Wednesday 23rd November 2016
Well I wasn’t planning to arrive in Cambodia by air, but here I am with the express purpose of obtaining a visa for India. If I can’t then it’s back to thinking of other options. I also still have yet to receive my permit to enter Thailand on the bike. The many machinations that can take will decide what route I end up taking to get to Myanmar. It seems, from my reading, that, if I do get granted a permit, which may happen in a couple of days or weeks, and the provisions that come with that and the fact that I may only get a visa for 15 days will determine whether I have to come back to Cambodia and then re-enter Thailand with another 15 day visa. When I left home I figured I would not have any problems with India or Thailand, however, since then governments have changed policies and I have been caught in the resulting bulls**t. It all just takes up so much time all this go around to try and get around. Not to mention the mental anguish and uncertainty it all produces. All I want to do is ride my my through their countries.
Anyway having landed at Phnom Penh and finally retrieving my luggage after an official let me know I was waiting at the wrong carousel and that my bag was sitting on the floor two carousels away, I exited the terminal where I was greeted with offers of tuk tuk rides into the capital. US$9.00 no battering. It was a fair way and took a good 35 minutes, during which the driver tried to convince me that another hotel would be better for me and that I should book him for the rest of my stay in Phnom Penh. I declined on both counts. Once again I seemed to have booked a Chinese hotel. Lucky Star 2. Probably one of the most suitable, to me, rooms I had booked so far. Large, modern, wi-fi, air-con, fox channels, balcony, 7th floor and inside my budget. With the compulsory time I had to be in Phnom Penh I was glad I had picked a good one. By the time I had settled in and accessed the the hotel computer to print off a few documents required for the visa application it was approaching 8:30pm and I was hungry. My quest to find a decent restaurant took quite a bit of walking. Found a nice Thai Restaurant and had the best green Thai chicken curry outside of Thailand I have ever had. Sated, I retraced my steps to the hotel. Along the way some of the streets had turned into vegetable markets with all manner of vegetables piled high around the vendors. I found it curious as it was 10 o’clock in the night, everyone else seemed to be in bed.
Thursday 24th November 2016
With all my required documents and my visa application finally completed, printed with my photo attached. I was prepared to finally submit it all at the Indian mission. Grabbed a tuk tuk and headed for the mission arriving a bit after 9:00am. There were only a few others there, so it wasn’t long before I was being interviewed and finger printed. The fee US$42 exactly, no more and no less, had to be paid in crisp or if not perfect US currency. The $10 notes were easy to get from the ATM machine, the good $1 not so easy. The hotel helped me out. I had 10 to choose from. After a thorough checking my money was accepted and I was told to return on Tuesday between 4 and 5pm. The Russian chap in front of me wanted to come back on the 1st or 2nd of December, but despite his repeated appeals, no, the 29th was the only time. That bit was easy, not sure the waiting will be.
It’s a funny time in Cambodia, the official currency is Riel (KHR), however, when you get money from an ATM it’s in US dollars. There is also no coins, all notes, down to 100KHR the equivalent of 2.5 cents Australian. The upshot of this is that when you go to buy something, sometimes the price is quoted in Riel sometimes in US dollars. When you receive your change it is usually a mix of the two. This sort of leaves you wondering if you got the right change. It also leaves you with a wallet full of small denomination notes you don’t have a clue when you will ever get an opportunity to use.
My ride took me back to the riverside of Phnom Penh. This is the tourist hotel hub, It’s also the locality of the Palace, National museum, Wat Penh, and a few other attractions. What took me there was food, I hadn’t had any breakfast and the riverside had lots of food outlets which catered to the tourists taste. I wandered about for a bit, but having been here before and visited most of the attractions, I set out to walk back to the Hotel a few kilometers away. The daily lives of a country’s people often seems more of an interest to me than the tourist attractions. I was pretty hot and bothered by the time I arrived
Friday 25th November 2016
Not much to say about today. I think I just wanted to recoup and relax. I spent a lot of time catching up on my blogging and future possible plans. It is a massive time consumer when nothing is set in concrete. My reading on a facebook page on the new Thai permit legislation was a bit worrying as it mentions that the Thai government may introduce a transit guide system for vehicles, similar to that in Myanmar and China. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in the next few weeks. All these changes, of course, bring pressure on those who have to implement them. If I can get through Thailand I have my visa for Myanmar. Then if I get the visa for India I have my visa for Pakistan. The next hurdle will then be Iran requiring a letter of introduction and a visa which I have yet to organise. Can’t do that before early barriers are lifted. Life is such fun. All these delays are just hiccups, given a bit of time most will go away and I can continue my journey. If not I shall work on a plan B or whatever, Life is definitely not boring but it can be unsettling sometimes.
I was going to order in a pizza for dinner but when I went to the front desk the girl, who had originally shown be the brochure, said it would be better for me to walk to the mall and get it myself. She obviously doesn’t appreciate what being elderly is like. Anyway I did, as from her directions, it wasn’t that far. It wasn’t, but at that time of day it seemed like it was. the walking wasn’t so bad, getting from one side of the road to the other in heavy peak hour traffic is another. As with a lot of Asia, this city is not friendly to pedestrians. Often to cross a main boulevard you have to get to an intersection as they have concrete barriers or metal rail fences running down the middle of the road. Even when you get to the intersection there are no pedestrian crossings or green walk signals. So you just have to take your chances. Most of the footpaths, if there is one, are taken up by vehicles of some kind so it is often the case that in order to get somewhere more quickly you just walk on the road and take the risk. Well after all that I found the mall but not the pizza joint, seems I didn’t go far enough, so I settled on a fast food chicken and rice. It did the job. the mall had a supermarket so I was able to stock up of breakfast goodies. All was well and I could go back and watch a couple of movies.
Saturday 26th November 2016
After yesterday, holed up in my room, getting a sore neck and shoulders from too much computer work, I thought that I should get out and see a bit. I picked on the national museum to check out. It was a bit of a walk and I almost made it when I was waylaid by a pleasant well spoken tuk tuk driver asking me all these questions about where I had been and what I’d seen Eventually he got to a place to which I hadn’t been and that was the island across the river and the floating fishing village. Well after a while the fare reduced by half and I condescended to his wishes. Along the way he would stop and point out different points of interest. At one point the driver pulled into a temple where he explained to me the workings of the temple and its various occupants as well as their roles in the temple. Upon entering he described, with the help of the different murals on the walls. the life of the Buddha.
We arrived at the island and he stopped to buy us some water and proceeded to inform me that Cambodia, which is a very poor country, had the third richest man in Asia as it’s prime minister and that he had held that position for 35 years. Much of his wealth it seems has come from property. I’m not really sure about this bit, but during the Pol Pot era all property was seized by the government and titles lost or destroyed which after that era many people, especially the poor, could not prove ownership. Plus a hell of lot had been exterminated. Therefore the prime minister was in a good position to acquire a lot of property which he could then sell off. Especially to foreign investors. Nothing like a bit of power to make one rich. As we approached the fishing village we came across a huge 5 star hotel built around the end of the island. The driver told me it had once been a village of Muslims until they were evicted in order for the hotel to be built. I won’t tell you who the foreign owners are, you can probably guess. We viewed the fishing village, which is basically families who live on their tiny boats. Most must have been out fishing cause I couldn’t see that many.
Having arrived back in the city around lunch time I was asked if I felt like lunch. Now I knew from previous experience that he had a contact with a restaurant where he would take me to get his commission, but that was OK. So we went to a pleasant venue and both had a good meal, at my expense of course. I was told his story of how his family lived in a village many miles away while he lived in the city till he had made enough money to be able to venture home to give it to his family, usually only once a month. I had heard this story from many tuktuk drivers, the details vary slightly, probably just coincidental. I declined his request for a little more than the agreed fee. He had got a free lunch and the commission from the restaurant. I figured that was enough. I think I gave his an extra dollar to take me back to the hotel. For his one and half hour tour he had earn’t a third of his monthly rent. He’d done well. Never did see the museum.
Sunday 27th November 2016
I did a lot of washing today. My small balcony provides and excellent drying area. I also discovered, whilst channel surfing, that can watch ABC 24 news on the TV. This was a plus. I haven’t been able to watch any news from Australia since I left. Not sure whether that is a good or bad thing. Went out to do a bit of shopping and found a great restaurant for some lunch and returned to do some catching up with the progress of fellow adventurers. We all seem to encounter various different and often shared hurdles to jump. The catching up on the blog is a constant time consumer and I did some more. Watching people from my lofty heights is always interesting. This area is home to a whole raft of different small industries. Just across the road every morning a few guys sit on their haunches and smash up broken air conditioning units, with their hammers, into their different components. At times trucks turn up to take away the different components away. Kids play in the street, with great excitement, trying to knock over a plastic bottle with their thongs. People tend their potted plants on the balconies. Guys come along with long ladders to get to and read the electricity meters mounted on the street poles. Big trucks pull up and park with a huge load of pineapples or lettuces or whatever. A team of workers will then, one by one, throw them down the drivers of motorbike drawn trailers to be taken away to be sold in the street markets. All a kaleidoscope of human activity. All traffic in Phnom Penh seems much slower than in other cities I have visited. As a pedestrian I have noticed one difference to other places and that is that elsewhere the traffic will go around you, whereas here you are expected to go around the traffic. Several times I have had to move quickly in order not to be run over by an unveering motorcycle. At least the traffic moves slowly.
Monday 28th November 2016
Today, to get out, I walked to the Russian markets, where by all accounts you can buy everything. Well I was trying to chase down a battery for my Go-pro. I walked up and down every narrow passage in the place and there is a lot of them. Highly claustrophobic. I didn’t see any go-pro accessories anywhere.
There is just about everything else, I give them that. Having failed at that, I did the long walk back to the hotel. Like a lot of cities in Asia, different streets tend to be devoted to businesses selling similar products. Today I walked along streets devoted to pharmacies, disability aids, stainless steel manufactures, motorbikes, air conditioners, and various others. Sort of makes sense. Dinner, sweet and sour seafood, had was had at a local Thai restaurant after walking through a street chocked a block full of vegetable wholesalers.
Tuesday 29th November 2016
Today was the day. Between 4 and 5pm I had to pick up my passport. I decided to numb my anxiety by visiting the National Museum despite the negative comments on trip advisor. This time I took a moto taxi. Paid the $10 entrance fee which included an audio comment for a lot of the exhibits. An impressive temple style building which I thought housed a pretty good display of Khmer antiquities. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more on the history of the country. Still, I managed to spend a few hours looking about. One of the galleries was devoted to Cambodia’s involvement in the first world war. A third of those who enlisted didn’t come home.
So, back to hotel to freshen, before heading to the Indian Embassy. Took a tuk tuk this time. Set off a bit early and arrived at 3:50pm, ten minutes before time, first to arrive. As 4 o’clock drew closer more hopefuls arrived. The conservation concentrated on the problems of maintaining cash levels in India a problem which has arisen since the government decided to make to two highest denomination notes illegal causing a rush on ATM’s and banks. Apparently you can wait hours to get the equivalent of $50 at a time. The hurdles just keep on popping up. I wont be in India till the beginning of January, so hopefully things will have settled down a bit.
I received my passport and checked it to make sure my visa was there. No worries, everything I asked for, 90 day, multiple entries. All I need now is the Thailand permit, thai visa, thai licence and temporary rego and insurance on the bike. You just have to love government bureaucracy.
Wednesday 30th November 2016
I had made arrangement with the tuk tuk driver, who had taken me to the embassy to take me to the airport the next morning at 11:00am. When I got back to the room I thought to just check the flight times. This dumb arse had got it wrong again as the flight left at 11:00am. So when I left the hotel in the morning he wasn’t there. I had just negotiated a price with another driver when my man turned up and took me up on the deal I had made with him. The airport is a fair hike from the city but we made it with ample time to spare. I even managed a bit of breakfast before being also the last to board. I flew Malaysia air this time. Way less hassle with baggage and they give you a feed for free. So goodbye Cambodia, Hello again to Malaysia.