I am in Cambodia! I took a boat from Chau Doc, Vietnam up to Phnom Penh via the Mekong Delta. It was a fantastic, relaxing trip – so much nicer than bus.
I crossed the border without being fleeced. A common scam is the boat operators take $34 from you along with your passport and exit/entry paperwork and literally just hand it to the border officials. I can do that myself, thank you very much, and save myself $4. There were two other people who did the same thing. There were about 40 people on the boat – split between 3 boat guys, that about $50/guy. That’s a HUGE taking! All for them doing absolutely nothing.
Keep in mind that for an average salaried position in Vietnam, workers earn $4/day – that’s $.50/hr! I have to shake my head at these guys for figuring out a lucrative scam, but I wanted no part of it. Many locals in SEA think all westerners have money to burn – they don’t consider that we actually need to work hard for our income, as well. I don’t like wasting my money – $4 could be two meals or a night’s accommodation here. I’m on a budget, dammit!
Phnom Penh agreed with me immediately. Maybe it’s because everyone speaks decent English, everywhere takes USD, and it reminds me slightly of a (more affordable) NY.
I stopped into a Gloria Jeans Coffee (I am surprised it’s a worldwide chain – they were even in Ireland) to make my plan. There are quite a few hostels in PP, and I wasn’t sure which one to stay at, so I’ve decided to change hostels every night and write about my experience in each place. I’ve also created a TripAdvisor account – might as well put all my traveling knowledge and experiences to good use!
After settling in my first hostel (One Stop), I dumped my bags and went exploring.
My first stop was Wat Phnom – it was built in 1373, and legend goes that a wealthy widow found a tree in a river with four bronze Buddha statues inside. She built a shrine on a hill to protect them, and this site eventually became Wat Phnom.
I quite enjoy sitting in the Wats around SEA. I find them very peaceful, with the incense and candles, people praying, and traditional music in the background.
What I don’t like is being charged a “foreigner fee” to enter such sacred places. 1. They receive PLENTY of money in donations – you walk into any temple and it would be like robbing a bank – they aren’t hurting for funds. 2. You would NEVER see something like this in a western country – we don’t arbitrarily charge just Indians or Mexicans (for example) to see a church or waterfall. Sigh. 3. If (facing the clock in front), you go around to the left side of the Wat, there are stairs up where you can just walk in for free.
While continuing my wandering, of course I ran into the pet shop part of town. It broke my heart to see the animals caged 😦 I’ll spare you those pictures, but here’s a shot of two free-roaming cuties 🙂
I mentioned earlier the food and cheap prices here in PP. Well, Cambodia isn’t known for its street food (unlike a lot of other SEA countries), and I haven’t at all been tempted by the street food I did see. But the restaurants – let me tell you! Woah! Very affordable (beer for less than $1, tons of dishes $2-4, and really fancy places to splurge for $10-15) and sooooo delicious! I grabbed lunch at a Lebanese place for $3.50 (a very tasty falafel wrap), and dinner was from Vivas!, a phenomenal Mexican restaurant where I got these nachos for $5.50. They also had margaritas for $2.50.
Let me just say, I love me my nachos. I eat them all the time. These were THE BEST nachos I have EVER had! The perfect ratio of toppings to tortillas – something I have never encountered anywhere else. It was magic in my mouth.
Also, as promised to the hilarious and wonderful Michelle, I leave you, dear readers, with this: