Posts tagged ‘Phnom Penh’

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!

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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

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

looks, smells, and feels like a dirty hippy

I’m wearing a Vietnamese silk knee-length skirt with a blue American Apparel tank top that could just as easily be a night shirt. By Cambodian standards it’s hardly a shirt at all really . I don’t wear deodorant so i smell. My hair is a mess so i’ve pinned it using 20+ pins to my head creating a really funny looking head.

But it’s this me i’m in love with. There’s no other me that makes me feel more content physically (besides the naked one).

So this post is just a hello to my dear ones who think about me… I love you

March 3, 2009 at 4:17 pm 3 comments

Hun Sen never gets stuck in traffic

It was hot and I was looking for shade as I walked down Sihanouk Blvd. I thought I’d sit inside the Independence monument since the benches with any amount of shade were all taken by youth and moto-drivers. I damned the planners of the park for not planting more trees. But the monument was accessible only to “staff.” There was even security sitting inside of it. So I found a shaded place on the grass, with Independence monument behind me and Wat Lanka to my left.

———–

I’ve seen it several times. First the police block the traffic and a minute later the procession of cars passes through. Several jeeps followed by a beaming black Mercedes, followed by another car or three, and finally proceeded by a motorbike or several (more security I suppose). Sometimes, the last in the parade is a jeep-truck for the police to cram into after fulfilling their executive obligations. And so it goes. I speculate that the whole route through Phnom Penh is like this, with police blocking every intersection a minute before the procession arrives. This takes a lot of man-power and coordination. I wonder if it’s necessary. How much protection does a prime minister need?

———–

A small dirty looking boy came to sit with me. His name was Rothana, one of the most common male names in Cambodia. His little sister, who came soon after, had a more difficult name.

The first time I saw these children was when I passed their sleeping bodies beside their mother on the sidewalk. Then I watched a coconut seller cut open two coconuts for her. I wasn’t sure if he was donating them or whether she’d paid for them. Judging from her rugged appearance I didn’t think she could afford them. Her husband, I later learned, is a construction laborer – a dangerous, unstable job that pays a whopping $3 a day.

I gave Rothana a sheet out of my notebook and a pen and encouraged him to draw. A Swedish tourist came to sit by me and then a Khmer 20 something year old. Imagine: me, a Swedish 29 year old, a 10 year old boy, and a 20 year old Khmer man engaged in conversation in the midst of a grass lawn that runs parallel to a traffic polluted boulevard.

I was no longer using my notebook so Rothana had full use of it. I watched in horror (at myself) as he used page after page, caring little for conservation or making the most of each page. He even started to draw on my writing! It was like a motor had been turned on inside him and he couldn’t help himself from leaving his mark on every page. Did I reprimand him? I knew I should and could (despite his lack of English) but I didn’t…

Rothana with his father and sister

Rothana with his father and sister

March 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

Riverside on a hot Friday afternoon

These are pictures from a little plaza where Samdech Sothearos Blvd merges with Sisowath near riverside. It was hot today so there weren’t many people but it gets crowded on weekends, especially an hour before sunset when hundreds of youth come to dance and exercise to Khmer pop blasting from the loudspeakers…

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Notice how both the little kid and the puppy are hiding between the legs of mom and dad.

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A father photographing his sons with his camera phone.

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Another family arrives.

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February 27, 2009 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

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