Paramount Angkor Express scam

martes, 24 de febrero de 2015

Today we made it to Siem Reap from Don Khon (in the 4000 Islands), but it has not been easy… or confortable. This post, written in English and Spanish, is our way to complaint about what we consider an organized fraud. Paramount Angkor Express ticket

Yesterday we booked the trip with our Guesthouse in the island (Nongsak Guesthouse) and the first surprise was the price. The whole trip, including the boat to the coast, the bus to the border and the bus from the border to Siem Reap, was $35 (more than 30 euros). For those who are not familiarized with the prices in this area: a journey of less than 400 kilometres (as this is) should never cost more than 15 or (tops) 20 USD. But Don Khon is a small island and every Travel Agent or Guesthouse offers the same price, so there are no alternatives. At least it is clearly stated that the bus takes the “new road” and arrives in Siem Reap at 17:30… It’s not true.

The first part of the trip went well: the boat arrived on time. In Nakasong we avoided the guy who charges 40$ to manage the Cambodia visa paperwork (I’ll call him The Opportunist). The bus to the border was comfortable and we made the get-out and get-in paperwork quite easily ourselves. We paid $2 to get out of Laos, $1 for the “quarentine” procedure and $35 for the Cambodian visa. Total: $2 less that what The Opportunist charged.El Aprovechado

Once in the Cambodian side, all the passengers (about 50) were directed to a restaurant. One of those terraces that abound in this area, only that this one had almost European prices. There we waited for an hour until a guy came (Mr. Do) calling to those who had their passports. The ones that had given theirs to The Opportunist didn’t have them yet.Mr. Doanother buddy

Mr. Do took us to a old van where he and his buddies stacked 18 people with their knees up to their chins and their foot on the luggage. Some complained a little, but we refused to get in, we demended a bigger or less crowded van. Mr. Do acted all offended and told us to go walking if we didn’t want to enter. Once the val left I asked him for his’ and his company’s name. He resisted a bit and finally wrote in my notebook: “Mr. Do” and something in Cambodian. After a while another van, as old as the other one, showed up. We had no choice but to squeeze in it.Mr. Do informationvan from the border to Stung Treng

At least the trip to Stung Treng was a short one; a bit over an hour. The van spitted us out in a “bus station” that is, according to the GPS, in what I can only describe as “the backyard of town”. In the “station” there was only an expensive and mediocre restaurant were we had to eat something (it got late and we were hungry). After a while a bus of “Paramount Angkor Express” came and we thought we would leave soon. An hour after that, the passengers that remained in the border arrived. They came in the same van that had taken us. We spent almost 3 hours there. Finally, at 15:35, we entered the bus, that had been stopped there the whole time, and we set off.Paramount Angkor Express bus

Aside for a stop to have dinner in yet another expensive restaurant, the trip to Siem Reap was not too bad. The aircon worked very weakly and it was hot, but beareable. Finally we arrived in Siem Reap after 22:00. In the station the tuk-tuk driver that will have his own space in the next post was waiting for us.

Full timeline:
08:15: we got on the boat in Don Khon.
08:45: we disembarked in Nakasong (5 km).
09:30: we got on the bus.
10:00: we got to the border (17 km).
10:45: we finished the paperwork and gor our visas.
12:00: we got in the van.
13:15: we got out of the van in Stung Treng (57 km).
15:50: we got in the bus to Siem Reap.
20:15: stop for dinner.
22:00: we arrived in Siem Reap (292 km).

Advice: unfortunately it seems as if there are no more companies operating the 4000 Islands-Siem Reap route. Therefore one is quite trapped here. If I had to do it all over again I think I would book the trip only to Stung Treng. According to today’s experience we would be in Stung Treng at 13:15 and I am sure there are regular buses to Siem Reap from the real bus station there.
Another choice is to go North, to Pakse and take a plane to Siem Reap (Lao Airlines operates the route every day, 135$). It’s much faster and confortable, although more expensive too.

I hope this post helps someone, at least to know what they are getting into.

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