Bangkok and Siem Reap are such hot tourist destinations that most of the tourists visiting either of these cities don’t miss out on the other. But, it is only a few of them who do this journey over land, while most prefer to fly not knowing what they are missing by taking the flight. Even though I have traveled from Bangkok to Siem Reap over land, I discovered a new journey when I traveled with the tourism authority of Thailand.
The tourism authority of Thailand took me on an interesting journey through Central and South Eastern Thailand into Cambodia across Nakhon Nayok, Prachinburi, Ban Krathong Yam and Aranyaprathet. This journey brought me in close contact with the true country destside of Thailand while making me see this Thailand to Cambodia journey in a whole new light. Below is a concise narrative from this trip that spanned 6 days and hopefully this narrative will give you some tips in helping you plan your Bangkok to Siem Reap journey, thereby allowing you to explore some of the more off beat destinations of Thailand.
Day 1 and 2: Bangkok
I landed in Bangkok early in the morning from Bangalore and headed straight to the luxurious Dusit Thani hotel, located in Silom, the downtown area of Bangkok. After checking in, I took a ride on the Skytrain to the nearest ferry pier and ended up taking a cruise on the Chao Phraya river, one of the top highlights of a Bangkok holiday. This ferry ride allowed me to see Bangkok from a total different perspective with temples, high rises, colonial buildings and old fishermen towns passing by. My first stop on the river was Wat Arun and there is something about this temple of dawn that keeps pulling me to it.
After enjoying the riverside view from atop Wat Arun, I went to see the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and then had enough time to have a special Thai lunch that consisted of Massaman curry, brown rice and thai iced tea with milk at May Kaidee’s one of the top vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok. In the evening, the entire group of media personnel, bloggers and writers got together at the Dusit Thani hotel and this was to help us get acquainted with each other.
The next morning included one more cruise, but this time into the smaller canals of the Chao Phraya river and into one of the iconic floating markets of Thailand. This was the Taling Chan weekend floating market and it is one of those markets that is close to Bangkok and gives the visitor the same unique experience of seeing everything floating be it the mailman, meat, fruits or vegetables, restaurants and more. After the Taling Chan floating market, we were supposed to visit the Chatuchak weekend market, but due to heavy rains, we had to change plans and visited the popular MBK shopping mall. This mall, located in the downtown area is perfect for all kinds of souvenir shopping and offers deals galore.
The evening was special as we were invited to the World Gourmet festival at the Four Seasons hotel. The food, the champagne and the experience was fabulous, marking an end to a fabulous second day in Bangkok.
Day 3: Nakhon Nayok
On the third morning, we left Bangkok for the Nakhon Nayok province and enroute we had two interesting pit stops. One was a specialist mango wood factory at Creation World Wide Wood and the second was the scenic Khun Dan Prakarnchon Dam, one of Thailand’s famous dams. Once we reached Nakhon Nayok, we went to the Bhumirak Dhamachart project to get an idea of the king’s eco vision for Thailand and then checked into the scenic Royal Hills Golf Resort & spa property.
The afternoon was spent indulging in some soft adventure amidst the dense green forests of Nakhon Nayok. Not only is this terrain beautiful, but its rawness enables us to enjoy it more through adventure activities such as rock climbing, zip lining, river rafting and all terrain biking. These activities suit people of all ages and don’t need the person to be super fit. The river has class 2 rapids and gives enough thrill for first timers. The rest of the activities are well monitored and safety of all aspects is kept in mind. Altogether, these activities make Nakhon Nayok a prime hotspot for adventure weekend getaways from Bangkok.
There was a pleasant nip in the air as the evening set in and was perfect for a relaxed dinner. The sunrise and the sunset here are quite spectacular and the dense greenery just adds to the beauty.
Day 4: Prachinburi and Aranyaprathet
It is not every morning that you get to dine next to a lovely golf course. This was one such morning and I really enjoyed my food and the view. The first stop of the morning was Prachinburi, a town known for its deep rooted relationship with traditional Thai medicine and massages. Here we visited the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubate hospital, understood some of its colonial past, shopped some traditional medicines and indulged in a sensational and traditional Thai massage.
The next stop was Ban Dong Krathong Yam, a tribal village that offers tourists the chance to get closer to tribal life and stay inside one of their homes. The village threw us a great performance and lunch. Their desserts are truly outstanding. This village is known for its noodle strainers and it is quite a sight seeing the women of this village spin out these strainers in super speed. This is one of those places that is ideal for a grassroot level tribal holiday in Thailand.
The next stop was the border town of Aranyaprathet. This town is one of the more important land border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia and its Ban Klong Luek border market is popular for with the local Thai people for bargain shopping. This town is also popular with the Thai people who like to cross the Thai border and gamble on the Cambodia side.
Day 5 and 6: Siem Reap
The morning gave me a second experience of crossing the land border at Aranyaprathet and into Poi Pet, Cambodia. Immigration and visa on arrival was easy and in the next four hours, we crossed lovely green paddy fields to reach Siem Reap, Cambodia’s most popular city.
Post lunch, we headed to the majestic Bayon temple and got lost in its 54 towers and 216 faces. The Bayon is my favorite temple in Siem Reap. After Bayon, came the turn of Ta Prohm, the jungle temple. The giant roots of this temple cast an eerie look and this is one of the more popular temples with the tourists as they have all been mesmerized by it in the Hollywood movie Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider. The evening included a traditional Cambodian performance and a relaxed dinner hosted by the Ministry of Tourism in Cambodia. Before spending the night in the very luxurious Sokha Angkor resort, I went to the old market quarter and pub street of Siem Reap to get a taste of its nightlife.
The next morning, we went to Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most famous temple of Cambodia and spent close to 3 hours exploring its mighty campus. This marked a grand end to our Bangkok to Siem Reap saga and a big thanks to the tourism authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia for making this happen.