Posts tagged ‘Cambodia’

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July 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

Phnom Penh – Ko Kong – Bangkok

On Tuesday we left Phnom Penh. We took a tuk-tuk to the highway, about 14 kilometers from the center of the city (a kilometer or 2 past the airport). We began to attract a crowd as soon as we got off. Our “no” to the usual question “bus?” resulted in much perplexity among the moto taxi drivers who crowded around us. They may have been trying to help us but their presence was not conducive to hitching.

A young woman on a moto showed up and asked us if we needed help in good English. No we explained but could you ask this crowd of men to disperse? Her reaction to hitchhiking in Cambodia was typical. A friendly but negative “You can do it in your country but people don’t do that here, it won’t work, people won’t understand.” One foreigner said to us when he heard that we were going to hitchhike: “You’re just being rude. Khmers pay for everything, even the poorest ones.” Afterward he admitted that he too had tried to hitchhike in Cambodia whilst unsuccessfully because only the mini-van taxis stopped for him.

Hitchhiking from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham and to Phnom Penh from Sihanoukville with 4 people was not really a problem. Dmitry has hitchhiked all the way from Moscow and has been relying on this method since the beginning. Our Ukrainian friends are hitchhiking back to Ukraine. And so we decided that rather than wake up very early in the mornign and catch the bus to Ko Kong – we’d rather wake up later, eat breakfast calmly (we’ve been buying fresh bread, butter and fruit and taking plates and utensils from the guesthouse) and have time to say goodbye to my friends. By noon we were ready to go.

The trip to Ko Kong takes about 6 hours by bus. And 6 hours is how long it took us to get there by hitchhiking. (The busses travel at a slower speed than cars do) Beyond freeing ourselves from the contraints of the bus schedule, hitchhiking also frees my ass from the confines of the bus seat and the cold stale dirty air. One of my favorite things (if experience can be classified as such) is the feeling of wind pushing against my bod. This is why i love motorcycles so much and loathe tuk-tuks. If i ever own a car of my choice, it will be a convertible.

Most of the cars that pick us up are small trucks or vans with space in the back or on the roof. If it’s not too dusty, these are the best seats in car.

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I think Ko Kong is the most beautiful province in Cambodia…

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At noon on Wednsday we checked out of Cambodia. Between the Khmer and Thai borders there is a space of about 50 meters where there is just beach. We dropped our bags on the sand and went swimming. Dmitry joked that we were going to be shot. But no one cared =)

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We made it to Bangkok by the end of the day. We caught our last ride in Chanthaburi. It was a professional Thai man on his way to Bangkok and we had a lively conversation on the way about politics, economy and travel. In Bangkok we ate together before he left us.

No we are staying on Kousann Rd, the most touristic place in Bangkok. I’ve never stayed here before because last time i was here i couchsurfed. There are 3 vegetarian restaurants within 100 meters of my guesthouse and i am drinking the best banana shake in the world as i write this…

We gave our passports to the Burmese embassy today but we still need to buy our flight tickets. We still don’t know if we can return to Thailand by land through Mae Sai or if we can skip Thailand all together and go to China through this route. I avoided asking these questions at the embassy, fearing that they’d refuse me a visa if i was too entusiastic about non-touristy routes. There is so little information avialable on travel in Burma!

March 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm 2 comments

going to Myanmar

My new travel companion Dmitry and I are planning on going to Myanmar together! However there are so many uncertainties about how we are going to get there and out, how easy it will be to travel within the country and what else awaits us in a totalitarian country governed by an army.

Different sites say different things about the border crossing. Some claim that over-land crossing to Myanmar from Thailand is not possible (except for 1 day passes for Thai visa runs). However, when i was in Mae Sai 6 months ago i recall being told by foreignersthat going to Myanmar was possible from this border so long as one had acquired the visa in advance. A site i found confirms this but says that necessary permits are required to travel by road from this border town into the rest of Myanmar and that numerous check points line the highway.

After Myanmar we’d like to go to China. A funny thing is that China is one of my least desired countriesto visit. But Dmitry speaks some Chinese and has lived there before so i think it would be very fun to go with him!

Today is possibly my last day in Phnom Penh. I love this city despite all its shortcomings. For those of you visiting PP, check out these places…

Nature & Sea for the best passionfruit shakes.

The Shop for the best pastries and bread.

Nordic for the best carrot juice and free wifi.

Pontoon on Fridays for good dancing.

Bohr’s Books for the best selection of literature in English (all fake copies though)

Monument Books (on Norodom) for a Barnes & Noble experience. Real copies, good selection, comfortable couches, wifi available, cafe, ac, weekly lectures, toy store…

Raffles hotel if you can afford 5 star luxury and Royal guesthouse if you can’t.

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View of Boueng Kak lake on lakeside. This lake is currently being filled in and will be gone by next year. Those of you who love shopping may be delighted to know that a shopping mall is going to be built in its place!

В холода, в холода,
От насиженных мест
Нас другие зовут города, –
Будь то Минск, будь то Брест.
В холода, в холода…

Неспроста, неспроста,
От родных тополей
Нас далекие манят места,-
Будто там веселей.
Неспроста, неспроста…

Как нас дома ни грей,
Не хватает всегда
Новых встреч нам и новых друзей, –
Будто с нами беда.
Будто с ними – теплей…

Как бы ни было нам
Хорошо иногда,
Возвращаемся мы по домам.
Где же наша звезда?
Может – здесь, может – там…

– Владимир Высоцкий, 1965

March 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm 4 comments

Ratanakiri

The 4 of us left Phnom Penh for Ratanakiri on Monday. We hitchhiked all the way to Kampong Cham, 3 hours to the east. It was my second time hitchhiking, the first was the previous day from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh. We were picked up by a Lexus jeep and rode very comfortably…for free.

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The rides we caught to Kampong Cham were very dusty and it was very hot. By nighttime we’d made it to Stung Treng and found a wat to sleep in. We slept on the floor in the central temple, near the giant Buddha and his disciplines. The mosquitoes were nasty.

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The next day traffic was insufficient to hitch a ride so we bought seats on a mini-bus all the way to Ratanakiri. Ratanakiri is one of the most beautiful provinces in Cambodia. It contains the most forests and there are no paved roads. We stayed mostly in Ban Lung, the village that is the capital of the province, biking 30+ kilometers to a lagoon and waterfalls.

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March 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm 1 comment

a thunderstorm is coming

Still in Sihanoukville. My company are three Russian hichhickers, a boy from Moscow and a couple from Kharkof Ukraine. I am enjoying talking in Russian with them, I’ve even learned new words.

On Tuesday we went zorbing, which basically means you go inside a giant inflated ball and get pushed down a hill. The thrill is similar to a roller coaster.

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I’m staying at Utopia guest-house. One of their dogs had puppies a month ago. There are 11 of them and they are so very cute and naughty! They also have a cat who likes to relax in the dormitory. Tonight she climbed onto my bed, with a dead mouse in her mouth, and I very sleepily urged her off and onto another bed, where she could enjoy her meal besides someone else’s feet.

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I love the beach. The water is blue and warm, although it would be even nicer if there was less litter and fewer Cambodians trying to sell you fruit, massages, waxing…

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A friend of mine getting a beach massage.

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A very pretty sky at sundown. That white round spot in the center is the moon.

March 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

i want to study

Tomorrow morning i’m off to Sihanoukville (and maybe Kep and Kampot) but i’m leaving some of my stuff in Phnom Penh at a friend’s house which makes moving on less drastic. I’ll probably be back in PP in a week to gather my things before i go to Ratanakiri or back to Thailand. I’d really like to visit Ratanakiri but it’s far and i don’t know if i have enough energy and enthusiasm to overcome the challenges of visiting a place so rural. I’ve traveled with minimal contact with foreigners before but i’ve been “sheltered” for the past 4 months living in PP… so i am not ready for such hardcore backpacking yet.

The other day i attended a lecture on Apsara dancing (traditional Khmer dancing) at Monument bookstore (the only bookstore i’ve been to in PP that sells real – not photocopy – books). It was a very limited lecture but it made me miss the lectures of my college days. I would like to be a student again..

One of the regrets i have is starting university when i was 17. I should have gone traveling. I wasn’t ready for uni and hardly paid any attention during my first 3 years. If i was just starting uni now, i’d be more critical and enthusiastic, i’d have read more, and would have formed better professional relationships with my professors, instead of wondering like a zombie for 3 years. (Year 4 was much better because thats when i overcame my mental asphyxia)

March 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm 3 comments

attention overload

The moto taxi drivers have been driving me crazy! I can’t walk anywhere without several dozen “lady moto?” “lady tuk-tuk” “sir…”  

Cambodians have lots of names for each other depending on the other person’s gender, age, status… but for some, we barangs are all sir.

But the drivers who wave and holler at you are not as bad as those who actually stop for you or start honking at you from behind before exclaiming “lady moto” in a tone suggestive of “here i am!”

And you can’t say no because they are so excited by the potential of a barang passanger they usually hear “yes.” Yesterday’s incident may clarify my feelings better. I was just turning into a building when i heard “lady moto.” Before i even registered the words i turned around. And i saw him. He was standing next to his motorbike, facing the wall, holding his cock and pissing. He yelled it again: “lady moto…”

A cyclo driver

A cyclo, not a moto.

Breaking from work...

Breaking from work...

March 5, 2009 at 4:15 pm 2 comments

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