Asia ’24 #20: To Bangkok by bus

Asia ’24 #20: To Bangkok

Read this blog: The one where we want to be charged ‘on the meter’

Monday 1st April 2024

We travelled by GiantIbis coach again, this time from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, in a coach which was a little more modern, with just three seats across and more leg room. As before there were two drivers and one courier accompanying us. This seems to be company policy to avoid driver tiredness.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: on board the GiantIbis coach from Phnom Penh to Bangkok

This journey was scheduled to take about eight hours with three comfort stops as well as one to cross the border and get through immigration control. The courier gave everyone entry forms to complete on the bus to speed up the process but tourists travelling on a UK passport do not require a visa to enter Thailand, as a tourist.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: border between Cambodia and Thailand

We had to get off the bus and walk to the Cambodian border control. Part of the route was along some railway tracks which looked newly laid. It may be that the cross border train will be reinstated. We were given lanyards to wear but we suspect this was so that the GiantIbis staff could identify us rather than for any immigration-related reason.

The Cambodian border check point building was of a traditional design and quite imposing.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: Cambodian border check point

On the Cambodian side we queued to go through passport control handed over the exit part of our visa and our passports were stamped with our date of leaving. We then walked through a stretch of no-man’s land to the Thai border check point which was again a decorative traditional style building. Without the need for a visa, our passports were stamped with our entry date of 1st April with leave to remain until 30th April. We were told that sometimes passengers have to take their luggage through customs personally but we were lucky on this occasion and the luggage was carried through on a cart for us.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: the Kingdom of Thailand border control

As always, Robert aims to plan ahead and asked the GiantIbis courier about getting transport from the coach drop off to our hotel in Bangkok. The courier advised us to get a taxi rather than a tuk tuk. He told us a story about being taken a long circuitous route and being charged a lot of money by a tuk tuk driver. He was also trying to explain something more but said he didn’t know the right English words. We later realised that he was trying to explain that some tuk tuks, rather than being a simple and hopefully cheap form of transport, are effectively mobile discos complete with a souped up engine, loud music, neon decor and flashing lights and a price tag to reflect this. We did not feel the need to arrive at our hotel quite so conspicuously.

He also told us we had to make sure to get the taxi driver to agree the fare was ‘on the meter’.  He thought there would be plenty of cabs waiting for the coach to arrive in the expectation of getting a fare.

When we got off the coach we were glad of his advice. There was, in fact, just one taxi waiting and the driver was going from person to person, trying to work out who he would get the higher fare from. From having been first choice, possibly because we were Westerners and there were two of us with luggage. Robert said that he had looked up the fare on Grab [the Asian equivalent of Über] and as soon as he said he wanted to go ‘on the meter’ we were dismissed out of hand. We had no doubt we would have been massively overcharged.

After a short wait, Robert managed to hail a passing cab who was happy to turn his meter on and take us to our hotel where we found we had a view into the Central Stadium.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: View into the Central Stadium form our hotel room

Travelling all day had made us thirsty and we went for a walk to see what we could find. Many of the walkways are above street level and we found an intersection with an obvious photo opportunity [See selfie of the day]. We also found the Hard Rock Café.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: Hard Rock Café, Bangkok

Although we were not quite sure what Bangkok would be like, we found it was nothing like we had expected.

The public transport network includes the BTS [Bangkok Transit System] or Skytrain and the MRT [Mass Rapid Transit]. Much of these modern transport systems have been built above street level using concrete and so Bangkok reminded Robert of a scene from Bladerunner.

We spend some time planning how we would spend the next day. Bangkok is a large city and we realised that we would need to use public transport as it was forecast to be very hot the following day.

TravellingHerd-Asia ’24: transit systems in Bangkok span several levels.

Selfie of the day:


Route Map:

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