The historic and cultural sites at Angkor are magnificent, but most travelers get templed out
eventually, so for those seeking an island escape in Thailand, here is a suggested itinerary
So you're done with the temples, and it's time for some serious beach time. Where better to head than the glorious islands in Thailand's Trat province?
After all, the pier at Laem Ngop is just a share taxi, tuk-tuk, bus, another bus and a songtheaw ride away. Then from there you just need to settle on which island - Ko Chang, Ko Maak, Ko Kut, Ko Wai - oh decisions, decisions. Read on for the inside line on how to get between the two - and yes, it is possible to leave Siem Reap after breakfast (not brunch!) and be on the island in time for a before-dinner dip.
Siem Reap to the border
There are three main ways to get between Siem Reap and Poipet (the border town between Cambodia and Thailand and an absolute armpit of a town) - tourist minibus, share taxi and pickup truck.
The tourist minibus should be avoided at all costs, as it will inevitably transform into a scam-bus not long after leaving Siem Reap and you'll have precious time wasted as they waste your time. Take our word for it - do not take a tourist mini bus service to Poipet - they are all scams.
The pickup truck is only an option if you're trying to prove yourself to your travelling partner as being a hard-as-nails, down and dirty budget traveller. You'll certainly be dirty by the end, in fact you'll be absolutely filthy. You'll also lose time in Sisophon (where you'll need to change from one heap of junk to another), and you won't get to Ko Chang in the same day. You will save a few dollars though. If you still want to do it by pick-up, be a bit of a softie and opt for a seat inside the cabin.
A share taxi is the way to go - either hire the entire car yourself or buy a seat (or two) in one. This is, by far, the fastest way to get to the border. Expect to pay US$25-35 for an entire car.
The Poipet border can be a bit time consuming at times, depending on crowds and how hard the officials feel like working. The most important piece of advice is to ignore all touts - ALL of them. You're best to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Once you're through both sides of immigration, continue on to the market and take a tuk-tuk to the government bus station in Aranyprathet (6 kilometres away).
A crossing can take as little as ten minutes or as long as three hours - this can be a real wild card when it comes to doing the ruins to beach run in a day.
Aranyprathet bus station
Aranyprathet bus station has buses to both Bangkok and Chanthaburi, but there are no direct buses to Trat. Instead, you need to catch a bus to Chanthaburi and then change buses there. The bus to Chanthaburi should take around three hours.
There's no need to leave the bus station, as buses to Trat leave from the same terminal you'll be dropped at coming from Aranyprathet. The bus to Trat should take between an hour and a half and two hours.
Once you are in Trat, you need to get a songtheaw to one of the three piers that serve the Ko Chang island group. All three piers are around an hour from Trat by songtheaw.
Laem Ngop to Ko Chang
There are three piers that send boats to Ko Chang. The main Laem Ngop pier, Centrepoint Pier, 4km north and Thammachart Pier some 9km from Laem Ngop.
The latter two double as car ferries and while Thammachart drops you at Ao Sapparot on Ko Chang, the other two, Laem Ngop and Centrepoint, will drop you at Dan Kao, which is a little further from all the main beaches.
Ferry cross the Andaman
Overall trip time
Siem Reap - border: 3-4 hrs (allow 1-3 hrs for border clearance) / Tuk-tuk to Aranyaprathet: 15 mins / Bus to Chanthaburi: 2.5 - 3 hrs / Chanthaburi to Trat: 1.5 - 2 hrs / Trat - Laem Ngop: 1 hr by sonthaew / Laem Ngop - Ko Chang: 30 mins - 1 hr
Ferries leave Laem Ngop six times a day between 7am and 5pm, take an hour and cost 100 baht. From Thammachart, ferries leave nine times daily between 7am and 7pm and take just 30 minutes, costing 100 baht. From Centrepoint departures are similar to Laem Ngop - six times daily between 7am and 5pm, take around 45 minutes and cost 100 baht.
All of the ferries are met on Ko Chang by songtheaws, which will transport you to your beach of choice.
Laem Ngop to Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kham
There is one slow boat a day from Laem Ngop pier to Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kham, leaving Laem Ngop at 3pm, taking around three hours and costing 300 baht. Speedboats services are also available.
Laem Ngop to Ko Kut
Boats leave Laem Ngop every Friday, Saturday and Tuesday for Ko Kut, but they leave at 9am so you'll need to overnight in Trat to get these. They pass by both Ko Wai and Ko Maak.
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