts were bigger than expected.
    There is a tiny village close to Sre Ambel, I think it's before you get to Dang Peaeng, with another ferry. If you want a nice chat, ask around for a English teacher, a Cambodian who lived in Australia before moving home. His family runs (the only?) restaurant there, were all the people meet for the evening news/series on tv at about 7-8pm.

    I was on this trip during July '05, so the information is farly new.

    Feel free to contact me if you need any further infos about the South and Southwest of Cambodia!

  7. Arne, when you are at work, do you also dream about a new motorcycle ride in Cambodia?

    So you did the border crossing on the coastline between Thailand and Cambodia at Hat Lek / Koh Kong and then the road from Koh Kong to Sre Amble, on Cambodia's Hwy 4. From there, you can either go south on Hwy 4 to Sihanoukville or north to Phnom Penh. You seem to have turned north to Phnom Penh.

    Above, you mention that you "tried the border crossing south of Phnom Penh, close to the Mekong river. It's a tiny outpost and we had hoped to have better chances there." Where was this place that you mention on the Cambodian border with Vietnam just to the south of Phnom Penh? Most likely, you found the old road along the west bank of the Brassac River which ends up at Chrey Thom, just to the north of Chau Doc. This crossing seems to be open only to local people still today. To have a look at an old (circa 1972) US military map of this area, see

    This map is "clickable". Click on any part of it for more detail. If you look closely, you will be able to find the road to the south out of Phnom Penh on the west bank of the Brassac River which ends up at Chrey Thom. Sorry to hear that you were not able to cross there.

    For readers who want to know about a border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam that is open to foreigners on even motorcycles, follow the old Hwy 2 out of Phnom Penh on this map to the Phnom Den / Tien Bien / Chau Doc crossing. This old road crossing on Cambodia's Hwy 2 is fully international today. The ride on Hwy 2 between Phnom Penh and Phnom Den takes about two hours.

    If you want to take a motorcycle into Vietnam at this crossing point, or even at the always open Bavet / Moc Bai crossing on the old Hwy 1, you are going to need be on something less than a 175 cc motorcycle which has all it's papers in order. It might be an impossible order. Probably too, you will also need to be fairly good looking.

    Maybe Arne will pull it off on his next visit to the area? Cheers,
  8. BTW, some pictures of the Phnom Den / Tien Bien / Chau Doc road are on

    Note in particular the picture of the incredible old villa that one of the Tours in the Extreme guys now apparently owns. This place is on the old road along the west bank of the Brassac River just to the south of Ta Kmau and Phnom Penh. See ... 67_jpg.htm

    "Villa de Phillipe". Maybe those French guys know something about border crossings into Vietnam?
  9. Phillipe built the house himself along the river near Kampot. He is a doctor and speaks fluent Khemer and Thai. A really nice guy (Belgian ,actually) , goes along on Bens' rally as the doctor. Adrian the guy showing a victory sign sadly had an accident in Phuket and is still not fit.We did this trip when it was wet, as you can see we got stuck a few times.
  10. Hi guys,

    I'm home now but had a few beers, am chatting with my gf so don't really feel like writing much. But I promise I will find out which place it was that we got stuck at.
    We tried to take the HW 2 but got on a road further east, right next to a river (Mekong from all we could tell). We then went cross country through farmland and always heading west, trying to get to HW 2.
    When we got there, we got there we found out that it is under construction right now. They tore down all the bridges, are resurfacing it and so on. Really bumpy and definitely more than a 2 hour ride.

    We were trying to get to a land crossing close to Chau Doc (no name on my map) because our map showed Chau Doc to be a river crossing only.

    The border crossing on the Cambodian side is only a few wooden makeshift shacks, no electricity, no water, nothing.

    On the VN side it's a concrete building, complete with TV, aircon and a baggage scanner. All of which we were able to use, since we had to stay there overnight. Border closes at around 6 pm, but is open 24h for trucks. Kept me awake all night long.

    And yes, we turned north on HW4, to PP, because we wanted to get to Vietnam and meet up with Vietnamese friends of mine at it was already Thursday, time to get visa from the embassy (didn't know at that time u can get one at Shianoukville).

    We also needed a new rear sprocket wheel for the Suzuki, only had a few spikes left on it. We had also killed one of our 4 waterthight bags (fortunately only toiletpaper, my swimming shorts and a shirt close to it) on the exhaust of the Suzuki after riding on a really bumpy part. So we figured PP would be better.

    And of course I'm always dreaming about riding again, especially since I still have 900$US in PP waiting for me. I also have a good mechanic there (will post his details soon), so am planning on flying back this Christmas.

    I will also check with the local VN embassy if they have any news for me. Local means Hong Kong, for u who haven't been paying attention :)

    I was at the border from VN to China and I saw a buch of HK 4WD cars there, seems impossible to bring them inside VN.

    But it also seems to be impossible to bring a HK bike into China. Dan, I though I could ride to work and use the bike for fun trips in China on the weekend!
    Seems like I will have to buy one in China and leave it at a friends house during the week.

    I will check my map and reply to all the questions rectravel brought up, as soon as I am sober again and my girlfriend has gone to bed :)

    Cheers, Arne!
  11. attn harrythefinn. Would you care to speculate about how much money this Belgian doctor invested in his property in Cambodia? I ask because me and my old French pals in Phnom Penh have often moaned about the investment opportunities that we missed in the early 1990s. If only we had bought some of the buildings along Quai Sisowath in Phnom Penh back then...

    If JimCA2, a frequent poster here, owns the building that he currently occupies on Quai Sisowath, he will probably never need to actually work again. Some guys have all the luck, eh?

    So how much did this Belgian doctor pay for his incredibly beautiful house? Was it really only 10,000 dollars? What is your estimate on the cost of his place?

  12. The Ta Kmau traffic circle


    Hey Arne in Hong Kong, does this seem like what you did?

    On the southern end of Phnom Penh is the big traffic circle in front of the Monivong Bridge. If you go east over the Monivong Bridge, you are on Hwy 1 on the west bank of the Mekong River which leads to Neak Luang, where there is a big ferry across the Mekong. It is no problem to take cars or motorcycles on this short ferry ride. On the other side of this ferry is the rest of the old Hwy 1 that leads to the Bavet / Moc Bai border crossing with Vietnam. This road leads directly into downtown Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City. Taking a "legal" 175 cc or less motorcycles into Vietnam at this crossing should be no problem.

    If you go south from the Monivong Bridge traffic circle, you go through an industrial area that is full of garmet factories on the way to Ta Kmau. On this road, you are on the west bank of the Brassac River. After you go over an old French bridge, you go through the center of Ta Kmau and end up at the traffic circle on the southern end of town. There, you have three choices. See the map above.

    If you turn to the left (east), you immediately come to a riverbank, which is the Brassac River, not the Mekong. You are now on the west bank of Koh Thom, which is an island between the Mekong and Brassac rivers. If you follow this road to the south, you eventually come to a junction where you turn left to continue on to the Chrey Thom border crossing. My guess is that this is what you did. You missed a look at Prime Minister Hun Sen's house... When you return to Phnom Penh in December, you will certainly check this out again. A visit to the Ta Kmau traffic circle is a simple 15 minute ride to the south of Phnom Penh.

    To get on Cambodia's Hwy 2, you need to turn to the right at the Ta Kmau traffic circle. An old online map of this junction is on ... 8_02d.html

    See the bottom right hand corner of this map. You most likely turned to the left (east) at the Ta Kmau traffic circle. On this old map, this road is labeled as Road 30. On this old map, Road 30 continues on to Chrey Thom. See the top left hand corner of this old map series on ... 8_06c.html

    Understood about trying to get between old Road 30 and Hwy 2. I tried this myself in February of 2001 with an old pal in Phnom Penh. We traveled from the west bank of the Brassac River to Hwy 2 via Angkor Borei, which is also on this old map. Angkor Borei is directly to the west of Chrey Thom. We ended up on Hwy 2 at Phnom Chisor after a great visit to many villages in this area. Highly recommended. Maybe you too will soon discover the story about the cattle markets on the Cambodian side of the border.

    Whatever the case, the only really interesting option for taking motorcycles across the border between Cambodia and Vietnam is either on the old Hwy 1 at Bavet / Moc Bai or on the old Hwy 2 at Phnom Den / Tien Bien / Chau Doc. An old map of the old Hwy 2 where it crosses into Vietnam is on ... 8_06b.html

    Now to figure out about the 175 cc rectriction, eh? Does anyone anywhere in Cambodia have legal papers or licence plates? Probably not. This is the big question now. Cheers,
  13. Does anyone anywhere in Cambodia have legal papers or licence plates? Probably not. This is the big question now.

    Yep I have a genuine registration card and plates and a genuine Cambo drivers licence - as opposed to fakes. I also have a one year mutiple entry visa..
  14. Attn: Rectravel. Don't know what Phillipe paid, he has a large lot right on the river, boat shed and all. I will try ask him next time I see him.He has been there so long I think he can get Cambodian citizenship.
    You're right about the prices, I was asking about the properties on the coast at Kep, USD$300 a square metre!That's the nearly the same price as Sukumvit road in Bangkok.Nobody can see into the future, so buy what you can use ,if you speculate sometimes you win, sometimes you get burnt.I wish I'd bought real plates for all my bikes when they were 10K baht, now they are 60-70K if you can get them.
  15. Sorry guys, don't have much time, got visitors.
    rectravel, I first took the middle option I think. When it became a kind of small road I tried to ask some people, close to a school and a temple. They made me understand that HW2 is west, so I went back a bit and used the first small path leading west we could find.
    Through a ton of small villages, not on my map.
    Heading west and south, as long as I could make out the directions by looking at the sun. Maybe I should have brought a compass, but all I had gotten my hands on in Germany was a GPS handheld - with Arabic firmware and buttons. How the **** should I know that there is no way to flash it to a different language and that the English and Arabic menu layout was different?

    Well, we found HW 2, will look on my map later for the name of the town where we emerged.

    So we did take HW2 to the border. If I look long and hard at my map I might even find the name of the towns close to it on both sides, so we can make out which crossing it was.
    It was an international one, because there was a group of backpackers crossing there, they had taken some bus to it from PP.

    Alright, gotta run, friends are calling to go out!
  16. Trucks crossing the border all night long? You had to have been at the Phnom Den / Chau Doc crossing. The road is so bad on the way to Chrey Thom, big trucks can't use it. The only crossing to the south of Bavet / Moc Bai that big trucks can use is Phnom Den / Chau Doc.

    Arne, see the three pictures on ... 91_jpg.htm ... 86_jpg.htm ... 83_jpg.htm

    Recognize anything? From Phnom Den at the end of Hwy 2, you go out onto a long dike to get to the border station on the Cambodian side. This place is surrounded by the overflow from the Mekong River. The first two pictures are looking west back towards Phnom Den. The last picture is of the Khmer border post. I can't imagine where else you were if there were trucks crossing all night. Enjoy your return visit. In Phnom Penh, check in with JimCA2. See his site on
  17. Hi again!

    I'm sorry I am really busy this week, so don't expect to hear much of me, for now.
    There wasn't a dike, although the road was elevated, there wasn't much water on the sides, except some of the rain from the last few days.

    I think the border looked even more makeshift, not painted and so on. The Cambodians had their living quarters mostly on the right side of the road (looking towards VN) on stilts.
    The border was officially closed at night, but every 20 or 30 minutes some trucks would pass through. All of the trucks were quite made for Cambodian dirt roads.
    The local people queued (mostly) on the Vietnamese side in the morning before the border was opened.
    On one of the pics rectravel linked to is a concrete building. As far as I remember there were none on the Cambodian side.
    I really need to get a hold of the photos we took in Cambodia, unfortunately I transferred them all to my mates computer back in Germany, so he needs to send them to me.
    I should be able to find out where we were as soon as a have some time to go through all my stuff, look at what I wrote down and compare notes with my map.

    Just got a 20kg delivery of all the stuff I wanted from Germany, parts for motorcycling, clothes, Christmas presents, sweets and so on! Seems it's already Christmas for me :)

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