Author Topic: Bkk-Cambodia(S.R, P.P, S.T)-Laos(Si Pan Don, Pakse,Champasak, Vientiane)-U.Thani  (Read 3062 times)

Offline coo1J4m

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Just completed my 3 wks of tour in these countries....Thailand, Cambodia n Laos (Southern)
Met some interesting plp, incidents, good n bad along my trip. Which i would like to share with travellers here with a more up-to-date review.

Day 1-3 (BKK)
Bangkok was not on my plan initially, due to some convincing by my pals to celebrate 2007 at one of their frequent clubs (disco) tempted me to depart for my trip in advanced.
Shared n Stayed at Khao san road: riverside guesthouse (280B) n forget the name of the other one(anyway it sucks, not worth mentioning, 280B). It was always my intention to stay in Khao san Rd, bcos of the wonderful cafe, cheap western food n cosy beer garden. However, the guesthouse there r really not really gd quality, ex, lack of basic admentities (towel, toliet roil n blanket..Etc) Totally disappointed!!!
Anyway, the clubs over there were really a turn on. The design, Pricing, crowd n size are so much better than the top clubs in SG. No wonder my friends cant stop going bkk for clubbing. It was defernately an eye-opener n a good way to embrace 2007 despite the bombings. Big Clubs are normally concentrated at 'RTC' n 'SENTICA'...highly recommanded to all travellers who are yearning to get wild in Bkk.

Day 4- On to Cambodia
Aft clubbing, a pal n i went straight to Mo Chit bus terminal to catch the early bus to Arthya Prathet, the thai border town. 4-5 Hrs, 200B(shld b correct price). Managed to catch some zzz on the way there. To get to the border, a tuk-tuk is recommanded(ard 100B). Pls Do Not Walk From the bus Station!!!! No departure tax needed in the thai side. Aft crossing the boarder, do look ard for taxi (old toyota corolla) to get to Siem reap(S.R).
Caution
*This boarder is typically full of touts, swindlers from bus company. The price they quote to Siem Reap is unlike what lonely planet written. Esp if you are a foreigner. price can be usually 10-20 times more. The swindlers usually wait for tourist at the thai boarder, pretending to guide you through he custom n teach you cambodian culture. Telling you he/she is working for the cambodian govt. THIS IS A SCAM!!! Once you get to the cambdian side, they will offer a free ride to the bus station (Their bus station). Many tourist includ my pal n me got taken for a ride. Upon reaching the bus station they will 'force' you to buy the ex taxi tickets (80 USD) or a late bus tix (10USD) n tell you lotsa stories on y u muz choose their taxi. NV FALL INTO YOUR OWN FEARS!!!

MY ENCOUNTER:
"Both of us were lucky to meet 2 japanese who oso find their tix overpriced. We decided to walk back to the boarder under the blazing hot sun, 2km away. The swindlers didnt give up, they are waiting for us at the boarder, trying their mind games on us again. the fed up part was that whenever we went to tok to other taxi drivers abt the price to siem reap, they would run over n stop them from negotiating the price wif them. It took us 30 mins, untill 1 of the japanese n me got so piss off that we yell at them. Still they persist!!! We saw a hand waving at us n it was a taxi driver. We really run towards him n immediately asked him for the price, 50USD.  It was really our luck, over priced. Maybe 4 of us are tired n we agree to his price. The swindlers came over to warned us the risk of taking his taxi, n the next ting that happen was really like what u normally saw in the movies. The 50USD taxi driver's friends emerged from their own cars n moved towards the swindlers n push them away. The whole situation was so chaotic n i belief 4 of us (at least my pal n me) were terrified. The taxi driver yell at us "Get into the car, dun care abt them." The rest of his friends 'escorted' us up to the taxi. The outnumbered swindlers could only watch helplessly as we left the rowdy town of Poi Pet.* At least, the ride was smooth n the toyota was comfortable. Welcome to Cambodia!!!!  ;D
Another Scam is the bus ride from Khao San to Siem Reap,(highlighted by Lonely Planet too) Pls avoid it too!!! I met a French Gal in P.P who told me abt her enounter. BEST IS TO AVOID THE POI PET BORDER ALTOGETHER!!!   :P

Pol Pet - Siem Reap 4-5 hours depending on road condition.
1 USD = 4000 RIELS
Angkor Beer = 7000-8000R


Siem Reap (3.5days)
========
Arrive in Siem Reap checked in at Mommy Guest house (recommanded by LP) 5 USD/day (attached bathroom, two queen sized bed, clean, towels) Owner loos fierce n cunning upon 1st impression, he is fierce when i saw him lecturing his naughty daughter. Anyway he is a nice guy n willing to share u info abt S.R n other parts of Cambodia. He recommand us to go watch sunset at angkor wat via a shared taxi n get the 3 day pass to angkor wat at the same time. The pass got ur photo on it wan, like so cool. ;D  As for angkor wat, i dun haf to describe liao. Like Taj Mahal, it WOW you. 2nd DAY, watch sunrise @6am. then the taxi would bring us ard the famous angkor era site within the angkor wat area. We tot we haf seen it all, till the 3rd day, we cycle ard the area(at least 40km, trust me!!!). from 8am to 3pm non-stop n we oso skip some small temple in that area. arriving at a restraunt exhausted, sun burned n high. Then something happen...someone stole one of our bike(Look below).
 
*Taxi to watch sunset 1USD Each; whole day taxi 10USD each*
*3-day Pass 40USD-worth it to me cos its one of the 7 wonder in the world*
*1 USD for a day rent bicycle*
*For plp looking for good affordable food n cheap beers i recommand old market for dining n there are guesthouse ard. so you will be spoilt for choice. Beer can be as cheap as 50cent-75cent per glass. Both of us really drown ourself on the last nite in SR. :-[

Caution:
*we sprint towards the 'thief' riding on our bike, thanks to the locals who saw him took the bike. To our amazement, the 'thief' mistook the bicycle for his, aft he was able to open up the lock of the bike wif his keys N i could open my friend's lock wif my keys as well. We had to spend another 10-15 mins helping the poor chap look for his bicycle. He mention a bike could cost 40-50USD if lost(lucky for both of us haha). In the end we found his bike. PLS BRING UR OWN LOCK IF YOU PLANNING TO RIDE A BIKE!!! Although this incident is unpleasent for both of us, bicycyling in angkor wat area is still one of the best experience throughout the whole trip. Recommanded to travellers who love to sweat n get sun burn like me. >:D  However, go with a tuk tuk in the 1st day n mind map the whole route from the city to angkor wat 1st b4 doing so ya. :P

Phnom Penh(3.5)
==========
Took an early bus to P.P. 4-5 hours journey time; cost 4 USD.
Once you arrive, prepare to be mugged by countless numbers of Tuk-tuk Drivers. All of them trying to persude you to hop on to their car. Veri chaotic. Another caution i will highlight below.
Stayed at Narin Guesthouse. P.P is unlike S.R where the streets are much cleaner n more orderly. I would say the capital has a more cambodian feel. Still i recommand plp to go there for the genocide during the evil pol pot regime.  Toul sleng genocide museum, choeung Ek killing field(outskirt) are a must see. The museum make me so emotional n depress for a while plus the pictures of victims, some are covered in blood, body with holes n dead when the vietnamese invaded cambodia. Fcuking inhuman!!! Killing field was very plain to me compared to the museum. Iwas told by a traveller in laos that if you are willing to spend some $$ on a guide at the field, you will find it very interesting. The guide he got was a survivor of the regime n the stories he tell the tourist are filled with sorrow, pain n hardship. The rest of the placs i went to are the national museum, where you can see ancient artifact,painting by French artist Roden Etc Interesting. The entrance is veri relaxing to sit down n chill. Royal palace n silver pagoda are dissappointing, most of the buildings in there are closed!!! so you might want to give a 2nd tot when visiting there.
For my 3 dinners, both of us ate steamboat almost everyday. The taste of the soup n the freshness of the ingridence were probably the main factors that lure us. HIGHLY RECOMMANDED!!! Just say soup to the cambodians, they will koe.

*Narin guesthouse is situated in the centre of the places of interests i have visited except the fields. walking shld not be more than 15mins, provided u are equipped wif a good map in hand. the boss is a v.friendly person. The road there are veri confusing, the house no dunt follow in order n if you wan to get to somewhere, DO TAKE NOTE OF THE STREET NO!!! :P *
*Toul Sleng Museum entrance 2 USD; Killing field 3USD, tuk tuk shld not be more than 2 USD to n Fro; National museum 3 USD, 1USD for camera, 3 USD FOR v.cam; Royal palace & silver Pagoda 3 USD, 2 for cam n 5 for v.cam(note: wear pants or skirt that cover at least knee level, if not pay 1-2 USD for rental!!!)*
*to airport shld be ard 2-5 USD 20KM plus from city*
*barber =2500R beware of cheats, whom my pal paid dbl price for a trim*
*Lucky burger,a macdonalds alike serve veri good burgers n fries. price for a meal range 1.50-2.60 USD*
Caution:
My pal told me that when i was busy searching our backpacks, a tuk tuk driver called out my name that i have made a reservation with this guesthouse. Luckily my pal didnt reply back to that anoymous guy n told me aft we have reach the guesthouse!!!!

*The only thing that really turn me off in Cambodia is the '1 dollar kids' (i gave them the name!!). They are everywhere, trying to squeez a dollar out of you. n u give one many other will come to you. Some tries to sell you postcards n such for a dollar n pester you all the way even when u r enjoying a meal. One of them insulted me for not buying enough even though i bot from her a braclet which i didnt need. sad n sorry to say that i really had a phobia of the cambodian kids whenever i sees them. it either burn a hole in my pockets or leave me feeling guilty*

Steung Trang (1.5)
===========
Only one bus connecting P.P to S.T (thats what the guesthouse owner told me) appox 9 hours bus ride...which take you pass town like kampong clam n kratie. Both offer peace n tranquility to travellers who wana see the irrawady dolphins n looking forward for a good rest.  S.t offer the same type of comfort minus the dolphins. Its where plp who r going into laos will come to this boarder town to rest for the nite. I was attracted to its peaceful-ness, less commercialized enviroment. only a handful speak understandable english. Th bus to S.T was so cambodian that i was the only non-local on board n an old couple of chinese nationality which i realise during the lunch stop. It offer a glimse of how friendly n less deciving cambodians r. i managed to mingle with a lady with her cute son plaing with the strap of my wasitpouch. An old man offer to shre wif mi his lunch of fried little fish, which i indeliberatly turn him off when i spit the fish aft the 1st bite- phobia to fish bones, a normal reaction if i chew on fish bones.
Stayed in Sekong guesthouse for only 3 USD per nite, comes with towels, blanket, two hard beds n a bathroom. What attreacted me to stay there was the wooden bench outside my room where i can sit down, smok a smoke, drink a beer or read a book while glazing at the big garden in front. The only turn off was the swarm of mosqitoes. Food is dirt cheap n a local enviroment makes me feel at ease.
*Sekong guesthouse offer a bus trip to si pan don 10 USD or to pakse for $15, judging from the price stated in LP(self arranged), its defernately worth it n hassle-free.*
*those who got lotsa time to spare, S.T can be a place to recharge ur energy*

Si Phan Don(4.5)
=========
7am the mini van came to pick me up, the 10usd include the ferry to the opposite end of the bank and the ferry to don det or don khong in si pan don, laos. Both the cambodian n laos checkpoint r just simple huts, n the custom officers are so slack. the laos guy was playing poker wif his friend when i arrive. I arrive at namshek to board a longboat to don det. stayed in Mr Tho's guesthouse 1.5USD per nite, shared bathroom, no blanket . Sitting down at the guesthouse eatery i realise si pan don gives me a veri lazy feeling. Which i oso later realise the use of the hammock. I doze off easily just minutes aft lying down. in the day, i can see the fisherman or kids playing in the water outside my room at nite, lying down on the hammock i can glaze at the stars (so much stars i have ever seen in my life) with a bottle of beer lao in my hand. The best part staying in the island is that i can see many farm  animals(1st time touching a pig n chasing little chicks n ducklings) n cycle one of the most difficult tracks in my life. i managed to join a tour to see the irrawady dolphins n the largest waterfall in SEA, but at a costly price of 20USD. Thats the price of one person cos i walk to almost every tour grp on the island n was shoced to find that no one was going to visit the 2 sites. if i were to find another 4 plp i pay only a mere 8 USD. At least i got a consolation, aft visitng the both sites, i was invited by my guide to his friend's newborn baby ceremony. I learned to interact with the villagers, observed their culture n the good part i get to eat traditional lao food (straight from the farm), lao lao n beer lao for free. Really had a good time...the guide's name was Nar, tour grp he own was called the ''welcome to short island". i recommand him to travellers going to both sites.

*The island is running on individual generator, depending on ur guesthouse, normally 9pm the generator would shut off. Prepare a touch!!! at nite if u r going out for a walk oso bring a touch. its pitch black*
*betel nuts r quite popular on the island, marijuana too. So junkies shldn't be disappointed.*
*Cambodian side u need to pay a departure tax of 2 USD n the lao side would prefer a processing of 1 USD, however, you can choose not to pay those fees, if you haf one grp of plp who dare to stand against it*
*spend a day to cycle(1 USD). ride through rough terrians, test your endurance n stamina, encounter broken railway tracks (built by the french to transport goods from the river into laos).*

Caution:
*1 USD = 9675 KIPS. MOST PLACES WOULD B LIKELY TO SETTLE BETWEEN 9000 TO 9500 KIPS EXCEPT BANKS, DUN GIVE IN TO AN EXCHANGE BELOW THAN 9000KIPS. EITHER YOU REQUEST TO RECIEVE UR CHANGE IN USD WHEN U PAY IN USD OR SIMPLY GO TO THE BANK N GET THE KIPS*

Pakse (2.5)
=========
5-6 USD to pakse..local bus.3-4 hours. Not really a bus thought, a small pick up where many many plp try to squee into. If you haf sensitive bum good luck, the seat r hard with a thin layer of cushion. Movement is strictly limited, you feel like sadines in a can. Stayed at Narin guesthouse (6 USD) cable tv, shared bathroom, 2 big beds,towel, toliet paper n bottled water provided. Acheaper alternative is to stay in sabaidy 2 guesthouse, veri popular n much cheaper. can get full easily s most plp headed there after arriving in Pakse. They offer tours to Unesco sute Wat Phu Champasak, Bolevan pleateau, Sepon-Ho Chi Minn trail, Village tours Etc-i tink the only one that organise tour to these sights. Sign up for the bolaven pleateau @15 USD/pax. Heartpain at 1st, but it changes when i spend the whole day viewing, tea n coffee plantation, 3 waterfalls n 2 villages. Free sample of tea,coffee n lunch. A good place to stock up soverniers as well. The waterfall were spectacular (the 1st two), villagers r friendly esp the kids, which i spend time trying to play wif them. You can choose to stay at the guesthouses or resort nearby the villagers n the 3rd waterfall. It came to me as a surprise that no tourist to pakse r interested in visiting Wat Phu Champasak. I managed to self book a tuk-tuk that nite that would bring mi to champasak @ 20 USD including the ferry to n fro across the river at champasak. Wat phu is badly maintained n re contrustion r going under way. The steps up to the top is long n tedious, worst still, its burning hot tat day i was there. Many visitors climb all the way up to take a good photograph and/or to see the scared water that drip from the cave. Total 3 levels: lower, middle n upper.
The wat phu museumis at the entrance near the ticket booth so dun miss it. All the well maintain artifacts from the wat phu r stored there. Certification of wat phu champasek as a unesco world site is also on displayed there.

*Sign up for bolaven pleateau tour if you haf the means and/or time. Most plp who been there nv regretted it*
*use a towel, thicker the better, to put under ur bottoms while taking the local bus. It helps ur bottom-taught by a fellow traveller*
*Do Donate to Wat Phu, its a Unesco world heritage site. THe reason for Unesco to protect ancient strutures is for all humanity, Do it for our children n grandchildren to be able to see the past.*
*Nazim indian restraunt sell dirt cheap, delicious indian food*
*VIP seater bus cost 11USD to vientiane (dinner included). VIP sleeper bus cost 13 USD where u can lie down 180 degrees n zzz comfortably. However, not recommanded for travellers with height more than 1.75m. Both bus leave at 8:30 am arrive @ 6am*

Vientaine (2)
==========

Second visit n could by the last one in many yrs to come. Saw pha tat luang, patuxi during my last visit. Tis time i went si saket, national museum n buddha park for my 2 days in vientiane. of the 3 places, the one that i really like n way above all isthe national museum, just opposite of the cultural centre. Dun be fool by the boring appearance. The items exhibits there are truely magnificent n educational. dINOsaurs bones found in laos, plain of jars, artifacts from the ancient times n theb photos fight for independance from the french n yankees. Stayed in syri 2 guesthouse 6USD/day (one of the worst place i ever stayed in) not recommanded. Visited 2 so called friends over there who r running eateries. Peak season rite now so its possible to see hordes of tourist ard the place. bus tickts can be bought from talao sao (morning market) to other parts of the country. Local bus only!!

*Due to the peak season, hotels, guesthouses are expected to raise their pricing. you will tend to give in to such outrageous pricing, becos most guesthouses are full. even the lousy place i stayed in had a full sign on the door everynite*

* Local bus is alot cheaper than VIP buses operated by private companies. For example a ticket to vien vieng cost only 2-3 USD n VIP bus is 6-7 USD. Difference is that local bus tend to stop at different places along the way n pick up passengers,mostly local. n u might need to cramp in a seat with 2 other plp in a seat meant for only 2. i was lucky the other time cos i was sitting with 2 chio bu.haha. private bus touts will be at the market to frighten tourist with lies abt the poor condition of local buses, so beware!!! I would only recommand VIP Bus either if you wan a veri veri comfortable ride with only ang mohs or you r on a trip of more than 5-6 hours.*

*Bad thing abt local bus is that the bus signs r all in lao, no english wording. Dun wori abt finding a booth to purchase ur tix, you pay only when u board the bus. another trick use my touts*

*Bus to nong khai n udon thani are avaliable at 55B n 80B respectively, timings of the bus can be found at the sign with english wording at the bus station n tickets are allowed to b bought on the day of departure at least 2 hours b4 moving off. so its a 1st come 1st serve basis.*
*If you are like me who hate to go 2 hours b4 hand, an alternative way would be to take a local bus, same bus to buddha park, to the check point. 30 mins the most, but u got to squee abit, the pirce is super super cheap @ 4000 Kips.

*departure tax is 2500kips when u reach the boader. aft clearing the lao side, take a shuttle bus (10 B) across the friendship bridge to nong khai thai customs. from there take a taxi of ard 50-100B to nong khai bus station(unless u r staying overnite in N.K or pay another 400-500B to Udon thani, you can ask the driver to stop u at any place in nong khai) n pay anoother 35B for a air con bus to udon thani.*

*those taking a train to BKK can follow the above route untill the thai custom n pay a tuk tuk of 50B to the nong khai train station where you can get train tickets to many parts of thailand at a cheaper price of at least 200 bht of the tix u buy in vientiane(which doesnt inculde the fees of shuttle bus between boarder as well). timings of train to bangkok is either veri early in the morning or evening. sleeper train 12 hrs.*

Caution
There are private bus company offer a free ride to the centre of nong khai at the thai border, so pls dun hop on it. Tis time i didnt kana liao, once bitten twice shy.

*Forget to add that for those who love a good cup of coffee n sandwiches, a morning breakfast at the scandinavian bakery or Joma are highly recommanded. costlier than normal food but its the taste n quality of food that counts.*

Udon Thani (2)
=========
Arriving at the udon thani bus station, i hire a tuk tuk to the city to find a guesthouse or hotel (decided to pamper myself abit b4 concluding my trip). Dont try to walk, cos u need to cross a fast moving traffic road aft u walked out of the bus station. dun risk ur life for a 50B-100B!!!!
Private pick ups can be board on but i dun koe where it will lead mi to, so bold travellers can give it a try ya  ;D stayed at a motel for 450B per nite with aircon, hot shower, mini bar, cable tv. Close to a 7-11 n a supermarket where ican buy my beers n cigarettes easily. Spend 2 days drinking n drinking. LOL. its easy to find local eatery outlets with cheap thai food or pizza. At nite, the outlets are closed. streets hawkers gather by the streets, so you will b spoilt for choice. Morning market are also nearby for travellers who are interested. My favourite means of transport are human rickshaw which cost only 40-50B. It veri veri slow, yet it give you the oppotiunity to look at the udon streets more clearly. most rickshaw  are old men competing with the younger tuk tuk drivers. Do give the old bones the chance to earn to earn your $$ if you could. The only shopping place i koe of is robinson. not an ideal place to buy stuff thought. opposite of robinson, you can find internet, bars, western eatries n MAssage for only 150B.

*The tuk tu ride from the city to airport cost ard 80-100B*
*Departure tax is 400 B*
*Tiger airways doesnt haf a proper check in counter currently, they are 'borrowing' the air asia counter, it will be open 2 hours b4 departing.*


Hopefully travellers will find my info useful, if there are any comments or quires abt the places i went to. PLs feel free to ask or post. Thanks  ;D 
« Last Edit: Sep 22, 11, 09:55 AM by Karel »

Offline coo1J4m

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Poi Pet was terrible but cambodia was nice. i got so depress once i reach SG, maybe i miss the days of recent trip. :'(  lotsa nice locals n foreigners, the beer n the carefree zhou bo life.

I am dreaming of shangri-la, the monestry and mountains of tibet in july...just a dream rite now as i dun koe how much will i be able to save and how exactly enthu are my pals  ???



Offline hyun

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hi cooljam,

haven't got the chance to go up Mekong via Stung Treng, but while i was at si phan don, i was told that the dolphins hang around more on the cambodian side of the border, and to get closer to see them, it'd be better done in cambodia (kratie perhaps?).  is that true?  some people were telling me their boat from si phan don stopped quite a distance from the dolphins cos they were mostly hanging around on the other side.

one vivid memory i kept, and perhaps it isn't just specific to southern laos but strangely i didn't see it to obviously in the rest of laos, are the highway salespeople.  whenever public transport stops at a major stop, 5-10 sellers of exactly the same local produce (some kind of radish or some vege, can't remember) would rush up jubilantly for the kill, swamping the truck .. then return to their stalls to wait for the next victim.  was very entertaining watching them, hehe.

did u notice that the famous photos of Wat Phu Champasak has as the centrepiece the building that was built by that whatshisname king or prince about 100 years ago?  the building that got cleared away during restoration of the temple.  ironically that's one of the most scenic elements of that temple :)

i see u went up vientiane.  for those who intend to cross the Pakse border into thailand, i have to recommend the cliff paintings on the thai side of the border.  at a point also marketed as the "eastern most point of thailand".  they're some 2000-4000 years old and have as much of qualities of an artistic masterpiece as almost any other decent caveman's painting u can find ... at least, in the region :)  i have yet to encounter interesting cave paintings much in east asia.  any1 can recommend?

Offline coo1J4m

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Hi hyun

Yup...the boat stopped at a distance from the dolphins. It possible to get a good view of the dolphins if they are far away. needless to say photos of it. i m quite lucky to catch a pair of dolphines jumping up the water simultaneously in front of me. Kratie is the place to view the dolphines @ the cambodian side. Heard there is a dolphin protection organisation over there to protect the mammals.so you can take that into consideration if you happen to be in Cambodia.

The highway seller are indeed interesting...mostly sell food during my trip. very cheap local snacks which i didnt hesitate to try. :D

Wat phu was under restoration when i was there..n yes i did notice the centre potion of the temple. looks quite odd to me initially..untill you told mi its part of the conservation. thanks for solving my doubts.  ;D  however, if anyone ever travel to wat phu with a laos lonely planet book could explain to me how did the photographer took the photo of wat phu? i can find that similar view from the book when i climb up the stairs. ???

Offline hyun

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that centre building was torn down about maybe 5-10 years ago during restoration.  it's gone.  u walked on its foundation when u came in from below - it's sited between the two flank buildings.

but really, that angle of photo is one of the most pretty in that site, cos that site isn't amenable to many wide-angle compositions.  so most people end up taking close ups.