Day 34 - Chau Doc to Phnom Penh
After a good nights rest we arose early for brecky as our pickup was due at 0630
A glorious morning to eat on the narrow balcony watching the world go about starting its day.
Our cyclos were punctual & after a photo session with our hosts we were off to catch a boat for an 0730 departure.
On board easily enough we said good-bye to Vietnam & eagerly awaited Cambodia.
Now I'd read so much about the fluctuating visa prices charged by border control on TA so I knew there'd be some fun on our boat, which carried about 35 people.
Sure enough we were asked for US34 for adults (actual is US30) & US15 for E (actual is free).
As others were paying the adult prices I did likewise but I did ask why E was being charged as he was only 11yo. The response was something like 'there was a policeman on board' but I thought so what & waited for a better answer which was not forthcoming. As he wasn't looking to budge I paid up without much concern, I was expecting some 'fat' for the corrupt officials - although they say it's so they can process the visas quicker if they do them all on our behalf, which does have merit
There was a Dutch backpacker who didn't have any US money, only heaps of Khmer (KHR) currency that equalled US30, which upset the dude so he said he eventually bypassed her until he'd made his rounds then returned giving her a mild lesson of preparation & practices.
In summary she was granted her visa at the border, they just processed her last, I guess as some type of punishment.
On the boat I was talking to a Danish uni student who had her folks & sister visit her after 6 months studying in Asia & together they were holidaying before returning home the next week.
I thought about it, next week we'll still be in Cambodia & they'll be on the other side of the world! Amazing.
The journey took 5 hours from departure in VN and was quite enjoyable. We were given a light pre-packed lunch as part of our fare also.
Upon arrival in Phnom Penh we were (unsurprisingly) inundated with touts offering their services to either tuk tuk or taxi us to our hotel, they were relentless, more so than we'd experienced in VN
We eventually walked into a cafe to escape their annoying offers.
As we needed local currency I walked to our bank which was 15 minutes away.
Dopey me tried the door only to be reminded by the security guard that the bank isn't open on Saturdays.
We'd been away so long I hadn't even thought what day of the week it was so back to my family taking refuge in the cafe.
Alas the touts were back at their post still offering their services but I wasn't interested - yet.
Eventually I used an ATM outside the cafe and withdrew some KHR currency.
Dopey me, again, should've done a bit more prep work back home - Cambodia runs a dual currency, both KHR & US.
That would explain why I had the choice at the ATM 5 minutes earlier.
Example of how it works...nearly everything in Cambodia is sold in USD.
An item costs US12, you hand over US20 & get change of US5 & KHR12,000 (USD1 = KHR4,000 approx).
All part of the experience they say...
Anyway, we ended up having a feed in the cafe before braving the touts. We knew by then our hotel was about 3-4 kms away & walking wasn't an option
Tuk tuk we did & upon checking in we were shown our 9th floor room which had the best views to date, south along the Mekong & SW to the city. The room also had the best air-conditioning we'd experienced...VN, lift your game!
For tea, as we were in a largish hotel, plus the fact we were out of the city, we scanned their room service menu. I found the "large USA themed" rump appealing...turned out to be about 300gm...pffttt.
Day 35 - Phnom Penh
Today started early, real early, about 0200.
I was awoken by the noise of revellers. It's amazing how the sound of moving furniture travels...& we all know about slamming doors.
Oh well, they've had a great night out I thought, they'll settle...
Nope, after about 30 minutes I'd had enough so I walked the passage of our floor to find the source of the continual noise. Locate them I did, 1 floor below and 1 room along. I stood outside wondering if anyone would emerge to no avail. Their language was Asian but I'm no specialist so I took my detective work downstairs to reception
After waking up the laddy I calmly advised him of the situation, including their room number.
He checked the guest register & replied "oh they're Chinese."
Now at 0245 I couldn't give a fuck if they were the Rolling Stones (ok, I'd sacrifice a sleep to hear them jam away), all I wanted was a quiet environment to sleep.
He offered us a room to relocate right there & then on the next floor but I flatly refused & asked him to touch base with his guests & advise them to stop the party, then bid him goodnight. Either he did as I asked or they settled as within 15 minutes peace resumed.
Some hours later we awoke to a freshish start & got into breakfast on one of the highest floors. The place was packed with, guessing, Chinese tourists. We were the only Westerners in the room of 150 or so. Brecky was good too!
I spoke to the front desk re sightseeing after brecky moreso to see if they'd bring up my disturbance only a few hours earlier but not a word was said. These guys need to visit a certain B n B in Hue. Again my theory stands - the larger the hotel the less politeness the guest receive.
Ok, time to book our travels for the next few legs of our trip, Phnom Penh to Kampot to Battambang.
I'd organised before our trip 2 bank cards exclusively for OS travel, a debit & credit card.
Both of these cards always came up trumps when discussed on forums on ways to minimise transaction fees, exchange rates etc so I followed their advice.
I thought I knew both PINs & even had their details stored in 'the cloud' should I need to refer to them
My backup was to have a new temp PIN sent to my phone.
Shit, that SIM is home in my office, I'm using a travel SIM abroad.
Ok, try other secret questions I'd set up like the square root of 2 or the diff ratio of an XB Falcon 500 302 V8 manual but all attempts failed.
Eventually we visited the Giant Ibis Bus Co. office & bought the tickets with cash to at least get some plans locked in to allow me to sort out my card issue.
I did find the problem...I used the same PIN when setting up both cards but I entered details in my "if all else fails try this" cloud account as 2 different PINs!!!!!
Ok, all sorted, let's explore this city. After a coupla hours walking the city soaking in the sights we eventually a large shopping complex that included a supermarket...USD100+ later we emerged with lots of happy hour consumables.
Saw Bundy for sale at under USD17 but stayed strong
Taxi back to our digs for a late arvo/early night of relaxation, consummation & more room service...what a day!
One thing that stood out was the amount of 4WD's in the city. In Australia if you saw 20 Toyota Land Cruisers one might be the up-market Lexus model. Here the figures were reverse, a Lexus was as common as a Collingwood supporter on a 'most wanted' list.
Affluent city? It's a mix, some people display their wealth using material means while there were still plenty of people who'd be lucky to own a bike pump.
Day 36 - Phnom Penh
Talk about contrast, there was only 6 people at breakfast today! Tables aplenty, so to the fried eggs, another good feed.
I'm thankful we weren't on a package tour, this is a R n R tour (Robyn n Richard) so we can be flexible, after all we planned it 100% so other than flights that were booked back home, everything was fluid.
I thought we were missing too much Phnom Penh as I'd only allocated 3 nights here plus the fact long distance bus travel was starting to appeal to me as much as VB
Result? We dropped Battambang for 3 more nights in PP then fly into Siem Reap (was originally PP 3, KP 3, BB 3, SR 5)
Right, after checking our new proposals we cancelled our lodgings in BB & booked flights to SR, checked out 'The Kabiki' for our return to this city & all's sweet. Phew!
We grabbed a tuk tuk to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum that afternoon & it was here that I discovered (to me personally) that if you spend too much learning about an attraction there is no 'wow factor' upon arrival. As shocking as the complex & all it's history is I saw nothing I didn't see or read about on the www. R & especially E found it confronting so we saw no need to visit the 'killing fields' as recommended after visiting here.
A coupla hours later we exited, bypassing offers of tuk tuks to walk some blocks to 'see' what we miss when getting carted around in a tuk tuk or taxi. Ok, the heat said after 3 blocks enough, so we took a tuk tuk to the Viva Cafe to have a feed. After all we did shelter there some days earlier so let's repay some favour
We had a great feed & as R wanted a coffee following our meal we made our way to Gloria Jeans, just down the road.
After a coffee & dessert for all we definitely needed a lift back to our digs.
We actually met a very nice tuk tuk driver outside (where was he 2 days ago?) & after our ride back we organised with him for a fare back to the bus station the following day.
Needless to say we didn't have any tea.
Day 34-36, Phnom Penh
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Phnom Penh, Cambodia