HAT LEK (CAMBODIA COASTAL BORDER)
Description : A shopping center with two flags blowing in the sea wind.
Comments : In case you are stuck here more than 5mn, you will be delighted to know that this border has got some charm...
What to do ? If coming from Cambodia, rush across
toward an ice cream ! / If going to Sihanoukville, rush across toward your boat ! / Get a Cambodian visa in 5mn
/ Take 3mn to walk down between shops, toward the sea, to check out a small temple full of erected phallus : welcome to Thailand ! / Shop for souvenirs : a few of them aren't actually too ugly / Buy a new watch : a lot of them are flashy enough / Store on snacks before Cambodia / Make a sand castle on the tiny beach ?
What you may not like ? Arriving too early (it opens at 7am) or too late (it closes at 5pm) / The insistence of the officials that you pay your visa in Bahts (B1000) rather than in dollars ($20) so they can keep the exchange difference
or the "scam of the day" / Having to queue to get the smile of the officials / Not finding your pen to fill up the forms / Not being able to walk far along the pier : restricted area ! /
How long ? Couple of minutes should do just fine. A few more if you need a visa.
Where to stay ? Somewhere else !
Where to eat ? Lot's of snacks, lot's of ice creams & lot's of restaurants.
Cambodian Visa ? Yes, it is now possible to get one with little fuss &
waste of time at this border as well. The 1 month visa cost the standard $20 or B1000 (bad exchange rate, therefore the favorite with the officials who seem to keep the difference) plus one photo. If paying in Bahts, it is more advantageous to have your visa arranged by an agency in Bangkok (B900, 1 working day).
Other scams also occur like charging some money for the forms. As at Poipet's
border, I trust that you will also be "fined" B50 if you can not show
your international vaccination certificate.
Going to Sihanoukville (Cambodia) ?
The speed boat (4 hours, B600) leave daily from Koh Kong at 8am. You will therefore need to take the
6am first minibus in order to reach Koh Kong on time : 1-1.5 hours bus to the border (B100),
formalities, 10mn motorbike to the sea (B20), 5mn river crossing to Koh Kong Pier (B20) and
5 more minutes to reach the boat's pier and buy the ticket. Mathematically, you have got the time but
queuing, looking for your pen or negotiating prices for too long are excluded !
If really delayed, you may have the option of a speed boat from the border to Pak Long, where the Sihanoukville's boat should stop for a while at about 8:15. The ride takes only 30mn but cost B100 and can be dangerous if the sea is agitated...
Considering the above and the fact that Koh Kong is a relaxed introduction to Cambodia, I would personally recommend to take it easy and spend an afternoon and a night in Koh Kong...
Going to Trat ?
AC Minibus to "Trat" leave from 7:10 to 17:10 every 45mn for B100. The great looking minibus you take at the border actually will stop at Khlong Yai where you will need to change to an older minibus (see below story). Altogether, it should take 1.5 hours maximum to reach Trat. If you arrive late in the
afternoon, this is the only reasonable option.
Songthaew to Khlong Yai cost B20 and leave when reasonably full only. After a 30mn trip, you will have to wait again for another songthaew to fill up. The final journey cost B35 and should take less than 1.5 hours. This option is definitively more time consuming but, also, more authentic & colorful. It also enable you to stop 12km north of Khlong Yai at Ban Chuen Beach, a 1km long beach that some people recommend as an easier
& cheaper alternative to Ko Chang.
The trip to Trat : SSS / L&R / Free + B35 / 30mn + 1.5 hrs / Minibus + Songthaews
I showed up on Thai soil with my passport stamped at 9:20. The minibus to Trat had already left, 5mn ahead of the schedule. The next one being at 10:10, I walked a bit around this very exciting (hence all the erected phallus of the temple, I suppose) place.
I came back on the minibus early and it was a good idea as it left 5mn ahead of the schedule, with two passengers only ! The ride was comfortable but not too fast : it took us some time to overpass an half empty songthaew and 15 mn to cover the 16km to Khlong Yai.
There, we were asked to change bus : an older looking AC minibus was indeed waiting for more passengers to leave. This kind of situation never make me very joyful : you decide to take a great looking expensive minibus, reserve a seat, wait for 30mn, realize on the road that half-empty & cheaper songthaew are nearly as fast and now, like for the songthaew, you are required to
switch to a less comfortable minibus and to wait again... I took my bag and left toward the market. I had not paid for the short ride but nobody tried to stop me.
The market was supposedly what Khlong Yai was famous for but it was truly nothing special. I was however not looking for grilled bees but a songthaew to Trat. And this, I found easily. It
cost B35 only and left half empty within 20mn. OK, it took 1.5 hours to cover the 74km to Trat but it was a more colorful ride with fresh natural air !
See also the trip from Krong
Koh Kong / South