Train ride from Bangkok to Poipet
This day follows on from a 6/7 hour journey from Bangkok to the borders of Cambodia (Poipet). It was extremely hot and smelly but provided some beautiful sceneries and interesting views of more authentic Thai villages. It was very amusing to see locals get on the train with baskets full of meat and vegetables balancing on their shoulders. There was a woman who seemed like the female version of Gendolf with a massive stick in her hand, raising it whenever she spoke to her friends.
Bear in mind, this train will only cost you US$1 (70p). If you want to experience going through Thai villages, meeting locals and not bothered about moving squat toilets, there is no better way than getting the train. When we sobered up, I found it very calming going past the greenery while reading my Tina Fey book. Backpackers who are travelling for weeks would appreciate this but if you are short for time, it’s best to fly in. If this is not your thing, you can always catch a bus or fly into Siem Reap from US$30.
Getting through the border
When we got off the train, us girls had no choice but to use the squat toilets. It was quite an experience flushing it down with the scoop and pail of water provided. At least people still flush, no matter how long a process it is of scooping water and pouring it in- you can’t even get people to flush at university when it’s just a press of a button! So yes, they are all squat toilets in Poipet so hold it in or deal with it.
If you’re hungry, there is a little shed that serves food at around $2 per main – we left that since it was infested with bugs. I’m all up for the authentic experience but I did not travel all the way to get food poisoning. We simply got some much needed refreshing bottles of Sprite before getting a Tuk Tuk to the border.
You are a fool if you forget to bring a copy of your Visa, or worst, not even get one prior to leaving your country. British passport holders will need a Visa which is easy to do online. You can still buy your Visa at the border but it is a taxing process and there is no fixed rate at that point. They will charge you what they want. Also, make sure you are getting your Visa in the office. There will be herds of people outside trying to sell you a fake Visa which is as useless as tissue.
Once we got through, we met our in-country manager, Maria, who welcomed us with ice cold water along with an air-conditioned bus. That was the definition of bliss for all of us that day. After what felt like 5 minutes, we were in Siem Reap being welcomed into Downtown Hostel.
Downtown Hostel is British owned and known for it’s party atmosphere. They employ Khmer staff who cook smashing traditional Khmer food with young Brits working at the reception and the bar. It is super clean and has air-conditioned rooms with a flushing toilet and hot showers – this is a luxury in hostels. Oh and there is a pool! Hallelujah!
The hostel had lovely hut areas next to the pool for your poolside meals. The bar serves cheap beers, watch out for 50 cent beers and occasional free beers for the ladies. Everything is on tap but the prices are so cheap, your bill when checking-out will only shock you in a good way. There is a fridge in the reception with cold water, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Just let them know your bed number and they add it to your tap. Simples.
I became less of a fussy person during this trip. The lights were not working in our dorm but we didn’t mention anything. It was quite funny and amusing using my Iphone torch to navigate around.
Ignore the reviews on Tripadvisor, there is a divide there between people who like the atmosphere in the hostel and those who only want peace and quiet. The only issue I had with this place were the geckos and that is a personal phobia rather than their fault since geckos are probaly Cambodia’s national animal.
Siem Reap centre
We wandered around the centre of Siem Reap before settling at Gecko Cafe for some Chicken Amok and Beek Lok Lak – both are two of the few traditional Khmer dishes.
My beef Lok Lak came with a fillet steak and it was lush, considering it only set me back $4. We then explored the markets which are filled with souveniors and the all-important elephant hippy trousers that all Western travellers feel the need to wear everyday (think we are all guilty of this).
Beauty Salons offering massages at $2 at every corner is a real treat when you’ve been walking all day. There were also plenty of bars and juice stalls with cafes selling pizzas with cannabis or more known as happy pizza joints.
It was pretty late so we all decided to have some beers by the pool back in the hostel. The one of the tipsier ones of our group decided we should all head out to Pub Street. Bear in mind, a few of us had not been in bed since our all-nighter in Khao San road that morning.
Pub Street is the Cambodian equivalent of Khao San Road but less dirty with fewer bars. We headed to the most popular of the lot which was the first bar to open on the street, the Angkor What?! bar. The name of this bar has left me chuckling to myself by saying “Angkor What?!” everytime someone said Angkor Wat to me. I know. I’ll shut up.
The bar was fully painted in beautiful graffitti and anyone could scribble whatever they wanted on the walls. The drinks were extremely cheap including the deadly Absinthe shots which the staff kept promoting. The boys in our group had shot after shot. We all got pretty drunks, you’d figure it was just about when all of us collectively started dancing on the tables. What I loved was that no one told you to get back down. We would have been kicked out if this happened back in Sheffield.
We then moved on to Temple Bar because they were playing My Heart Will Go On so of course, singing like we just won the X Factor was mandatory. Yes, this involved getting on top of more tables. It was emotional.
It was about 4am and we decided it was time to head back. Not before buying more drinks from the nearest 24/7 store and then jumping into the hostel’s pool. We were having swimming competitions and just having fun splashing around till sunrise. I have to say, it was the best night out I have ever had. I mean sobering up in the pool?! This hostel is great.
I know, silly youth of this day and age. We wanted to enjoy our nights before the real work the following week began. You can’t blame us really.
We went to bed when the sun was completely up and slept in before heading to the beautiful Angkor temples…
Been to Pub Street? How do you compare it to other similar streets?