Hat Lek (หาดเล็ก) is a Thai border crossing into Cham Yeam in Cambodia. The border is located 90km from the Town of Trat in Thailand, which is not too far from the popular island of Koh Chang. Being near Koh Chang makes this border popular for visa runs, these hops over the border to immediately come back into Thailand with a new visa and more time in Thailand. Without getting into the details, I found myself having to do a visa run. Based in Bangkok, I had a few options but settled to do it myself riding to Hat Lek and take the opportunity to visit the Eastern part of Thailand.

Trat City

Trat is a small Thai Town. Being the closest “big” city to the Cambodian border, the town benefits a quite good infrastructure with a good international hospital and big supermarkets. The town has a few good eateries, I would recommend going to dinner at Suan Ahaan Nam Chok (สวนอาหารนำโชค) which is popular for their fried spare ribs and then having a beer at the artsy quiet bar called “ร.ศ.112“.
There is also plenty of cheap accommodation. I stayed at Paradiso Boutique Resort which was a steal at 600baht booked on Agoda. The place looks gorgeous and you even have your own private parking.

Ride To The Border

I started the day with a tasty noodle soup at Pu Noodle Shop Sukhumvit (ร้านก๋วยเตี๋ยวปูสุขุมวิท) and at 10 am I was on Road 3 toward Cambodia and my Visa Run.

There are a few petrol stations in the first 15 kilometers out of town. They become a bit scarce later on until you reach Klong Yai but still, you won’t run out of fuel unless you mean it.

The road outside Trat is awesome. Not much traffic and good surface, so I could cruise at the 90km/h that my 200cc bike let me do.

This got a bit trickier after when I saw the construction work appearing on the road. As of May 2018, construction is going on to widen the road. This means having to be careful about the big trucks on the road and the red dust.

Things got better after about 40km where the road switch into the jungle and widening it seems like a huge job that I doubt will be done. This went like that for 10 or so kilometers of fast driving. It’s interesting to think that behind those big mountains on your left is Cambodia and that even still in Thailand you are penetrating in Cambodia. Unfortunately, the road isn’t close enough to the coast to give you a pleasant view.

After that, the constructions re-appeared but the road was quite empty, so no problems to drive fast. The worst came for the last 10 km where they were rebuilding these nice big curves so you have to drive in the dusty dirt. The few views of the Gulf of Thailand were making it kind of worth.

 

I arrived at Hat Lek in an hour and a half and according to the road conditions and my bike, I think this is a very good time.

I parked my bike in a car park 50 meters from the border on the left side (turn left at the Green and Purple ATMs). This is a car parking, talking in Thai helped me convince the security guards to leave my bike near their booth for 20 baht. They only seemed concerned that I leave my bike there for an hour maximum.

The market area near the border don’t feel as dodgy as let’s say, Poipet, but as I didn’t want to bring my jacket and helmet to the border it was safer with these guys.

Leaving and coming back to Thailand

The departure booth of the Thai side is on the left and the process was straightforward. There was nobody else, so I got stamped out by the officer in 20 seconds and I was now in the no mans land. The no mans land is a dirt road with some greenery and a nice view over the Gulf of Thailand. A few dozen meters later, I arrived at the Cambodian arrival booth and the fun began. As the Poipet border, you will have friendly Cambodian agents coming at you when approaching the immigration office. For a not clear fee and a good tip, they will help you fill the form, skip the line to check-in and check-out of Cambodia. I decided to go for it, seeing that queue of a dozen people waiting to process their visa. So that friendly Cambodian man filled my immigration form and took me in a “staff only” room where I paid the 1500 baht fee for the Visa. I read conflicting reports of the visa price at this specific border, so I paid it. I had no pictures, I added another 100 baht. The agent came to me and told me that because I don’t stay 24 hours, there is a 500 baht fee. I got a bit pissed at that point and told him I will do the line and he told me that if I do the line I will have to pay 300 baht instead of 500 baht when checking out. I googled a bit and found some stuff along these lines, so I agreed and I was checked out 1 minute later, seriously. The whole process took MAXIMUM 20 minutes. I gave a big tip of 300 baht to the guy, which I feel stupid about it now, but the whole process went so quickly that I guess I was happy at that time.

  • Is it a scam? Kinda, but you get something out of it.
  • Is it a corrupted 2-speed system? Definitely.
  • Is it worth it? Up to you.

It has cost me a total of 2400 baht and 20 minutes while the backpackers were still in line applying for their visas. Then I walked back to the Thai “arrival” gate and filled the immigration card. The immigration officer was very friendly. He informed me that I will get a 30 days “stamp” that could be obtained only twice a year. It all went smoothly. This gave me plenty of time to stroll in the market to buy a Cambodian Banh Mi sandwich and some “balut” eggs, you know these eggs with the fetus inside. The ride back to Trat felt very quick and I was in town at 2 PM making the whole visa run a 4 hours journey. Then I was on my way to the Koh Chang ferry.

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