Crossing the Border to Cambodia and Hair Wash

4am, my alarm rang.

I hastily traced the source of sound in the dark for my phone. Switching it off, I slump my head back to bed face forward.

4:15am, my snooze went off. I dragged myself out of bed, with the heaviest feet, I plopped out of the room and into shower for an awakening call.

Cold water always does the trick, and as much as I hated the cold shower in the wee hours, I needed stimulation to my senses. I have not packed yet, as always.

Back in the room, I stuffed left right centre all my scattered clothes around the floor into my backpack, chucked chargers and cables into a separate compartment and before I left the house, I took a last glance around the room for any left behinds. And I was out on the cold dark street alone, dragging what was at least 16kg of luggage over my shoulders.

backpack on the run

At the street, I waited impatiently for a cab, aware of the time as the seconds ticked. One spotted me from the street across, eager to make his first baht of the day, he speedily made a U-turn in front and screeched to a halt in front of my in no time.

“Hua Lumpong”, he nodded. I think my Thai is getting better, I can speak street names now.

There are several ways to get to Cambodia from Thailand. The safest and most un-Nicolekiss way is to fly (loser~~). You can fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap through Bangkok Airways.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, you can always catch a bus straight into Siem Reap. Note: it’s well known that buses that run from Bangkok to Siem Reap are full of scams. Many agencies will cheat their passengers to pay extra visa fee at the border (visa for foreigners outside ASEAN is USD25), reach Siem Reap too late at night so you need to stay at their designated guest houses.

To avoid this, don’t buy bus tickets from Khao San Road, get yourself a bus ticket to the border at Aranyaprathet, cross the immigration to Poipet, then take a shared taxi or bus into Siem Reap. Bus to border will cost around 250 baht (RM25) and 4 hours.

Now if you wanna do it MY WAY (which is usually the most pathetically cheap and local way), catch a 5:50am train at the Hua Lumpong train station in Bangkok at the rate of 48 baht (RM4.8), 6 hours journey to the border.

train station at hua lumpong
I don’t know why, I find thrills in cheap travels. I’m sick, I know.

Taking the public train before the sun rise is actually very cooling; I didn’t even realize there’s no air-conditioning till around 10am when the sun started to burn. The train passed through fields of padi and clover buds flew in through the window, by 9am, the whole train was full of clovers. It was a romantic scene.

Pulling in at Aranyaprathet, I got off the train heaving my oversized backpack and hired a tuk-tuk to the border for 50 baht, which was roughly 6km from the station.

aranyaprathet immigration
Immigration at Aranyaprathet to Poipet

You will find many cart traders lining up to get into Cambodia here.

queuing to enter cambodia

stack of clothes

Beware of Thai people trying to con you telling that the bus ride on the other side of Cambodia to Siem reap will cost 600 baht and that it is impossible to get a ride once you crossed the border, just ignore them. There’re always cheaper rides on the other side.

If you’re white skin, beware of people trying to tell you that the visa will cost USD40, it’s a lie. Pay for your own Visa at the entry in the immigration. Do not go through anyone else. Other than that, travelling from Thailand to Cambodia is as safe as it can get. :)

As for the rest, all you need to do it just walk across into the Kingdom of Cambodia~! :D

kingdom of cambodia

On the other side, you will find many casinos settled at the border. Many Thai people come here on weekend for gamblings, like Genting Highland for us.

golden crown casino

My only mistake in Cambodia, after having avoided ALL of all the scams mentioned above, was that I forgot to check on the conversion rate for local Riels from US dollars. Which is USD1 = 4000 riels.

I was ripped off at a money private money exchanger for changing USD1 to 3200 riels!!! ARGH!!!

riel currency

Since I changed a total of 100 dollars, means that for what I can get at a local bank in the city, I can get 80,000 riels more than what I was given in exchanged at the border exchanger. That’s a blinking 20 US Dollars!!!! ARGH… kill!!!!

Then later I found out everyone deals in dollars in Siem Reap. MORE CURSES!!!!!!!


One thing about Cambodia I have learned was that the most ripped off money exchangers are at the airport and private outlets, which is the total opposite of Laos and Vietnam. Hence in Cambodia, change at the bank, you will get the cheapest rate.

Once over at the other side, board a free shuttle bus to a taxi and bus station and rent a shared taxi with other travellers to Siem Reap, which is three hours drive away on rocky red earth road (there’s not really a road).

hiroshi and andrew
My taxi buddies – Hiroshi from Japan and Andrew from Canada

Andrew was ripped off twice for a 500 baht bus on the Cambodian side and USD40 for Visa on the Thailand side, he was pretty pissed. He then left us to argue with the bus agency for his money back and we went off in the shared taxi with another two Japanese passengers.

Despite all that, reaching Siem Reap wasn’t so hard, was it? *Big gleam on face*


The next morning, I woke up to a free buffet breakfast at my hostel that costs me USD10 a night.

siem reap hostel lobby

I wanted to splurge a bit on myself in a swimming pool hostel with free wifi access, oh how I can’t live without wifi, wifi is the most amazing thing ever invented. :D

blogging at breakfast in cambodia
Blogging at breakfast, seriously, I need a therapist.

Ants invaded my breakfast while I blogged away.

ants in breakfast

After breakfast, I decided to cycle to town to look around.

street next to old market siem reap

Here in Cambodia, they drive on the wrong side of the road (like how the French does), so keep right. And look left first before you crossed the road. Nearly got me killed the first few times.

Everything in Cambodia is cheaper than Thailand, more expensive than Laos and slightly in between Thailand and Laos in the development sector.

cheap vodka in siem reap

You get Absolute Vodka selling at USD8.50 here (RM27!!!) in Mini Markets!!!!

Just imagine all the cheap alcohols~~~~

alcohol in siem reap angkor market

Airport duty frees in Cambodia is at least twice the price of those in Mini Marts.

cheap liquors in cambodia
USD8.50 for a bottle of Bacardi

I’d said Cambodia is more developed and commercialised than Laos simply because in Cambodia, you find Starbucks! Well, not exactly the outlet.

starbucks to go

But hey!! Still Starbucks ok!

Cycling in Siem Reap is anything but dusty, like really really dusty. I don’t know why (maybe because of the lack of proper roads) but I can easily classify Cambodia as the dustiest country in the world.

traffic in siem reap, wearing mask
Most people wear a mask or a scarf around their head here

The old Market is smacked in the middle of the town - my first visit in Cambodia (apart from the stupid deceitful money exchanger at Poipet).

old market siem reap

80% of the things you see sold here come from Thailand. And 80% of the things you see in Thailand come from China.

Hence, Chinese rules.

Now… in Cambodia, you HAVE TO VISIT THE SALOON. Don’t ask, it’s just a must.

Because a hair wash in Cambodia is DIRT CHEAP (quoted from Zen).

dodgy hair saloon

How cheap? Say~~ 2 dollars? (less if you haggle, my god, RM6 for a hair wash?!!!)

preparing to wash and dye hair

You’ve guessed it.

washing hair in siem reap

That was exactly the first thing I did in Cambodia. Get a hair wash. Not only that, I had my hair coloured!!!

For 13 dollars!! (Including the wash, I found out later in Phnom Penh, you can get your hair dyed at 10 dollars!)

That’s like RM40!!!! And my hair is at least up till my waist! In Malaysia, the cheapest saloon I go to charges me at least 3 times the price of that!!!! 6 times if you’re in KL!!

hair colors
Choosing colours

After two hours of tagging and pulling and massaging.

*drum rolls*

Wait for it~~~

Wait for it~~~

*continue drum rolls* (hey I haven’t visited a saloon in almost a year k?, this is big)


Teng teng!!!

new hair color

Nice or not nice or not nice or not nice or not?!!

my new hair color and sunglass
Let hair down a bit

new hair under the sun
Different angle a bit

my new hair and angkor wat book
Angkor wat, opps, I just revealed my next post~

It’s Copper Red! Ho HO!!! I finally dyed my hair!

Say nice damn it! Cost me RM40 ok!!!

Though I realised it’s not a good idea to colour your hair before your decision to cycle around town full of dust.

riding into sunset
Riding into the sunset.

I need my 2 dollars hair wash tomorrow.


43 kissed Nicole

  1. You got yourself a tan... And became a redhead! Should start calling you Jean Grey =)

    There're more Chinese in Thailand than in Malaysia. Not sure about Cambodia, though. But I didn't know they're instant Starbucks... Just add hot water??

  2. to eng seng, instant starbucks is just like your regular coffee. think, nescafe.

    anyway i am really jealous of you nicole! i... wanna travel the world too! but too scared.

  3. Wow, that is seriously cheap.

  4. nice hair color nic, why don't you get a highlight as well :-)
    I wonder what makes it cheap, the material or the labour?

  5. haha. love the comment of yours about ants invading your breakfast.. hahaha.. quite nice la.. i rate it 6/10..

  6. eh..the color is really nice :)


  7. Nice hair!!! ;) Can't wait for your Angkor Wat pics!!! I heard their local architecture is really fantastic

  8. hey nicole,my 1st time i wish i can be as daring as you to travel indochina all by myself..i salute your courage by doing so..keep it up your good works in updating ur travel log and give us handful tips on cheapEST way to travel! xoxo..

  9. U've been reading a lot of novels ler...U beginning to write like one...:)

    Let us readers noe when u comming back ar, maybe we'll have a welcoming party...:)

  10. You look like a true slut now with that haircolor. 100% slut looks. congratulation!

  11. im hoping im not working now.. it'll be great fun to be out there and having fun..

    keep it up in your travel log. It's great!

  12. Oh yes!! Angkor Wat!! I am waiting in anticipation for your visit to Angkor Wat! Plenty of pics please.

  13. Sorry Nicole, but uhm, I think you looked way better before you dyed your hair :(

    It looks horrible!

  14. Sigh! Nicole, you spoil my fun... A fren told me that my root is showing already and I said, if Nicole, the traveling Malaysia bloggers can pull off the root-expose-thingies fashionably online, why can't I? (I'm one of the those who only dyed my hair once a year -cheapskate) and now I have to take back what I said.... sniff!

  15. Kinkyboyhehe7/5/08 8:41 AM

    First time leaving my comments here, while u r in Cambodia, u must also visit Tha Prom temple...

    Cheers n looking forward 2 lots of pics....

    btw, u look absolutely gorgeous in yr new hair color.

  16. actually, i felt it's too... reddish, ur new hair color..

    anyway, hav fun travelling. i think every place have their own uniqueness, so doesn't matter which temple u visit or did not visit.. as long as u enjoyed ur time and take lots of pics for us :D

  17. zz.. i thought u say u use the bangkok nightview as wallpaper 1?

  18. remember to condition it really well since u're traveling. and the heat! don't go into chlorine waters or inside the sea too often. u might want to invest in great hair products.

  19. Hi. great to hear that you are progressing in your trip.
    well, i travel to cambodia the same way too but i took the bus to aran.
    Just be carefull in Poipet, a lot of 'cute' little children who will begged for money at the same time, try to pick pocket.
    and btw, remember to ask for change back in USD. Riel is of no value outside cambodia.

  20. Keep up your travelling news, it is nice to see one of our M'sian girl doing what you love most, travelling, meeting new friends and not forgetting the experience you have learnt, the up and down of life.
    Can't agreed more about the dirt cheap hair wash and colour changed. Nice colour and deserved to pamper yourself at times. My wife paid $260 for hair dyed and so on, I think I ask her to visit you in Cambodia.
    Hasta La Vista Baby !!! I will be BACK to check for more news.

  21. It's horrible though, sorry to say, but your really look like ah lian

  22. They did a very good job on your hair although I still prefer your natural hair colour. But it's worth it though..

  23. Nicole...Nice holiday u have. But the dye..sorry to say..i prefer ur hair colour originally...oh actually..the main reason i drop a comment here is to know if u r about to entering myanmar... just shock me to know many ppl die n missing there due to some cyclone... take care...

  24. Hey, thanks for sharing your experience in Cambodia and also provided all the information.

    Me and my friends just back from there. We have such as great time.

    We found some very useful free map for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh at :)

    Angkor Wat is really amazing. Feeling like visiting there again :D

  25. Prefers your previous hair color.
    I guess that the color don't really match your tanned skin...
    Looks out of place...A bit lalah..

  26. hmm ur black hair looks better but heck.. it's really cheap to wash + dye ur hair there ahahah.. it's been several year since i've step foot in Cambodia...
    *a little tip when u're in Angkor Wat, leech of from others who has a tour guide, u get to hear the stories/histroy, instead of looking at the guide all the time hahaha that's what some people did when i went there =P..

  27. hi.. love yr blog...its been ages since I visited Cambodia on a business trip searching for dried squids, gave up when they told me I have to be escorted by a military general to do business there... visited the UN supermarket.. hehe.. found out old, out of date canned products from Malaysia, tons and tons of it... mm big business hehe and ooh and the locals brought me to a brothel.. I just couldn't believe it - an attap house with bamboo walls with a mosquito net on the bed.. OMG above 16 is considered overaged... nope no way, just couldn't get my brother to do it hahahahaa...
    anyway... nice blog you got there.. keep it up...will visit here more often.. :)

  28. ei come to the philippines, i'll tour you around :)

    I love traveling too... :)

    Check out my multiply account.. add me too.. some are hidden entries hehe


  29. it's SALON not SALOON -_-

  30. RM 40 for hair cut and dye.. very cheap lah!! and worth it too... hey.. reli nice lah ur hair. =] i didnt expect that it will be that nice since it's so cheap.

  31. Fyi jee, salon - american english. saloon - british english.

  32. Did you say hello to Aung San Suu Kyi?Do you get involve with Nargis the cyclone....worry about you!!!

  33. Genevieve
    It's SALON whether in American English or the Queen's Language!!!!
    The dictionary is very useful, use it more.
    Have a good day.

  34. saloon is where the cowboys go for drinks. hahaha

  35. hi.. if u r dropping by Phnom Penh (PP) after Siem Reap, do be careful of tuk tuk drivers there ya :)
    siem reap is a much kinder place than PP.

    Just went to vietnam & crossed to PP in march.

  36. Yes, I would agree that Siem Reap is kinder than Phnom Penh. From PP you can cross over to Ho Chi Minh city.

    Vietnam is a must visit, esp HCMC.

    All the best on your travels.

  37. windwalker9/5/08 8:56 PM

    Nice hair!

  38. sorry, nicole. black is beautiful. stop colouring...

  39. eii nicole, your hair colour made u look damn LALA laaaaaaaa and ah-lian-ish!!

  40. great post...eventhough thailand has more chinese...cambodia has better relations to china...due mainly to early history of the Khmer Empire and Cambodia's Ex King Norodom Sihanouk

  41. Ur hair iz so cool!
    i like it.
    The ants invading ur breakfast waz funny.:)

  42. hey which hostel did you stay in cambodia? mind sharing the name?

  43. love this post... very useful! i only tried taking the train from BKK to Nong Khai to crossover to Laos... =D