Bangkok to Siem Reap

Fri, 23 May 2008 08:42:37 +0000

Back in Bangkok Index Angkor Day 1

Today was about flying from Bangkok to Siem Reap. The last time I flew was Medan to Kuala Lumpur, and I noticed the same effect then. Somehow, a one-hour flight always manages to chew up an entire 16 hour day.

I had one big chore to do before leaving, which was book my hotel. I was keen to do this, because it sounds like Siem Reap is chock full of hotels, almost none of which are suitable for me, and some of which use highly dodgy practices to drum up custom. But Wikitravel recommended a couple of places, including one which includes an airport pickup service. That seemed like a really good idea.

But this involves making an international phone call. I made a domestic phone call to book my flight, and that was straightforward. But making an international call is more complex. The phone in the hostel doesn't do international, and the call centre next door was still closed, so that left phone boxes. There are vast numbers of these on this particular stretch of Sukhumvit road, all different. Some claim to accept credit cards, but not my credit cards. Some claim to be international. Some use "007" as the international prefix, some use something more complex that presumably works out cheaper, if you can get it to work, which I couldn't. Some are broken. Some only have instructions in Thai. One of them has an aluminium bar over the door at precisely 172cm above the floor - I measured this in the most painful way possible.

I eventually found one that would place a call to Cambodia. It turns out that 10 baht buys you about 10 seconds of talk time to Cambodia. Given that 10 baht is the highest denomination coin in Thailand, this makes life rather hard. In two phone calls I managed to make the booking, with a break in the middle to hunt down more change.

So with that out of the way, I called a taxi to take me to the airport. I must admit, it's kinda nice to have a uniformed bloke flag down your taxi for you. Pretty bizarre given that this is only an el cheapo youth hostel. But this was an opportunity to sample the new look free-flowing Bangkok traffic. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on the public transport system: it certainly does seem to have helped.

Bangkok airport is one of the saner examples of the species, and I had no trouble there. Remarkably, my EUR 130 ticket somehow gets me access to Bangkok Airways' lounge, which is rather nice. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of power points, or proper plush sofas, but it does have free coffee, cold drinks, and cakes, as well as free internet terminals. Unfortunately I'd already eaten lunch in an attempt to use up my remaining baht, so I wasn't able to abuse these facilities in quite the way I would have liked. But I did my best.

Bangkok to Siem Reap is, unsurprisingly, a prop plane rather than a jet, so I got a good view from under the wing. They even supplied a meal, which effectively formed my third lunch of the day. I slogged my way through it nevertheless. After all, I paid for that meal.

Siem Reap airport is tiny, possibly the smallest I've ever landed at. Certainly there's no passenger tunnels or anything, it's strictly walk-out-onto-the-apron stuff. Since it's so small, immigration was very quick, even with everyone having to apply for visas on arrival. I'm very glad I opted to do it this way, rather than at Poipet.

We were about 20 minutes early, and my lift to the hotel wasn't there yet. He turned up, apologising profusely, dead on 4:30, the time I said I'd be there. Nice guy. Extremely long fingernails, which is either a local fashion, or intended as a sign that he doesn't do manual labour, or both.

The hotel room looks fantastic, none of the grubby rubbish I'm used to. The hot water is a little anaemic, but that's my only complaint. Probably the most luxurious hotel room I've ever paid for.

For some reason I feel absolutely knackered this evening. It's not like it's been a particularly long or stressful day. I really should do several jobs: explore the area, book an expedition to Ankor Wat tomorrow, book my ferry ride to Phnom Penh, and so on. But all I feel like doing is collapsing in front of the TV. I expect I'll sort out tomorrow's plans tomorrow morning.

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