A guide to Battambang’s art galleries

In Cambodia, Battambang is synonymous with art. For hundreds of years, Battambang was Cambodia’s hub of arts and culture, before the Khmer Rouge destroyed the arts scene in the 1970s. Over thirty years later, there’s an artistic revival in the city, and new galleries are opening all the time. Here’s a guide to Battambang’s art galleries.

Lotus Gallery Battambang

Battambang’s Lotus Gallery is a beautiful space for local art exhibitions.

Lotus Bar and Gallery

Lotus opened in October 2013. As the gallery does not receive any outside funding, the bar and restaurant were established to fund the gallery. Curated by owner Darren Swallow with assistance from local artist Chov Theanly and British artist Nicolas C. Grey, Lotus is more of a commercial gallery than the other galleries in town.

“We’ve made a space where the local artists’ work can be seen in a beautiful setting, with someone knowledgeable about the work onsite who can speak to the customers about the work and the artists, and even bring the customer to the artist’s studio if they like,” says Swallow.

Currently showing is “Made in Battambang,” a group exhibition bringing together 25 visual artists living in Battambang.

Sammaki Gallery

Sammaki Gallery in Battambang shows works from young and emerging Cambodian artists.

Sammaki

Sammaki (meaning “solidarity” in Khmer) was established in 2011 by Mao Soviet and a group of expats living in Battambang. It is now supported by local NGO Cambodian Children’s Trust.

Sammaki shows work from young and emerging artists, many of whom have graduated from Phare Ponleu Selpak, the same school known for its circus grads.

In addition to operating a contemporary art gallery, Sammaki provides a resource library and runs workshops for local artists.

Ben Thynal’s “ILLNESS/TIME” is currently showing at the gallery.

Studio Art Battambang

Studio Art Battambang offers artists a space to create and exhibit their work.

Studio Art Battambang

Studio Art Battambang was established last year by local artist Roeun Sokhom. It is not only an art gallery, but also serves as a studio where artists can come together to create their work, as well as to exchange ideas.

Make Maek

Right across the street from Lotus is Make Maek. Make Maek was established in 2011 by Khmer-American artist Kat Eng and local artists Mao Soviet and Phin Sophorn.

Make Maek has a particular focus on showing collaboration between local and international artists. It has eight shows a year, with the current exhibit called “The Performing,” by Phillip Hesser and Vincent Greby.

These four not enough for you? Opening in mid-November will be Sangker Art Space and Gallery, and restaurants Jaan Bai and Choco l’Art also display and sell art from local artists.

Lotus Bar and Gallery

Closed Mondays
#53, Street 2.5, Battambang
T: 092 260 158

Sammaki

#87, Street 2.5, Battambang
T: 010 946 108

Studio Art Battambang

Street 1.5, Battambang
T: 010 743 074

Make Maek

#66, Street 2.5, Battambang
T: 017 946 108

Jaan Bai

Closed Mondays
Street 2, Battambang
T: 053 650 0024

Choco l’Art

Closed until October 1
Street 117, Battambang
T: 010 661 617

Phnom Penh movie theaters

Phnom Penh’s changing faster than I can keep up, so I’ve given this post a well-deserved update. Remembering a time when Phnom Penh didn’t have a “proper” movie theater makes me sound like an old-fogey, reminiscing about the days gone by when locals would watch movies in small shops with a dozen chairs and usually two or three screens loudly blaring different films at the same time. These days, there are a half-dozen places in town to see English-language movies in Phnom Penh, from giant theaters showing Hollywood blockbusters to smaller theaters that screen documentaries, independent and foreign films.

Major Cineplex Aeon Mall Phnom Penh

The Major Cineplex at Aeon Mall is a serious, big budget movie theater showing films in 4-D. Yes, 4-D.

Major Cineplex at Aeon Mall

Major Cineplex is the latest movie theater to hit Phnom Penh, and it’s a doozy. Located in the new Aeon Mall, it offers features not seen before in Cambodia. They have 3-D and 4-D theaters (think moving chairs and smoky air) as well as a VIP cinema, with first-class style leather seats. They show mainly English-language action blockbusters, with the occasionally Chinese action film and Khmer romance. Ticket prices range from $3 to $15 depending on the day of the week and the type of seat you opt for. Seniors, kids, and students can get tickets for $2.

Major Cineplex
Aeon Mall, 2nd Floor
#132 Sothearos Blvd, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 901 111
majorcineplex.com.kh

The interior of Legend Cinema in Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh’s movie theater’s take security seriously. Talking during movies, less so.

Legend Cinema

Legend Cinema was the first movie theater in town to show licensed Hollywood films and offers a true movie theater experience in their three air-conditioned theaters. Legend screens Hollywood blockbusters, action, horror and kid’s films.

You’re not going to find any dramas or chick flicks here, but they do show 3-D films regularly. Ticket prices range from $3 to $18, the more expensive ones are for family seating that seats four people. Most films are in English with Khmer subtitles, although they do show the occasional Khmer-language film.

Legend Cinema
City Mall, top floor
Monireth Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 088 954 9857
legend-cinemas.com

Platinum Cineplex

At the top of Sorya Mall, is Platinum Cineplex, formerly Sabay Cineplex, and the second big theater in town. Platinum has two regular screens and one 3-D screen. They screen Hollywood blockbusters, action films and a few local and Asian flicks.

They also have couple’s seats if you’re down to cuddle. Ticket prices start at $4 and they have many different promotions, including a $2 deal for early shows. Check their site for current promotions.

Platinum Cineplex
Sorya Shopping Center, 5th Floor
St 63 at St 142, Phnom Penh
T: (017) 666 210
platinumcineplex.com.kh

Empire Movie House Phnom Penh

The Empire, Phnom Penh’s only arthouse cinema, bar and restaurant.

The Empire

The Empire is an independent movie house that screens both mainstream, obscure and independent movies including classic and current picks. Every Tuesday is classics night where they feature one or two classic movies from the last 100 years of cinema. Thursday is movie ‘premiere’ night featuring the latest films, many of which make it to Cambodia faster than you’d believe. Kids’ movies show on Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. They also have occasional events like Rocky Horror night every couple of months too.

Every day The Empire screens the Cambodia classic film The Killing Fields, which shows Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Definitely a must-see for those coming to Cambodia for the first time.

The theater is air-conditioned with chairs and futons to allow patrons to fully chill out and enjoy the movie. The Empire also has their own in-house kitchen and bar, so food and drink can be enjoyed before, during or after the movie. Tickets cost $3.50 and are good for any film that day. You can also rent out the entire theater for a small fee, which is a great option for groups and parties.

The Empire
#34 Street 130, Phnom Penh
T: 077 468 243
the-empire.org

Outside of The Flicks 2

Get your movie on in Phnom Penh.

The Flicks Community Movie House

The Flicks has expanded and now has two locations, one in BKK3 and on on the Riverside, both offering air-conditioned seating and a wide range of old and new English-language films including popular classics, documentaries and independent films. They also have a special Flicks 3 during the dry season, where they screen open-air films in BKK1, and they will be opening a branch in Siem Reap in 2014. Their theaters are air-conditioned and have couches and futons to relax on, and they serve drinks (including beer and wine) that you can enjoy during the movie. They also have a special menu of delivery options from a few local restaurants.

The Flicks screens three to four movies each day. Tickets cost $3.50 for adults and $2 for children, and the ticket is good for the entire day.

Flicks 1
#39B Street 95, Phnom Penh

Flicks 2
#90 Street 136, Phnom Penh
theflicks-cambodia.com

Meta House

Meta House at the German Cambodian Cultural Centre shows independent films and English-language documentaries at 7pm every night of the week except Monday.

They have a full bar and restaurant and often following screenings with talks and sometimes the night ends with a DJ playing some tunes. Many of their films are about Cambodia or the region. Screening is on the building’s rooftop so don’t forget to load up on some mosquito repellant. Tickets cost $2 for foreigners, Khmer students aren’t required to pay.

Meta House
#37 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 010 312 333
meta-house.com

Building a fence in Siem Reap

So you’ve completed your move to a nice big Cambodian style house, and you got it for a knockdown price, but there is just one problem: it needs a bit of work done. You were braced for this before you moved in, even excited by the prospect but now you are actually there, you realize that your DIY skills never really progressed past building Lego houses as a child.

The list of jobs is not overly intimidating as none of them involve any major plumbing or wiring expertise, but they do require some planning and the acquisition of appropriate materials. You may be tempted to just find a local that can do the work for you but there is no denying the sense of pride you will feel when your carefully constructed DIY masterplan becomes a reality.

Building a fence in Siem Reap

It’s both easier and harder than you might think.

After moving to a more rural existence in Siem Reap, we realized we’d need to put up a fence in order to gain slightly more privacy from the neighbors and stop the constant stream of chickens and feral dogs from pooping all over our garden. Barbed wire makes an effective barricade and a 30-kilo roll will set you back around $40. Don’t be put off if you are asked to buy the whole lot, even if you only need 20 kilos, as unfurling barbed wire is no walk in the park. Most places will be happy to refund you for what you don’t use, but be sure to clarify this beforehand. We bought ours from the well-stocked and friendly hardware store beside the bridge, a quarter mile down the road after making the right turn at Le Meridian on the road to Angkor Wat. The store also has a plentiful supply of PVC pipe, plumbing supplies, various wires, tools and chain link fence.

If barbed wire reminds you too much of prison and doesn’t afford you the privacy you require then you can always use wood, or even rolls of threaded bamboo to make your fence. On High School Road there are numerous wood/lumber yards but not all of them sell rolls of bamboo fence and not all of them speak enough English as to even entertain the notion of an actual transaction. For this reason it helps if you take someone who can speak Khmer, preferably a Khmer. A roll of threaded bamboo set us back $8 for a 1.5 metre high and 4.5 metre long roll and was considerably less work than constructing the fence from planks of wood.

For nails, wire, screws, etc. you can visit the aforementioned store or, alternatively you can head to Psar Chas. The hardware store opposite Warehouse is smaller and less widely stocked but still sells all kind of hardware treats to assist you. Nails and screws are charged by the kilo and finishing stains for woods and some small power tools can also be bought from these guys as well as hammers, screwdrivers, paint brushes, locks, hinges etc., etc., etc.

So, having acquired my fence-building kit (50 meters of bamboo fence, a healthy roll of wire, a kilo of 2 inch long nails, a hammer and a set of pliers) I was ready to go. The barbed wire and wood staked fence was already in place so unrolling and nailing the fence up was time consuming but straight-forward. I then re-enforced it by attaching the bamboo fence to the barbed wire using the regular wire and then tightened it with the pliers. It took two days and cost just over $100. A bit more expensive than a Lego set but just as fun to make.

We may not win any awards for innovation or style, but the shabby yet charming appearance of our new fence blends in nicely with the Cambodian neighborhood and we are also very happy that our lovely garden is no longer moonlighting as a public toilet for dogs.

What you need to know about buying property in Cambodia

If you’ve wondered what the deal is with buying property in Cambodia, you aren’t alone. Today with talk to Leah Valencia, one of the co-founders of Elevated Realty, a Phnom Penh real estate company and Move to Cambodia advertiser that specializes in finding the perfect homes and apartments for expats. Elevated Realty combines the best of expat-style service with local knowledge. Leah filled us in on what’s required for a foreigner to buy property in Cambodia and explains the difference between a hard and soft title.

Small house on Koh Rong

Considering buying a house in Cambodia? Here’s what you need to know.

Can a foreigner own property in Cambodia?

“Yes, foreigners can own property in Cambodia but there are restrictions. Foreigners can only own properties on the first floor or higher (not the ground floor), up to 70% of any one building, however this only applies to buildings with a strata title. A strata title is a type of hard title that allows an owner to divide a building into multiple individually saleable properties, this is also known as the “condominium law”, it is generally only granted to new condo buildings that are being built for this specific purpose.

Alternatively, foreigners can own 49% of private property, with or without a structure, if they are partnered in a Cambodian legal entity. A Cambodian legal entity is defined as any legal entity that has 51% or more of its shares held by Cambodian citizens. So as long as you own the property in conjunction with a Cambodian national, you can own any type of property you desire.

Currently, this law is not being regularly enforced, this is why you will hear stories of people who hold titles to properties around the city. There is a level of risk assumed with acquiring property in this way as it is subject to enforcement at anytime.”

What are the requirements for a foreigner to own property in Cambodia?

“To purchase property in Cambodia all you need is a current passport and visa. However, I would strongly recommend that you have someone advise you through the process, such as a real estate agent or a lawyer. It is important to conduct a title search before purchasing property. The title search will confirm who holds the title to the property and reveal registered mortgages or other encumbrances. Bear in mind that there can be other impediments to transferring which are not visible through a title search, e.g., a claim by a senior politician to the property. The buyer will not be given the actual title to conduct the search, because this is the sellers’ only evidence of ownership. The buyer will instead get a copy of the title, and it is important to confirm that it is a recent copy.”

Phnom Penh apartments

If it’s not the ground floor, you’re good to go.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of long-term leases over buying?

“Long-term leases, lasting between 15 and 50 years, are an alternative way for foreigners to invest in Cambodian property. Prior to December 2011, leases could be granted for up to 99 years in accordance with the Land Law (2001). However with the entry into force of the new Civil Code, the maximum term of a lease has been reduced to 50 years. Leases granted prior to December 2011 will still be respected, up to a maximum of 99 years.

A clause can be inserted into the lease requiring the owner to get the lessee’s permission to sell, and/or entitling the lessee to convert to full ownership with the lessor’s cooperation. In addition, a ‘block sale notice’ can be registered with the Land Office, instructing the office not to sell the property without the lessee’s permission. Also it is often possible to put a renewable clause in the agreement.

Long term leases can now be registered at the national Cadastral Office and noted on the property title deed. In addition, a separate certificate may be issued to the title deed noting the lessee’s interests in the property. This Certificate of Perpetual Lease of Private Unit can be used as security to obtain financing. Additionally long term leases are assignable, sellable and bequeathable. This makes them similar to a freehold property but only for a limited time, which has both an advantage and disadvantage.”

What is the process if a foreigner wants to buy a ground-floor apartment or land in Cambodia?

“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime (1975-79), the Khmer Rouge abolished ownership of property and destroyed all existing official property records in Cambodia. At that time, all property belonged to the State and there were no private owners. After the Khmer Rouge fell, and for the next ten years, the right to own property was still not recognized and all property was owned by the government. In 1989 a Land Law was issued which established a framework for the recognition of property and property rights throughout Cambodia. In 2001 the Land Law was updated in an attempt to further clarify property ownership.

Under the Land Law property can be registered in two ways, systematic registration and sporadic registration. In the systematic system, the government targets plots of land to measure, register and title, this will continue until the whole country is complete. In the sporadic system, the owner initiates the title registration through the central Cadastral Office. There are currently two types of titles legally recognized in Cambodia, soft titles and hard titles.

A newly built house in Cambodia

Or, you can buy land (or 49% of it) and build your own.

The majority of property in Cambodia is legally held under a soft title. Property held under a soft title is registered at the local sangkat (council) or district level but not at the national level. soft title documentation can take a variety of forms, such as a letter of transfer from the previous possessor stamped by the sangkat or district office, a possession status certificate from the local sangkat or district office, or a building application. Buyers wanting to purchase a soft title property should conduct their own due diligence, at the sangkat or district office to confirm whom holds the soft title to the property. Similar enquiries should be made with the property’s neighbours. The property boundaries should also be carefully checked, as borders are often not properly demarcated and overlaps can exist. Often a soft title is prefered due to the taxes, fees and the processes involved in obtaining a hard title. However, the option to convert from soft title into a hard title is a right, either when systematic registration occurs or via sporadic registration.

A hard title is an ownership certificate which is issued by the Cadastral Office and recognized at the national ministerial level as well as at the sangkat and district level. A hard title is the most secure form of ownership, its registration should be the only evidence required of an indefeasible title.

There are pros and cons to both hard and soft titles. The most recent numbers accounting for title types in Phnom Penh found that currently only 10% of properties have hard titles, whilst 82% have soft titles, and 8% have no title at all. That being said, it is obviously much easier to find properties with a soft title, processing is faster, goverment fees are excluded, and it can later be converted to a hard title. hard titles on the other hand, though they include fees and take longer, offer you indisputable ownership, the history of the property, and leverage for bank financing.”

If a property only has a soft title available, is it still worth considering?

A soft title is definitely still worth considering, depending on what you intend to do with the property. Current trends in Cambodia include “flipping” property – buying, renovating, and reselling at a higher value. Also very popular, is buying and reselling to locals for development. In both of these scenarios the intention is not to hold the property, but rather resell it in a relatively short time period. In this case, regardless of the title type, with conditions as they currently are you should have no problems selling your property in the current market. However, If you plan to live on the property or invest a great deal of money in hopes of value appreciation, then a hard title would be the better choice, as it is more secure and will stand the test of time through varying market conditions. soft titles are currently the norm, and are being bought and sold without any problems. However, they do not hold the same security that a hard title does. ”

Elevated Realty specializes in tailor-made home searches in Phnom Penh that are a hassle-free way to find the perfect space. View their properties on their site, Elevated Realty, or give them a call at +855 (0)23 220 609.

Street 136 dumpling crawl

There are a lot of things that Street 136 in Phnom Penh are known for, but dumplings aren’t necessarily the first that most people would think of. The block between Monivong and Central Market is a veritable hotbed of home-made dumplings, though, with several small, drab Chinese restaurants in a row, each with its own grumpy Chinese lady (or sometimes two) sitting in a corner, folding dumpling after dumpling.

Herk Fung Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

Round one. Dumplings and Chinese “pizza” at Herk Fung.

Recently, when at a loss for where to go for a weekend brunch, a group of us decided to go on a dumpling crawl of Street 136. Below are our notes from the crawl. They get more and more unintelligible with each successive restaurant, possibly due to the serious carb overload that we experienced, or to the fact that there was also a fair amount of Tsingtao required to wash all of the dumplings. Whatever our notes might indicate, a dumpling crawl on Street 136 is a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Herk Fung

Herk Fung was magnificent. We ordered $2 dumplings, $2 large Angkors, and $1 Chinese “pizza.” The communication was difficult, but the dumplings were spectacular. The Chinese pizza–this is for want of a better name, we have no idea what it was called–was stuffed with something vegetal and seaweed and was wonderful. A naked baby watched us eat.

Herk Fung Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

Herk Fung. Not particularly impressive from the outside, but the dumplings are fantastic.

“That’s probably the freshest dumpling I’ve ever eaten.”
“Would eat again.”
“That sets the bar really high.”

Pei Jing

The most exciting thing about Pei Jing was the $2.50 bottles of Tsingtao beer, which we had a few of, along with plates of dumplings for $2 that were served with chopped chili and garlic. The menu was in French and English, so it would have been completely possible to order things other than dumplings. We tried both steamed and fried dumplings and while they were pretty good, they weren’t great, and all agreed that the Tsingtao was the best thing about the restaurant.

Pei Jing Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

blah

“6/10″
“6/10″
“5.5/10″
“Middle of the road.”
“Come for the Carlsberg of China; the dumplings are really average.”

Shandong Restaurant

Shandong was the nicest looking of the restaurants we visited, with a large table and a smooth lazy Susan. This might not seem like something special, but it makes the sharing of dumplings with large groups better, and they even have tables that can seat 10. They had a photo menu in color, so also the best menu of the day.

Shangdong Restaurant Phnom Penh

So hard not to eat, so hard not to hate yourself while doing it.

We tried steamed and $2 fried dumplings and $2 pizza-pancake-thing. The fried dumplings were excellent, crisp on the outside, steamed pork and chives on the inside. The pizza was good, although very thin almost like a crispy chive crepe. It was hard to not eat more, even while thinking it was sort of disgusting. The steamed dumplings were weak, though. That said, they sold Tsingtao for $2 for a large bottle and kept bringing us new ones, so we really had nothing to complain about.

“The toilets are immaculate!”

Sichuan Restaurant

We ordered $2 fried dumplings, $1.50 pizza and a map dofu. The pizza was more like a deep-fried pancake. It was awful and so, so, so delicious, the perfect beer food. The mapo dofu was revolting and gloopy and the dumplings were watery inside. On the plus side, the owner was nice, and they served kimchi as a condiment.

Sichuan Restaurant Phnom Penh

The largest dumplings of the crawl.

“Smallest bowls, biggest dumplings.”
“I’m glad we came this way and didn’t walk backwards.”
“Everything is heavier and oilier than the rest which is good, because we’re drunk.”
“This place disappoints me the most because it promises so much but delivers so little.”

Yue Xiang Cai Guan

We started out at lunch time, and by the time we got to Yue Xiang Cai Guan there many quizzical looking Chinese couples eating dinner and wondering what we were up to. We had already eaten dumplings at four restaurants and brought a small dog into all four without complaint. We figured this, our fifth, would be the last. None of us were hungry at this point, and we mistook a bottle of $2 Chinese SNOW beer for MONS beer (read it upside-down).

Yue Xiang Cia Guan Phnom Penh

Oh no!

Yue Xiang Cai Guan had excellent steamed dumplings ($2) but the pancakes/pizza that we ordered–just for the sake of comparison, not out of any actual hunger–turned out to be brought in from Sichuan Restaurant where we had just eaten. This place had a nice interior and was probably really good, but we were all too full to be able to appreciate it.

“These are my favorite steamed dumplings.”
“I feel sick.”

Herk Fung

Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 012 185 5589

Pei Jing Restaurant

93 Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 012 723 981

Shandong Restaurant

103 Street 136, Phnom Penh

Sichuan Restaurant

111 Street 136, Phnom Penh

Yue Xiang Cai Guan

97 Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 097 894 8896; 097 367 5998

Crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border overland

If you’re going from Siem Reap to Bangkok (or vice versa) overland, you may be nervous about the infamous Poipet/Aranyaprathet land border crossing. Before I crossed for the first time, I was extremely anxious after hearing so many horror stories about the border. Now that I do the trip regularly I know that if you go prepared you won’t have any problems.

If you’re going from Cambodia to Thailand (here are all the ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok) you’ll be crossing from Poipet to Aranyaprathet. Here are some tips for crossing in this direction, and at the end I’ve given specific tips if you’re going the other way, from Aranyaprathet to Poipet.

Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland

Get the skinny on crossing the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland.

It’s going to take all day

It will pretty much take you all day to go Siem Reap to Bangkok overland, but leaving early will shave a few hours off the trip (filed under ‘had to learn the hard way’). Siem Reap to Poipet is about a two-hour trip, and then an hour or four at the border, then another four to six hours from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok. The land border gets very busy and lines get very long after about 12:00 p.m., so the earlier you start your journey, the better.

You’re crossing on foot

Whether you take a direct bus, mini-bus or taxi, you’ll still have to walk across the border from Poipet to Aranyaprathet on the Thailand side. Coming from Siem Reap, you’ll get dropped off at a roundabout near the border in Poipet. Walk straight ahead and you’ll see Cambodia immigration on your right side. Get in line there and get stamped out of Cambodia.

If you’re hungry or want to use the toilet, stop in at one of the casinos in the no-man’s land between Poipet and Aranyaprathet. I like Grand Diamond Casino’s Chillax Restaurant because they have free WiFi and a great name.

Poipet Aranyaprathet border

After you leave Cambodia but before you enter Thailand, you’ll be treated to this.

Once you’re refreshed, keep walking straight until you get to Thai immigration and go upstairs. If you’re from most countries, you’ll get a visa on arrival (and if you’re not, you should have one already). We’ve got a full blog post on getting a Thai visa in Cambodia if you need to do this in advance.

Once you are at the border just remember that you need to be stamped out of the country you came from and get a visa for the country you are entering (so two stops).

Once you’re through, go straight if you’re heading to get a mini-bus or taxi or make your first right towards Rong Kleu Market if you’re catching a casino bus. This road is not paved and you’ll think you’re in some sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, but in a moment you’ll see a 7-11 and realize that you’re actually in Thailand. From 7-11, you can turn right to head to the casino buses in the car park area.

7-11 near Rong Kleu market Aranyaprathet border

7-11 near Rong Kleu Market Aranyaprathet border.

Don’t get scammed

Do not change money at the border. If you want Thai baht ahead of time, you can change money at Siem Reap’s Old Market before heading out, or hit the ATM at the 7-11 immediately after crossing the border. Don’t believe anything anyone says about facilitation fees. All transport prices quoted here are current, so negotiate until you get pretty close. Don’t get on any buses to the “bus terminal” it’s just a place where they force you to buy overpriced food and overpriced bus tickets. You can get cheap food and cheap bus tickets at Rong Kleu Market and don’t need to bother with the scammy bus terminal.

Carrying baggage across the border

If you’ve got considerable baggage coming through, you can hire a porter for $2 to $10. They will take your bags through and wait for you to get through immigration. Unlike everyone else in Poipet, the porters will not rip you off. Get your porter’s phone number before you head to immigration if you are nervous, but chances are he won’t speak English anyway. It’s polite to tip your porter.

Relax

The border crossing can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Budget a full day to get through and take your time. Accept that no one will speak English, but that’s not going to matter. Buy a Thai SIM card in 7-11 for a couple of bucks if you want. You’ll be in Bangkok soon and the Poipet/Aranyaprathet land border crossing will be a distant memory.

If you’re coming from Thailand to Cambodia

If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, this is the particularly scammy direction of the trip. Bring US dollars with you for your visa; do not change money at the border because you will get ripped off. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you need Cambodian riel, you do not, and they will rip you off. You can’t even pay for a Cambodia visa with Cambodian riel!

poipet border checkpoint

This is the official building that you get your Cambodia visa in.

After you get stamped out of Thailand, you’ll need to enter Cambodia. If you already have an ordinary/business visa, they will stamp you and you will be on your way. Tourists will need to get a visa in advance or on arrival check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). A tourist visa costs $20 (the price will go up to $30 on October 1, 2014). They will ask you for 800 baht ($25) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $20 and a 200 baht processing fee. There is no processing fee, it’s just a bribe. Arrive early and refuse to pay and eventually they will stamp you through. They’ll make you wait around for a while, but it’s just a game of chicken. Since you’ve budgeted all day to do this, might as well not pay their lame shake-down and catch up on your Kindle.

The other option is to get a Cambodia e-visa in advance, but to be on the safe side you need to order it online a week in advance, because they often don’t get it back to you in their promised three-day turnaround time. The cost is $27 (going up to $37 on October 1st). It saves you hassle but not money. If you’re particularly nervous about the border crossing, this might help make things easier.

Once you walk get your Cambodia visa, you can walk through and catch a mini-bus or taxi from near the roundabout. Be aware that on the Cambodia side the police shake down all of the taxi drivers for at least $10 of each trip. The fare should be around $35, but often is as much as $55. Walk as far as you can stand and don’t deal with middlemen if you want a lower price.

How to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok (and vice versa)

There are lots of ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok, and it all depends on how much time, money, and patience you have. In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok whether you travel by plane, direct bus, mini-bus, taxi, or my favorite: mini-bus and casino bus combination. If you’re going to use an overland option, check out our blog post about crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border.

Plane

Cambodia Angkor Air

Cambodia Angkor Air: Cambodia’s national flag carrier.

Bangkok Airways used to have the only flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok, and the outrageously high price of tickets made a good argument for why competition is necessary in the world of airlines. For a one-way ticket, prices are between $200 and $300 for a one-hour flight, making this one of the more expensive routes around. Return fares are significantly less, starting at $291.

More recently, though, Malaysia-based LCC Air Asia has started offering daily flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok. You can find one-way flights on this route for as little as $60 if you book in advance, but usually tickets are more often in the $140 range. Flights arrive at Bangkok’s DMK airport and you’ll pay extra for baggage.

Local airline Cambodia Angkor Air also flies the Siem Reap to Bangkok route and generally offer the lowest prices for flights that aren’t booked months in advance. In many ways their offering is superior, because tickets include 20 kgs of luggage per passenger and they fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport. One-way flight start at $136 and roundtrip flights start at $190. If you’re flying return, CAA almost always works out as the lowest-price option. Read our full review of Cambodia Angkor Air.

Direct bus

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

There are Nattakan/Transport Co. Ltd direct buses that go from Siem Reap to Bangkok for $28 and from Bangkok to Siem Reap for for 750 baht ($23). You can purchase tickets in Siem Reap at any guesthouse or travel agent, or directly at the Nattakan Transport office on Sivatha Blvd. The bus leaves at either 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. every day and take between eight and ten hours to arrive. The direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok is definitely the easiest option, although perhaps not the fastest and certainly not the cheapest. The best part about the direct bus is that you keep your luggage on the bus while you walk through the border. Read our full review with photos of the direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Taxi

Taxi is the most expensive overland option, and doesn’t save much hassle over going by bus, as you still have to use two taxis and walk through the border on foot because cars aren’t allowed through the border. You can book a taxi at any guesthouse or local travel agent in Siem Reap, but you may get a cheaper rate by asking a tuk tuk driver to get one of his friends to do it. Prices from Siem Reap to Poipet are around $30 and take two hours.

Once you’ve crossed the border, there are taxis waiting that will take you anywhere in Bangkok for 1900 baht ($60). The trip takes from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes three or four hours.

As per usual, taxis in Cambodia (and Thailand) are usually Toyota Camrys that can comfortably seat three passengers and can uncomfortably seat four. They usually have a tank in their trunk and cannot fit a lot of baggage.

Mini-bus

Mini-bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok

The mini-buses from Siem Reap to Bangkok are cheap and cheerful.

There are mini-bus services that go “direct,” meaning the same company will drop you off on the Cambodia side of the border and then meet you on the Thailand side of the border. You still need to haul your luggage through the border on foot, and often end up waiting for others on your bus who takes hours to go through immigration. These services offer you no direction or hand-holding in getting through the border, so there’s really no reason to take them through. It’s better to buy a ticket from Siem Reap only to Poipet and then either take another mini-bus or a casino bus from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok.

From Siem Reap, there are mini-buses that leave for Poipet every morning. I can’t recommend any specific company because they are all disappointing in their own way. But at $5 a ticket, it’s hard to complain because they do manage to get you from A to B without much hassle. Book a night in advance. You can book tickets to Poipet at any local travel agent but be sure to haggle, as they’ll often try to charge $10 for a $5 ticket.

Once you are through the border in Aranyaprathet, you can grab another minibus that goes to Victory Monument in Bangkok for 230 baht ($7.20). You’ll need to wait for enough passengers to show up and fill the bus, but it doesn’t usually take long. The trip from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes between four and six hours, depending on what time you leave.

Mini-bus and casino bus combo

Casino buses Aranyaprathet border

You’ll know the casino buses by the stunning artwork that graces the exterior.

Of all of the options, this is my preferred overland means of travel from Siem Reap to Bangkok, costing a total of $11.25. I hop a $5 mini-bus in Siem Reap to the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, walk through, then head to the car park next to the 7-11 and catch a casino bus. You’ll recognize the casino buses because they are massive and brightly painted with kooky designs.

The casino buses are meant for Thai gamblers who leave at 5:30 a.m. to come to Poipet to gamble all day, then head back to Bangkok in the afternoon. They are VIP luxury buses and are very comfortable. They go from Rong Kleu Market in Aranyaprathet to Mo Chit, Lumphini Park, and Bang Na in Bangkok and cost 200 thb ($6.25). The trip takes five to six hours (they usually get stuck in traffic) but stop halfway at a nice little rest stop with a couple of dozen street food vendors and all of the gamblers make a mad dash for bowls of soup and then pile back onto the bus and eat it. This method provides the best cultural experience. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what time the buses leave or stop running because I don’t speak Thai, but they seem to be around noon to 4 p.m. from Aranyaprathet.

Bangkok Airways

bangkokair.com

Air Asia

airasia.com

Cambodia Angkor Air

cambodiaangkorair.com

Direct bus – Nattakan Transport

22 Sivatha Blvd, Svay Dangkom District, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 96 48 96; 078 975 333
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