Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cambodia Part 1 - The Kingdom of Wonder - and really cheap beer...


Sunset over the Grand Palace - an amazing welcome to the
country within about 2 hours of our arrival...but not nearly
as exciting as what was to come on Restaurant Row...
And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  Okay, so first off, I know that I owe the readership an apology for no blog last night.  However, the Bull returned from Thailand with a less than pleasant 3rd world parasite (no photo this time, Dinger), and consequently he was LAID OUT for all of Tuesday.  I woke up feeling as though someone had shot me about 37 times and then dropped the Library of Congress on my face, but in my defense I still made the effort to go into work.  I made it exactly 96 minutes in the office before considering just hurling myself out the window and ending the misery, at which point I shuffled home adn curled up in bed for the next TWENTY-ONE HOURS.  I am happy to report that I'm feeling quasi-human again and even managed to eat food today, so hopefully tomorrow will be BAU for Sammy. 

So I realize that we are WAAAAAAAAY behind in our posts, and I propose we rectify that right now by starting a recap of Cambodia - a place that will forever live in my mind as one of the absolute top 1 week destinations available on any continent.  And so, without further ado, let's get amongst it!

Saturday - What the @#$# do you mean you have to stamp me in and out?

So Saturday started MOST excellent.  First off all, we didn't have a 3:15 wake-up call for a 4 AM cab.  No, no - this time the Bull and Striker made the rare decision of sanity and actually booked a flight with a decent time.  We arrived at the airport about 8:30, bought our Starbucks (Nancy, this doesn't count - it was at the airport!), and the Air Asia flight to K-L was without incident.  The arrival, however, featured a bit more drama.

You see, here's the thing.  Jenny is, well, basically OUT OF PAGES in her passport.  We first noticed this a few weeks back when, during her application for an India visa, we realized there weren't many pages left free for a full page sticker (let alone with 2 empty stamps across the way for entry and exit).  Consequently, we did what any traveler would do in this situation - fill your passport with post-it notes that say "Don't stamp here - need for visa" and then beg the customs dude to stamp on a page that's already filled.  This plan was PERFECT, as we knew it would now give her enough space to get through her remaining travels and get home.  But we never counted on our bloody TWO HOUR layover in K-L resulting in 2 more stamps.  NOR did we count on having to take out Ringits to buy lunch.  IT'S AN AIRPORT, DAMN IT!!!  EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU ALL USE SINGAPORE DOLLARS ANYWAY!!!!  SERENITY NOW!!!!!  Evelyn, please don't take this personally, but your homeland is really starting to push my buttons...and while I'm on this topic, I feel I can say with 100% confidence that if I never fill in another landing card of any kind, it will be too soon.  I realize this means nothing, as I'll have to complete two just to get home.  However, I just wanted to throw it out there...especially when you read the next paragraph.

All the same, I was breathing normally by the time we departed K-L and made the 50 minutes flight to Phnom Phen.  During the flight (which was literally up and down), you complete the arrival immigration card, the departure immigration card, the customs card, and the Visa application card.  Now you would think that this would more than cover you, but when you arrive, you learn that you've got to complete ANOTHER visa application card.  You then rock up with FIVE PIECES of documentation and a photo, at which point you go into a Visa processing line that can only be described as "GOVERNMENT JOB CREATION"  (Go ahead, Woest - I'm sure there's a shot at Barry buried in here somewhere).  Seriously - 5 people pass your docs down a row, each one stamping or writing one thing.  But hey, it's efficient, and within 10 minutes, we are out the door and bound for PP city center.

We arrived at our hotel (the King Grand Boutique Hotel), which was 30 feet from the Grand Palace and absolutely FANTASTIC.  I will confess that Jenny did 100% of the leg work on this trip - she researched and booked everything.  And I gotta tell you - that girl dun' guuuuuuuud.  We checked in, had our welcome drink and cold towel (customary throughout SE Asia), and then we headed out to get some food.  On the walk, we were treated to an AMAZING sunset over the Grand Palace.  It was just stunningly beautiful, and every photo was a little better than the one before it.  Somewhat less pleasant but far more indicative of our time in Cambodia, however, was the following phrase that we heard 30 seconds after leaving the hotel:  "Tuk tuk?" 

Now for those of you that don't know, a tuk tuk is basically a motorized tri-cycle that doubles as the cheap alternative to taxis.  Locals and tourists alike use them, and they are EVERYWHERE.  The problem is, because supply is WAY high and demand (like wages) are low, they are DESPERATE to drag Ang Mo's around and overcharge them.  And because it doesn't get much more Ang Mo than a 6 foot blond dude and his red-headed wife, people every 10 feet were calling out "Tuk-tuk?  Where you go?  What you need?  Cheap price!"  And those that didn't yell honked.  Seriously - I've never been this popular in my life. 

We wandered down by the Tonle Sap river, swelled to the brim due to all the recent flooding throughout Cambodia and Thailand, but no threat to the city itself.  The Tonle Sap is a HUGE river - it felt as big as the Mighty Miss, and every bit as muddy.  We walked along the riverfront for a bit before discovering, quite possibly, the BEST KEPT SECRET IN ASIA - Happy Hour in Cambodia.  Grimshaw, you might just want to skip this part.

So seriously, you always hear that Asia is cheap.  And when compared to the West, I agree - it is a discount.  However, Cambodia is CHEAP.  Full stop.  How does the Bull define cheap?  SIXTY CENT BEERS ON DRAFT, BABY!!!!!

I almost wept when I saw this...despite the poor spelling...
Seriously - we rolled up to the FIRST SPOT we saw, and it was 60 cent drafts and $2 cocktails.  I was a kid in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory with a Golden Ticket - I didn't know where to start or what to ask for.  And when you factor in things like bacon wrapped scallops at FIFTY CENTS EACH, well, you can see that you're in for a guuuuuuuuuud night.   We had an app and 6 drinks at this place...and still got change from $5 USD.  I'd never seen anything like it.  I am actually smiling still as I type this.  And it is interesting to note at this point that USD is the currency of Cambodia.  Everything is priced in USD, you receive all change back in USD, and even the ATMs give you only USD!  They have a local currency (the Riyal), but it is rarely used, especially in the tourist areas.

We wandered a few doors down for dinner, at which point Jenny tried (and fell in love with) the Amok curry.  This wonderful little dish was LOADED with fish and had a GREAT flavor to it.  Throw in some chicken wings and 50 cent beers, and well, let's just say it was an EXCELLENT welcome to Cambodia.  We then rolled home and PASSED OUT, settling in for one of the best night's sleeps in a long time.  I think this trip hit home for me just how hard and uncomfortable the bed in our SG condo is, as the one in Cambodia felt like sleeping on a cloud.

I know that's not much, but it's a start.  We'll pick back up with some actual sight-seeing tomorrow.  Consider this post as the Bull just getting back into the rhythm.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and (back in Manly with the Aussies and enjoying that "brisk" Manly water) Jenny

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