ON THE ROAD | 26 Hours from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai


Thanks to an Argentinian traveler who let me use his maps.me because Google map is useless when you’re stupid for not downloading the area. The signage of the hostel was just across the road and I instantly made my way to the complex. It was on the other side and I was struggling to carry my backpack for few more steps. Doi, of The Travelling Feet, was hooked on her computer catching up with work. I went inside the hostel’s lobby and laid on the couch. The softly upholstered fixture was indeed a reward. Now let’s go back 26 hours and join me as I recall my hullabaloos on my land travel from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai. Imagine a reverse video 32x faster with the churickeicheirichhdwkjr sound.

Episode 1: Crossing Cambodia to Thailand

Around 8 AM, we boarded the coaster that would bring us to the Cambodia and Thailand border. When I bought my ticket from the agency, the lady said it’s a bus. It turned out to be a coaster, still a bus but smaller.

siem reap to chiang mai
Our coaster to the Cambodian border checkpoint.

When everyone settled on their seats, the dispatcher informed everyone that the coaster will only bring us to the Cambodian departure building. The stickers taped on our shirts will be the sign for their counterpart on the Thailand side. Sticker was white and I was wearing a white shirt that time, very appropriate. We cleared both immigration and officially arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand.

siem reap to chiang mai
Welcome to Thailand!

A guy was assigned to look for travelers having the respective stickers. He asked us to wait for the other passengers. Starving from the early morning departure from Siem Reap, the area where locals sell cold noodles, boiled corn, and some bread, provided a satisfying lunch.

Episode 2: Thailand Border to Bangkok

When everyone already cleared on the Thailand immigration and the guy already completed his target number, he instructed us to follow him. We walked for 3 blocks before finally seeing our ‘bus‘ to Bangkok. A small van that can comfortably accommodate 13 people, excluding the driver. Unfortunately, we were 15 and the westerners have this magnanimous backpacks. Results were tight spaces and a heated conversion between one of the passengers and the crew.

The driver, who only speaks Thai, allowed us to have a legit lunch first before covering the 250-kilometer distance to our destination. I tried to sleep during the trip but being seated on the last row with a cramped space was an obstacle.

We arrived near Khao San Road around 8 PM on a sketchy alley of the infamous street in Bangkok. Our next goal was to go to Mo Chit Bus Terminal. A Singaporean and Dutch traveler, on the same van, joined me on my goal to reach the terminal. A tuk-tuk driver offered us a 150THB rate but the Dutch lady declined it because it was too expensive. Bus attendants stationed on one of the bus-stops advised us to ride a certain bus number. We then proceed to the avenue where the said bus number passes by. When we boarded the bus, the bus attendant was stunned when we told him we’re going to Mo Chit Terminal.

siem reap to chiang mai
One more bus to Chiang Mai!

The bus crew, who don’t know how to speak English, shouted few Thai words. A lady responded and told us that the vehicle is not going to the terminal. She mentioned though that we can go to the Victory Monument and take a BTS to Mo Chit. I later realized that the bus attendant looked for someone who speaks and understands English for the information to be relayed to us. Fortunately, the lady and her partner were also heading to the BTS and they just instructed us what station to go.

Episode 3: Bangkok to Chiang Mai

After going down at Mochit BTS Station, by the help of a tourist police, we again boarded another rickety bus to the terminal. In total, we spent 47THB for the buses and BTS ride. It was just 3THB less compared to the rate, when split amongst us three, offered by the tuk-tuk driver.

Yi Peng Festival chiang mai thailand
Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I was a bit concerned on reserving bus seats to Chiang Mai because it was only 2 days from the Yi Peng Festival that time. Turned out that there were tons of vacant seats and we were able to secure our spots. I comfortably dozed to sleep and woke up on few instances along the way. But the tiring trip drained my energy that I already woke up when our bus arrived in Chiang Mai.

It was my first experience traveling on the road for more than 24 hours, straight. A trial by fire for my first solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. After negotiating a songthaew to the Chiang Mai Old City, I asked an Argentinian traveler if I can use his maps.me app to locate my hostel in Chiang Mai.



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