New Years in Siem Reap


Apr 5, 2005
I went to Siem Reap with two Thai friends, Kuhn Prasit and Kuhn Woot, to celebrate New Years. We were all riding two-up. They had their wives and I had my gf. We were all riding BMW GS’s, two 1200’s and an 1100. We left BKK the morning of New Year ’s Eve at 7:30 AM and made Aranyaprathet in 2.5 hours. We stopped for lunch at a little Vietnamese place near the border and had a photo-opp with a gun toting Thai officer.


Crossing the border was relatively easy because the Thai’s were leading the way. I just stood in the background and let them do the talking. The first stop is at this building – where you get your temporary export papers.


The customs officer was struggling with the computerized vehicle registration system and Prasit’s wife said “I can use the computer real well”. With that said he left the booth so we could fill out the online forms and print off the “Simplified Customs Declaration Form”. Where else would a custom’s officer give you unfettered access to their computer system?


Anticipating heavy holiday border crossings we all went to the Cambodian embassy in BKK and got our visas in advance. In the end, the Cambodian immigration office was surprisingly empty and we probably could have gotten our visas there in less than 5 minutes.

Even though my Thai friends were taking the point for me, they still had to make two runs for photocopies. My advice? Take copies of your passport photo page, visa, stamp page, driver’s license, green book, and extra passport photos.

There was no mention of insurance anywhere; it appears that none is required. Nonetheless, before I left I called AON and arranged to have my first class coverage extended to Cambodia – 880 THB for up to a month in KH.

After we received our temporary export papers we rode to Thai passport control and parked the bikes next to the fence. We walked up like we were VIP and were shuffled to the front of the queue that was outside in the sun. It still took 30 minutes to get stamped out of TH. From there we went back outside and made a U-turn back to the little office that is just east of where you get stamped back into TH for the “Information of Conveyance” form. There was a helpful little Thai kid working there and we paid 20 or 30 baht for copies. Once we had these forms we went back to the bikes, stopped at the little guard shack and were given permission to leave TH.

On the Cambodian side, things were much simpler. Since we already had visas, I stayed behind with the bikes while the others went to get stamped in. Good thing I did because the 3 big bikes were like magnets for the dozen or more mocy taxi drivers who had their hands all over them.

Total time to cross border: just under 2 hours.

The road to Siem Reap can be broken up into three pieces. The total distance is 157 km. the first 50 km from Poipet to Sisophon is mostly sealed with potholes that could ding a rim if you’re not careful. There were stretches where you could get up to 100 kmh but they were few and far between. From Sisophon to Kralanh the road was dirt, red dirt, with lots of dust, red dust. 60 kmh was my max average speed for this stretch. There are several bridges on this stretch, most were steel covered, many with holes you could easily lose your front tire in. The most dangerous part of riding this rode was when someone would overtake you. The horn is the universal KH overtaking signal, when you hear it you should move over. Check your mirrors and you can tell if you should move to the left or the right. After being overtaken, there was often 10-15 seconds where you just couldn’t see the road surface because of the dust. I took it all in stride until I almost lost my passenger when I hit a big bump in the road with 25 meters of really soft dirt after it. She didn’t fall off and we all had a good laugh.


There was some interesting demining activity going on. This photo doesn’t show any sweeping but there really were sweepers right next to the road.


From Kralanh to Siem Reap is 25 km of dirt (like the previous section) and the last 25 km are sealed with only occasional pot holes.

Once in Siem Reap we left the bikes parked. You can ride them to the Angkor area but you can’t take them inside. For $20/day you can hire a tuk tuk to take you everywhere you want to go.

Stopping for a Buddhist funeral.


Photo of Khmer kids playing snooker on the side of the road.


Cute little Khmer kids. It seemed like everywhere we went there were naked little Khmer kids running from their homes waving and yelling “hello!”


There is a small temple of the way to Angkor that chronicles Pol Pot’s heyday. This kind of thing makes me so damned angry. There were smaller chedi’s with children’s remains in them and a small story board the showed how they would turn the kids loose and tell them that if they ran fast enough they might not get shot.


Would I do it again? Yes, but on my XR250, not two-up on a GS. I would also make sure not to try the dirt roads in the rainy season.


If I wasn't doing this, I'd be doing something else...