Review: Seila Angkor mini-bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

Mini-buses seem to be the preferred method of travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for expats and upwardly mobile Cambodians who are willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort (and safety, they drive fast!) to shave an hour off the trip. Seila Angkor is popular mini-bus company that does the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route. I’ve taken them several times and have been pleased with their services.

Seila Angkor Khmer Express

Seila Angkor’s Ford Transit vans transport you in style.

The trip takes between five and six hours. With the current road conditions, in order to do the trip in five hours the drivers need to take some hair-raising liberties, and occasionally they can drive faster than I’m comfortable with. Most of the time, though, the trip takes six hours and the drivers go at a reasonable pace. Continue reading

How to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia

If you’re headed to Thailand after Cambodia, you won’t necessarily need to get a visa in advance. Thailand offers a 30-day visa-free stay for 56 nationalities that can be extended once for an additional 30 days for 1,900 baht, which is about $60.  If you’d like to stay longer, or if you’ve already entered Thailand a few times, you’ll need to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia.

Bangkok Royal Palace

Heading to Thailand?

How to get a visa for Thailand in Cambodia

If you are planning to get a visa for Thailand while you’re in Cambodia, there are two ways to do it. If it is your first Thai visa, you can take you passport to any local travel agent in Phnom Penh and they can get it for you. Most Cambodian travel agents will not deal with customers with multiple visas who may be trying to live in Thailand illegally. If you are thinking of trying Cambodia for a visa run from Thailand, know that the Phnom Penh embassy has a reputation for being quite strict. Continue reading

Road trip from Kampot to Kampong Trach

No matter how much you love Kampot, sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day and go explore some caves. Kampong Trach is an easy 26 miles (43 km) road trip down National Road 33 past Kep, and is easily accessible from either Kampot or Kep. There, you’ll find the most well-known cave system at the Kampong Trach Mountain Resort, plus the Kampong Trach Water Cave and the Sankar Sana Cave.

Road trip to Kampong Trach

From Kampot, it’s an easy road trip to Kampong Trach.

If you’re traveling by moto, finding the caves on your own can prove a bit of a challenge as there is no signage coming into Kampong Trach town on NR33, for either the caves or the town itself! Just follow the green road signs towards Phnom Penh and Chhuk (neither of which you will pass on the way to the caves). However, if you keep a keen eye, you will notice roughly 25 miles (41 km) out of Kampot town that you are entering Kampong Trach, because the traffic will seem to move a bit more slowly and be more tightly packed. Slow down and watch for the Kirisela Guesthouse on your left, a multi-story building easily recognized by the orange siding and True Money sign. Turn left [here’s the map location of where to turn], and a few meters down the road you’ll see a dentist sign on the left. This is also a great time to check any mapping app on your phone if you happen to be traveling with one, because you probably won’t have phone reception for the entire journey. Continue reading

A guide to Battambang’s art galleries

In the last decade Battambang has experienced something of an artist revival, in no small part thanks to Phare Ponleu Selpak, an non-profit organization there that provides hundreds of students with arts training and education. Explore the town’s art scene with our updated guide to Battambang’s art galleries for 2019.

Lotus Gallery Battambang

Khchao Touch’s work on display upstairs at Battambang’s Lotus Gallery.

Lotus Gallery

In its latest incarnation Lotus Gallery exclusively shows the work of Khchao Touch, a Cambodian artist and the gallery’s co-owner. She and her partner, Darren Swallow, have made Lotus into a local community hub of sorts. “Those that are meant to find us, do,” says Darren, referring to the fact that there’s not a lot of signage outside. Look for the bicycle covered in plants that is rolled out when they are open. Darren, who also mans the downstairs coffee bar, knows everything about the art scene in Battambang and will happily tell visitors about Touch’s art-making or anything else they want to know about what’s going on in town. Continue reading

Bokor Mountain by minibus tour

Visitors to Kampot are often told they should rent a moto and head to Bokor Mountain. And while Southeast Asia has a reputation as being an easy place to learn the finer points of moto driving, not all of us have an inner Evel Knievel. Luckily, when Bokor is calling it’s possible to take a minivan tour of Bokor Mountain and let someone else do the driving!

Sampov Pram Pagoda

Sampov Pram Pagoda at Bokor Mountain.

Chan Rath Tours offers package tours starting at $13 and include a Bokor Mountain tour during the morning, and a sunset cruise on the Kampot river at dusk. There are other tours offering a similar itinerary in town, but I went with Chan Rath Tours. For this tour, called ‘The Bokor National Park Tour’ you’ll meet in Kampot town at 8 a.m., or you can request a pickup from any guesthouse out of town for a small per-person fee. As the tour leaves quite early, be certain to arrange any transportation to the pickup location the night before. Continue reading

Crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia (at Poipet)

The border between Thailand and Cambodia at Poipet has a terrible reputation, but it’s not quite as bad as you may have been led to believe. It’s true that if you’re coming from Thailand towards Cambodia you have more chance of being scammed than if you’re going in the other direction, but knowing in advance what to expect will make the border crossing relatively painless.

Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland

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

The process of crossing the Poipet border has a few steps:

  • Get stamped out of Thailand
  • Apply for a Cambodia visa
  • Get stamped in to Cambodia

In between most of those steps are several common scams that I’ll also go over. Continue reading

Review: Cambodia Post VIP Van, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

I sometimes get incredulous looks when I tell people that one of my favorite ways to travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is with the Cambodia Post VIP Van to Phnom Penh. Most people probably assumed I’d be sitting on packages squeezed between sacks of mail, but the reality couldn’t be more different. The Cambodia Post VIP Van, a transport service owned by the Cambodian government and post office, runs minibuses between several cities. I tried out the Siem Reap to Phnom Penh route and thought it was an excellent ride; here’s the full report.

Cambodia Post VIP Van Phnom Penh

Pick up your mail before you depart in style from the historic Phnom Penh post office.

The novelty of the Cambodia Post transport service is that they are actually using the mini-buses to bring mail and packages from one city to another. But they aren’t old, run-down mail trucks as you might expect. Cambodia Post has purchased a fleet of brand-new Toyota HiAces, my preferred model of mini-bus because of their wide, comfortable seats. Buses and passengers are insured by Caminco Insurance, which was reassuring. Continue reading

Beat the heat: Things to do indoors in Kampot

Even though Kampot is a river town and some of the best things to do are outdoors, sometimes it’s just too hot — or too rainy — and it’s best to just stay inside. Luckily, whether the weather is drizzling or roasting, you can find plenty of indoor activities to do in Kampot. Here are a few of my favorites.

Things to do indoors in Kampot

Kampot Art Gallery

With free entry and regularly changing exhibitions, Kampot Art Gallery is the perfect spot get out of the sun.

Kampot Art Gallery

Offering an artistic respite from the heat, Kampot Art Gallery exhibits work by Cambodian artists from around the country. Entry is free and exhibits change monthly so it’s worth swinging by regularly to support the Kampot art scene. The upstairs gallery is a traditional white-walled, silent gallery, exhibiting surprisingly pricey works, while the middle floor is the “aquarium” with an installation exhibit of fish swimming in the sea. Downstairs, there are high quality art supplies for sale, including brushes and oil paints, as well as an assortment of souvenirs by Kampot artists. Continue reading