After studying and reading about Cambodia it was a no-brainer to pack my bags and see the many sights, smells and people of Cambodia. My first impression after flying into the Phnom Penh airport was being delivered like royalty in a fancy motor tuc tuc directly to my hotel room just a few blocks from the river!
First things first… after you check into your hotel make sure you take a few hotel cards with exact address and look for some landmarks which will identify your hotel. I call this the awareness stage. Next step I carry a travel wallet with no credit or debit cards, a colored copy of my passport, small amount of money and my personal cards to give out to interesting travel people you may meet along the way. My other wallet with money, credit cards and debit cards fits with my passport and is either locked in hotel safe or locked into my small travel bag hidden somewhere in the hotel room!
The first thing you notice is the hotel staff is friendly and anxious to answer your tourist questions and to my pleasant surprise most Cambodians in the tourist areas have a fair amount of English speaking abilities. Also even though the US Dollar is not the official money of Cambodia, everyone wants and uses US Dollars for most transactions over a dollar. If it is a small transaction example two pieces of bread expect to get change in Cambodian Riel or carry some loose Cambodian change for small transactions.
And when you go to the ATM machine you simply choose US dollars. If you select $100 dollars guess what you get a $100.00 bill and no-one can change it? So what I have learned to do was to go to the ATM machine located outside a major bank during weekday business hours get your $100.00 dollar bill and go inside the bank where any teller will be glad to give you change.
Don’t know who taught this to the Cambodian merchants but at least three times they refused to take my US dollars after holding them up to the light and they report to you “old Money” cant take. Bear in mind if there are tears etc I would understand, however if you got this money from local bank should be OK. A small hotel operator after paying daily three days in a row refused my money because he thought it was old. I boldly said:” take it or leave it we can have the police settle this matter … I just got this money from the bank”! He grumbled and took the money!
Now that we have security issues and money out of the way I take my first stroll in Phnom Penh down the sidewalks on to riverside drive where there are a plethora of excellent restaurants, pub bars, tourist travel agencies and gift shops and I might add they have excellent draft beer on tap at many local restaurants and bars for fifty cents.
Phnom Penh is buzzing with energy. They are building condos everywhere with supply trucks, tuc tuc’s, motor scooters, and buses running bumper to bumper during most business hours. This is the time to choose a local eatery and sit back and watch the world go by. Wait long enough and you will see everything… five or six people on one motor cycle, a few panhandlers, people hawking and selling all sorts of things all immersed in a Buddha society with lavish lawns and temples where you can just hang out eating homemade ice-cream or photograph everything that walks, flies or runs.
I spot this French cafe and order their coffee Lat tee and their house specialty a spinach crepe. Just watching the chef make this on a hot griddle using buckwheat flour with spinach is an art into itself. As I await my luncheon I look around at well dressed intellectuals like the Hemingway days. One man with a proper bow-tie gives me the local paper and says he is a professor at several local colleges, another is a photojournalist on assignment from Australia. A few well dressed ladies from the wealthy set approach giving cheek kisses to their group of friends leading their poodle dogs to their favorite table and a few bohemians with beards and berets are smoking something with strange smells.
So there you have it…The people of Cambodia are friendly, they have every style and every budget for restaurants and you can find anything from a backpacker hostel to a five star hotel to fit your budget. So if you would like to see Phomn Penh before it evolves into another mega-city for the rich this might be a good time to book a flight into Phnom Penh and see for yourself a city on the move…yet with enough French architecture, Buddha temples and interesting people to make it a worthwhile trip.
QUOTE: “The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” Sir Richard Burton
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: In 1979, the Khmer Rouge was driven out by the Vietnamese who established the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, essentially a socialist puppet state of Vietnam. In 1992, the UN stepped in. In 1993, the monarchy was restored, a parliament was elected, and the name was changed to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: People…They are some of the best treasures left on Earth!
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: What are you waiting for Grasshopper? Why not book a flight and see if the grass is greener in Cambodia. One thing I can tell you most of the soil in the entire country of Cambodia is reddish in color.
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on. Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free?