I had just arrived to Pattaya Beach around midnight, 6 hours before I and had to turn around and wake up incredibly early for the trek into Cambodia.
From town, we took a small van to a depot right outside the border town of Poi Pet, about a 5 hour ride from Pattaya (or only 3 hours in a private car). What would’ve proven to be a 10 minute walk was a 100 baht tuk tuk ride for 3 minutes from the van depot to border control. There were the sounds of motorcycles, scooters, vendors selling chilled fruits and all around there were casinos, most brandishing decor for Chinese New Year. Red lanterns and calligraphy adorned the entrances of all the hotels and casinos. Honestly, there didn’t seem much to the town and I couldn’t imagine any of the hotels and casinos to be filled to capacity unless by accident i.e unsuspecting Chinese tourist who were scammed into visiting this part of Cambodia.
We were dropped off right in front of another small depo with signs and arrows that pointed to “Passport Control”. We filled out a form and paid the 30usd per visa then was led down the sidewalk, but without very clear directions. There were some other foreign travelers making their way but of course, we had lost sight of them.
We decided to just stop in the small tourist police office where we were directed that we needed to get our visas stamped. A man in there offered to do it for us and said we HAD to pay 300 baht per stamp.
My frugal senses were tingling. That was 10usd per person to get stamps for us??
So I hopped up with a slight neck roll and told the guy and the police officer that didn’t sound right.
I said to him…
“Okay, lets go. The stamp is 10 USD let’s go, together…” After all my legs weren’t broken. They were obviously nervous and started looking at me crazy since I was getting
Americanly a bit vocal . Long story short, they pointed us 20 feet away to the next room where I got my stamp myself without paying any additional fees. I knew it…
I’ve been to so many so called “cheap” destinations. The difference between Bali for example and Cambodia is that in Bali they use their currency. In Cambodia they use US dollars.
The 3.5 hour private van from the border into Siem Reap ran on 30USD and 200 Thai baht.
Food places advertised meals for less than 4 dollars and alcoholic beverages for on average was 2 USD.
A 7 minute tuk tuk ride into town was 2 USD from our Air BnB (which was gorgeous by the way). The banana pancakes I adored so much were only 1USD. Just for some perspective
for those of us who cry that travel is impossibly expensive.
I wasn’t mentally prepared to maneuver such low prices and the obvious poverty around me since arriving in Cambodia.
1000 Cambodian reel was worth not even half of a dollar and everywhere I went vendors would hold their 10 and 20USD bills given by patrons right in the shirt pocket over their heart. As for finding places to break a 100USD bill, that took some time and patience however.