Thailand & Cambodia – Summer of 17 part-1

Post-trip depression syndrome (PTDS)!  We coined this term recently but the feelings go back to the very beginning….

Do other Ghumakkars suffer from this too? It’s like, you are back from ‘there’ (that golden, gratifying somewhere) unpacking the bags; and your mind starts to get numb, weighted down by dark thoughts of the grind lying ahead (office /boss/college/teacher or whatever). That depressing WTF (Wednesday Thursday Friday) again feeling!!!!!  

OK, for them who are prone to PTDS like us, Sharmi has divined a remedy – start dreaming about your next trip as soon as PTDS hits you. Just calm down and compose yourself, take out your secret map or guide book or internet saves or whatever; and tell yourself that the next trip is coming soon. Gradually, friends, you will notice the clattering mind settling down to its normal rhythm. But remember, lest the mind attains too much of normalcy, you have to keep the idea of next trip (‘even better than before’) alive ☺

We embarked on a repeat (or should we fondly say, return?) trip to Thailand this summer.  

“Hey Auro, Why Thailand? Why again, I mean?”

Well! Blame it if you must, on the fantastic memories of our first trip to that country. It had to be done again; and not for the last time. Details of our last visit are posted here https://www.ghumakkar.com/self-drive-trip-across-thailand-7-days-2000-kms-part-1-dreams-delivered/.

Nothing much has changed since; the lovely people continue to offer charming smiles and warmth. Mouth watering food scene remains intact. Ah! One not-so-good change has been the (ex)change value of our Bhartiya Rupaye – it is 1.9 INR to a Thai Bhat /THB (almost double or half, depending on which end you are on – the selfie or the main!). And it pinches alright either way.   

This time we were in a family group, comprising of eight members. And what a diverse group it was; eldest member (grandfather) was 75 years and the youngest one (grandchild) was 4 years old. Rest of us were in-betweens in varying —ies (thirties/forties/sixties). Needless to say, this ‘groupism’ enhanced the fun manifolds.

Plan for Cambodia was made much later. We had already bought flight tickets (Kolkata-Bangkok return, Indigo) and were finalising the Thai itinerary of 15 days. Then, thanks to Nandan Jha’s article https://www.ghumakkar.com/phnom-penh-cambodia-can-tho-vietnam-bus/ (and some ghumakkar.com / e-mail queries to him duly responded), I got this idea of covering the next country as well.

Before I churn more about the trip, let me again (as I did in my last articles) assure Ghumakkars that Thailand is extremely doable and an obvious destination specially for the first time international travelers. Do-ability is on both accounts; cultural and economical. Cultural, to be specific, covers all that we are usually apprehensive about (veg khana milega?, Indian restaurants hote hai ?, mausam theek-thak rahega ? et al).

Good news is that Thailand currently offers Free Visa to Indian tourists. In the current disposition, free Visa regime is on till 31 Aug 2017 (https://pixelvoyages.com/2017/05/03/free-tourist-visa-for-indians-more-reason-to-visit-thailand/)   

Booking.com

Destinations

1.Bangkok A fun fact, apart from others which have been included in previous articles is that Bangkok was named the world’s most visited tourist destinations in 2016

http://www.traveller.com.au/worlds-most-popular-cities-for-2016-bangkok-named-worlds-favourite-city-grob6s

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/most-visited-cities-2016-overseas-arrivals/ .

These articles tell us that Bangkok trumps destinations like London, Paris, New York.

But these days of fake news and Trump-ed up claims, Put-in through disparate channels giving rise to so many May-be or may-be-not thoughts, one needs to repeatedly check, confirm and Modi-fy one’s opinion. Correct bola na, haan Xi? –) That’s why I place the url links wherever possible. 


2.Hua Hin – Hua Hin is a coastal town south-west of Bangkok, popular with Bangkok  weekenders.  We chose Hua Hin due to its proximity to Bangkok and of course, the lesser ‘touristy’ tag it bears than better known, almost equidistant cousin Pattaya.


3.Angkor Wat / Siem Reap (Cambodia) – Siem Reap is located in the western part of Cambodia and is famous for Angkor Wat temple complex, a UN World Heritage site and the biggest Hindu temple complex in the world.

Bangkok to Cambodia (and back) by Bus

This was a revelation. Yes, direct buses connect Bangkok to Siem Reap (and also some more destinations in Cambodia and other neighbouring countries). It means that you can cover both the countries in one go.  There are two options, of course to avail this. First; land in Bangkok, do Bangkok to Cambodia bus to and fro, return Bangkok and get onto your India – Bangkok return flight. Second; land in Bangkok, do bus trip to Cambodia and take return flight from Cambodian destination. However, first option is economically more viable since Bangkok return airfares are one of the cheapest international fares from many of our cities.

Itinerary

Journey of this unwieldy group started on a Kolkata – Bangkok Indigo flight. Travel time is 2 hrs 20 min. About the same time as it would take to reach Mumbai if the plane flew in wrong direction.

The gang arrives at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok at around 1500 hrs local time. There is a van (pre-booked, with driver; no self-drive this time) waiting for us, which takes us to Hua Hin, some 4 hours drive from the airport.

After spending 3 days in Hua Hin, we shift to Bangkok. Stay is in a lovely house (thanks to Airbnb) located in a very local area.

Thereon, we take a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Cambodia). Bus ride is some 8 hours affair moving east of Bangkok, crossing the Int’l boundary and entering the next country, Cambodia.

Enjoy 5-6 days in Cambodia, and then take the bus back to Bangkok. Two more days in Bangkok, then fly back to Kolkata on return trip.

Economics

At the cost of being repetitive let me say again what I said in my previous trip posts – Thai prices are very reasonable and almost comparable to our own prices. Thai hotel/stays and street food costs are in fact a tad lower. And Cambodia is even lesser than Thailand. So, in effect a visit/ stay in that part of the world vis-à-vis a trip to desi destination entails just the addition of airfare.

Another aspect is that a trip planned by you will be much cheaper and revealing and enjoyable, than going for the tourist packages. Will give a break-up of major expenses in Part II.

Visa/Entry/Exit affairs

First Thai Visa – As I mentioned earlier, THAI VISA IS COMING FREE. That is, free scheme is applicable to SINGLE ENTRY TOURIST VISA variety. And there is a caveat – if you opt for Visa on Arrival (VOA), you end up paying THB 1000 (approx INR 2000/-). So the best option is to get the Visa the traditional way – go to the embassy, apply for and receive it (they have a courier option, as well as tour agents getting your visa – therefore you don’t have to go to the embassy necessarily).

Cambodia Visa – As we went from Thailand to Cambodia, we needed Cambodian visa to enter that country. Good story is that Cambodia offers E-Visa (an online Visa, obtained sitting at home). E-Visa is priced at USD 36, available on their official website https://www.evisa.gov.kh/ and it is totally hassle free. You need to log-in, fill all the details including photograph (scanned pics not allowed), pay-up; and you will get a printable visa on your e-mail well before their stated time of 5 working days.

Second Thai Visa – So we exited Thailand and entered Cambodia. Now, on our way back (return entry into Thailand), we needed to get Thai visa afresh (remember, initial Thai Visa was a single entry visa which was exhausted once we moved out of Thailand into Cambodia). That’s when we availed VOA on Thai/Cambodia check post. And one needs to be prepared for this.  Some good info about the cross-over business for tourists is to be found here http://www.movetocambodia.com/transportation/crossing-the-poipetaranyaprathet-border-overland/.

Other option to handle re-entry into Thailand could also be through Transit Visa. Please look up the Thai embassy website for more info.


Will talk about the places/countries we visited in the next part. If you have any queries on the issues discussed here, do plz get in touch – will try to answer to the best of my limited knowledge.

Keep travelling and thus remain amazed !!!

  • Patrick Jones

    Tantalising spread and beach, Auro. Good you’ve done two countries in one go. Awaiting the next part, especially for the ‘economy’ side.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Patrick,

      Thanks.

      Actually, if rightly planned, it could have been at least three countries….

      Economy… as you will see, is very nominal and attractive as far as trip toward that sector is concerned :-)

      Thanks again….

      Auro.

  • Parag kashelkar

    Hi
    Am planning a Thailand and Combodia Road trip.
    Fly in and out of bangkok in Feb 2018.
    Would love to know other details.
    1. Is it better to travel by bus to Sian Reap or by car if we are 4 of us. 2 of us are experienced drivers.
    2. Is it possible to get a multiple entry visa for Thailand, either on arrival or in advance.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Parag,

      Firstly, compliments for planning the trip.

      OK, by ‘Thailand Cambodia’ road trip, if you mean that you will be driving across the countries in a rental car, I don’t think that’s possible. Your rental car from one country may not be allowed into the next one, as far as I know.

      So perhaps you may look at self drives in both the countries separately. That way, I don’t see any issues.

      My experience of self drive in Thailand has been fantastic (you may refer to the links in the article above to go to my previous series on the same). This time, I gathered that they have similar arrangements in Cambodia as well. However, do keep in mind that in Cambodia, they drive on the right hand side of the road. Well, as an aside, preparations on that aspect has been discussed in mu Ghumaakar article on Europe self-drive trip :-)

      So As to your Qs –

      1. From Bkk to Siem Reap, its either bus or flight. I recommend bus option since apart from being more economical, it allows you to take in the countryside, see the place more closely and enjoy all those small breaks in different stations of both the countries.
      2. Yes Thailand has a provision of multiple-entry Vs. But for some inexplicable reason, the price is unjustifiably high, specially when free visa regime is on the offer. But you may explore that area as well. Their Visa stuff is handled by VFS or Cox and King, depending on the city you are applying from. And both are equally efficient.

      Do not hesitate to come up with further queries….

      Will look forward to reading about your trip out here in Ghumakkar sometime next year :-)

      Auro.

  • A wholesome post I must say! Very informative covering aspects of visa, food etc.. I love Thai food and the pictures of the Thai food makes me rush to a nearby Thai restaurant!

    The Railway market looks interesting. Reminds me of K.R. Market in Bengaluru… In a lane as small as the one in your pic, you can see a huge, fully loaded (even on top) tourist bus, honking and scaring people on street… Not exactly a synonymous situation to the Railway market, but…

    Thank you Auro.. We wont ask, “Why Thailand?” We love it, any number of times you take us there :) Great read!