Sunday, January 04, 2015

Trip to Thailand and Cambodia

We had planned a Christmas New Years trip to Thailand and Cambodia But just before leaving we realized that my wife's passport (Russian national) was going to expire in less than two months and we read on official websites and were informed by the Thai embassy that to enter Thailand one needed at least 6 months passport validity to get a visa on arrival !!! ... we thought of getting an emergency passport from the Russian embassy but unfortunately they don't provide this option they will only provide a worthless letter stating that your passport is in renewal process ... we thought our vacation was ruined and over even before starting.


We finally called the Thai immigration services at the Bangkok international airport and were informed that you actually only need a passport valid for the duration of your stay ...  we called again the next day to make sure the information was accurate but then worried that the carrier might not let us board the flight from Spain, so we called them and they confirmed that she only needed a passport valid for the period of her stay. 




By now we knew that the Thailand part of the trip was going to be ok but had doubts about the Cambodian part of the trip ... we called the Cambodian embassy in several countries and were given different answers some saying 2 months valid passport needed others 6 months others did not even answer the phone.


At this point we decided to deal with the Cambodian issue in Thailand, we decided not to take the pushchair which turned out to be a good choice even though it meant carrying Eva Maria 20 months old baby practically everywhere (good exercise).  


Pack the minimum ... I would advise your traveling clothes, Ipad mini, two smart phones, kindle, car usb charger, sunglasses, moz spray, pain killers, imodium, copy of all documents, passport pictures, backup battery for phones, ear plugs, sleep mask, one pair of shorts, speedo bathing trunk, one extra t shirt, money belt, two credit cards, sticker books for kids inflight entertainment ... the rest you can buy in Khao san rd.

T-shirt 150 Baht, Mens Bathing trunk 300 Baht, Thai fisherman pants 150 Baht, Shorts 500 Bahts, Water tight bag 30 liters 600 Baht (do not buy local ipod iphone ipad chargers).

After an uneventful flight on an double deck Airbus A380 we arrived in BKK and decided to take a taxi to Khao San Rd. where we had booked a room in the Buddy Lodge the only place with a pool in the area (very good choice considering the heat).

The taxi dispatch system at the airport was very efficient we were given a ticket and got into the taxi assigned to us straight away ... the taxi driver offered to not turn on the taximeter on and give us a "discount" price I declined and pulled out my iphone and mapped our destination using google maps (you can get a Thai sim card with data plan at airport for something like 400 Baht) ask to use the highway and pay the toll fees yourself about 75 Baht ounce arrived at destination pay the meter fee plus 50 baht airport surcharge total about 400 Baht.

Try and not eat on Koh san Rd. look up restaurants in the near vicinity using trip advisor ... I am a electronics fan so I took a tuk tuk to Pantip Plaza and paid the tuk tuk 100 Baht to go 150 to come back ... we also went around BBK using the fluvial public transportation, went to the Jim Thompson House and had foot massage (should have gotten a complete one as its weird to have your legs feel like new but the rest of your body feeling old).

We then flew to Samui rented a car for six at a cost of 1700 baht a day with full international insurance ... we checked the car from every angle as well as information on contract that we required in two copies and check the registration plate numbers on contract coincided with the ones on car ... we had a clause included that whatever happens we would only be liable up to 10000 Baht.

Samui was a bit of a let down ... it has become more like San Antonio Ibiza with ugly French,Russian and British tourists. Places that used to be cute like Fishermans Village have lost their appeal, local restaurants replaced by fast food chains and French "cuisine" the rest of the Island is also being built up at an alarming rate never the less I would advise the Secret Buddha Garden, The Waterfalls (walk it), Na Thon night food market, French Kiss Thanod for belgian beer and great seafood as well as private boat trips, Kalasea Bangkham beach for breakfast and cute beach, there is also a place just when you turn off for Fishermen's Village which is an open air restaurant open till 5 am cheap and spicy, there is also the ladyboy cabaret in Lamai which is fun and on departure free wifi and food at the airport.

Now for the adventure part CAMBODIA

So we fly back to BBK and call Cambodia Angkor Air concerning Olgas passport issue, Mr Varik assures us that in the worst case scenario we may have to sign a waiver and be able to board the flight and that we would probably pay a fine on arrival.

So we head for the airport the next day but unfortunately Olga is denied boarding so I ask for a written reason for denial of boarding by the airline which is at first refused and then supplied to me after threats of going to the tourist police and airport authority.

30 minutes later I go for plan B, we get into a taxi (you should pay about 2000 baht) and head for border with Cambodia Poipet weaponized with US dollars and a smile we get to destination after 3 hrs on the road and crossing 5 car accidents. 

Once there we cross the Thai border and arrive in a no man's land between Thailand and Cambodia where you will find a Casino and a lot of "helpers" ... we get a translator and explain the issue he tells us no problem and gets us the visa required at a cost of 30 USD visa fee and 50 USD per person helpers fee ... all done passports and visa in hand we enter Cambodia pay a taxi 2000 Baht and head for Siem Reap and the Angkor temples ... Fuck Cambodia Angkor Air.

3 hours Later we arrive to destination after having driven through the night and seeing these blue neon tubes all over the fields (looked like alien landing strips) the farmers use to attract grasshoppers they eat.

That night I meetup with my cousin and we go out to "Laundry" a bar with the perfect mix of locals and expats live music, local dj's and cheap drinks finally get a tuk tuk home at 2 am  for 1.5 USD 

The next day I get a tuk tuk driver Mr Cheng and agree on a price for him to be with us from 8am to 12pm for the duration of our stay, we visit an average of three temple a day, go on a lake with a boat for sunset, visit the war museum, eat at a very nice restaurant called Olive but most of all enjoy the people and place especially late at night driving through the deserted streets and amazing temples.

The Conclusion is that the best part of Thailand is Cambodia :)  Angkor we will be Back :)