Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where is Cambodia

Cambodia is a nice and beautiful country that full of eco tourist places such as a wonder of Angkor Wat temple at Siem Reap province and many many more beautiful places. And in other provinces there are a lot of nice place for tourism go to visit. But for new tourism who never been to Cambodia they will generally ask that "where is Cambodia". But if we tell them Cambodia is a country that have a beautiful Angkor Wat temple, they must exactly know Cambodia. Because Angkor Wat temple is like a tourist place in heaven.





 Where is Cambodia on the world map


A Beautiful Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.




Monday, August 15, 2011

Phnom Penh - Capital City of Cambodia

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a capital city of Cambodia and there are 1 of 10 Cambodians lives in Phnom Penh, with its frantic traffic, glitzy discotheques, restaurants, extravagant corruption-fed luxury and urban slum squalor. The rest are scattered across two dozen other provinces, some in small provincial capitals and most in tiny villages and settlements pinpricked among the rice paddies and forests of rural Cambodia. The countryside produces the great bulk of Cambodia's wealth, in the form of illegally felled and smuggled timber, gems scratched from the earth by massive Thai sifting machines and mud-covered workers alike, rice planted and harvested by lines of peasants doubled over at their task, and fish netted from the ever-dwindling Tonle Sap and its tributaries. One of the many explanations for the triumph of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 is that the peasants in the countryside were easy converts to an agrarian movement that promised to take away the ill-gotten gains of the urban exploiters. When the city folk were forced to the rice fields by the Khmer Rouge, these "new people" fell in droves under the backbreaking labor that the peasants were accustomed to.

24 years later, little has changed. The provincial towns have some of the signs of Phnom Penh's relative prosperity, but the countryside shows little sign that daily life has changed at all. In some ways it has progressed, if a few motorbikes and the ubiquitous karaoke video shops count as progress. In other ways, the countryside appears to have been left derelict; irrigation systems are broken or silted up, bridges are collapsed and replaced by single planks, and roads are reduced to bumpy, broken paths. In the video shops the peasants watch soap operas depicting wealthy urban Khmers at play, and in the off-harvest season some of them travel to Phnom Penh to work as moto-taxi or cyclo drivers, seeing first-hand the bright lights, the Mercedes-Benzes, and the excesses of a severely unbalanced society.



Where to stay in Phnom Penh


The capital is full of hotels and guest houses--there are many more than you would expect. For $15-30/night, try the Cathay Hotel on Street 19 or the Sunshine right on the riverfront. Taxi drivers should know where they are. Rooms are TV/AC/hot water/phone and decent. For a cheap guesthouse ($5-7), try the centrally located Last Home on St 108. It has a good enough reputation despite its rather terrifying name. Down the side streets behind the Capitol Guesthouse (on St 182 just west of Monivong) you'll find many more, including the popular Narin's. Guest houses on the eastern shore of Boeung Kak lake are lovely during sunset, which is made even deeper by the thick clouds of marijuana smoke drifting off the zoned-out masses, but they're more remote from the city center. I have never stayed in any of these, so I only speak from what I've heard. The Last Home sells guidebooks, maps etc, as do the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) and the Wagon Wheel restaurant, both on the riverside (Sisowath Quay near the corner of Street 178).

Internet access

As of 2003 there are walk-in cybercafes everywhere in Phnom Penh and in the main tourist towns. The low-budget champions, such as Riverweb,are on the riverfront, at only $0.50/hour. Similar deals can be found at Khmerweb on Sihanouk and scores more based on the same model. Walk in, sit at a terminal and someone will come over and start the counter for you. Other places of interest for more than simple surfing: In late 1998 at new service called K.I.D.S., owned and operated by young Cambodian students, opened. They also do training and web design. 210-108. See also my Camera Obscura, where there are links to lists of Internet access points in Southeast Asia and the world.

Getting around in Phnom Penh

Cambodians avoid walking as if they lived in Los Angeles. But a walking pace is the best way to soak up the details that make Phnom Penh so fascinating. Some of those details are right underfoot: Watch where you are stepping at all times. Not only are there are uncovered drainage holes that you are well advised not to fall into, but there is an impressive variety of substances you may not want to engage with too directly. To cross busy streets, you must stride determinedly into the traffic, looking directly at oncoming vehicles but without actually catching anyone's eye. If they see that you saw them, they will assume right of way. Remember oncoming vehicles can come on from any direction. Do not slow down or speed up more a little, or you will be hit. Just keep walking and show no fear. Sounds scary, right? Try getting up next to some locals and crossing in their shadow.

Wheelchair Access

Although there are plenty of people who use wheelchairs here, there are very few ramps per se. As far as I know there is no accessibility law; there certainly is no evidence of one. Many sidewalks have curb cuts for car parking, or the curb is missing anyway. Sidewalks themselves are not very good, divided up with ridges etc, but there is usually some way to get around the obstacle, thanks to Cambodians' dependence on motorbikes, which they also roll everywhere. People using wheelchairs usually travel in the roadway. Many buildings in towns have level access to the ground floor, except for newer ones. Elevators are rare. However, there are lots of people around who are happy to carry a person and the chair up and down if necessary. They may or may not ask for a small donation, of course. The main problem may be in-town transit. The best option is probably a car and driver. The other ways to get around are motorbike taxi and cyclo.
You can spot moto-taxis by the baseball caps and sunglasses on the guys who drive them. Pay around 1000-2500 riel for a ride, depending if it's one or two people riding, how far, and if it's day or night. Just ride, then pay at the end; you don't have to set a price first. A whole day's riding around will cost $5-7. Remember that random moto drivers will not know where they are going, and do not know how to read a map. You have to point the way--if you don't, you may notice that the moto is circling aimlessly around town. The word for "stop" is between "chowp" and "chope". Moto drivers who hang out at the foreigner hangouts will know the foreigner places. They will also soon learn where you live, who your friends are and who you are going out with. Some of this information is rumored to find its way to the Ministry of the Interior.
Similar advice applies to the cyclos, but these quiet and non-polluting pedal-powered vehicles are much slower. If you are touring, they are great for a leisurely look around. They can also carry amazing loads: three of them moved my entire household including several large pieces of furniture. Many cyclo drivers are rice farmers who come into the cities during the dry season, and rent their cyclos to make money in the day and to sleep in at night. You will see them clustered in cyclo villages here and there throughout Phnom Penh, especially at night when the pedalers, who have rented them, use them for lodging. A cyclo ride costs about half of what a moto ride costs, though visitors are expected to be more generous.
Bicycles are for sale in stores all around the Capitol Guesthouse on Street 182. The "mountain bikes" are cheap--about $100 for the best of them--but of poor quality. Mine fell to pieces in about a year, thanks in part to Phnom Penh roads, which vary from smoothly paved major roads to unpaved, rutted, rocky, swampy, side roads. A more solid choice is the Pee-Wee Herman style Pheasant bicycle favored by Cambodian women, or the somewhat sleeker single-speed Vietnamese or Chinese road bike ($50-70 new). And then there are the trusty antique touring bikes, usually made of a variety of pieces knocked together. These are available for $20-30. I haven't noticed any bike rental places, but any guesthouse should be able to arrange it. For information on cycling in the Cambodian countryside, see Biking Southeast Asia with Mr. Pumpy.
Near the Capitol, but on Monivong, is the Hong Kong Hotel, next to which are two similar motorcycle rental shops. Foreigners must leave their passports as a deposit, and pay $5-7 per day for a motor scooter or a 250cc dirt bike. Two things to keep in mind: Cambodian traffic has rules that take time to get used to; and if the motorbike is stolen, you will have to pay for it, in effect buying it for the nice people who robbed you.
Buying a moto: prices start around $250 for an old one. A license plate, registration and driver's license are required by law but not by reality. Many motos and cars have no plate, or sport a vanity plate made at home or on the street corner.

Preparing for Visiting in Cambodia


Living in Cambodia: Tips and Tricks for Staying Sane in Cambodia is nicely ... Keep in mind that the rules in Cambodia change frequently, and are often ...

Weather

November to February is the "cool season", which is dry and not too hot (up to about 30C or 85F). In April it gets really hot (40/100 daily, 30/85 at night), but not rainy. Starting around June it gets rainy--and still hot. It rains off and on all the time, so roads are muddy and some areas are impassable, and it stays like that until November, when cool & dry comes--gloriously--back. Here's today's forecast for Phnom Penh.

Customs

Keep in mind that shorts are frowned on in temples (such as at Angkor Wat). In fact, few men in Cambodia wear shorts unless they have particular sweaty jobs, so there is a class element to this. But since foreigners are seen as completely strange anyway, they can get away with odd behavior and dress to an extent. Certainly lighter dress is fine during exercise (you can go running or biking in the morning along the river in Phnom Penh). Good walking/hiking shoes are a plus for a visit to the temples. Sandals (not leather) are good for rainy season in the city--the mud and fecal matter just rinses right off! Smile: You'll do this anyway, but always act respectful, don't raise your voice or your eyebrows, and smile at everybody. Works wonders.
A Nice Place to Visit, BUT...

In 1997, Phnom Penh was ranked as one of the worst cities to live in by the Corporate Resources Group. Of 192 cities Vancouver, Toronto, and Auckland were rated tops in quality of life. Out of 40 cities in Asia, Cambodia's capital ranked 31st. (Source: Access Cambodia Bi-Monthly NEWS, Dec. 1 - 15, 1997, Vol 1)
And it hasn't moved up since then, at least for expats. In 2002, the Economist Intelligence Unit assessed the hardship level for expatriates in 130 cities around the world. Melbourne and Vancouver tied for best, while Phnom Penh came in a No. 126, beating only Dhaka, Lagos, Karachi and Port Moresby. Ouch. (Reuters, October 4, 2002)

Money

Cash is best (aaah, cash!). Bring dollars if you already have them, or baht if you don't. Dollars (and to a lesser extent Thai baht) are accepted almost everywhere in Cambodia, intermingled freely with riel. You will get some riel as change when you spend dollars; just mix 'n' match. One dollar equals 4050 riel (as of January 2006); the riel has lost less than half its value since 1995 (those IMF policies keep inflation down, if nothing else). Coins have not been used for many, many years. There are a few places that will change travelers checks. Credit cards are useful only at a few ritzy places in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although you can get a cash advance from a Visa or JCB card at the Cambodian Commercial Bank, among others, in Phnom Penh and a few banks in other main towns.
UPDATE: Residents used to hand off their (foreign) cash cards to friends visiting Bangkok so the friends can pull out money for them, but as of late 2005 there are a few cash machines in Cambodia at branches of the ANZ bank and at the Canadia Bank in Phnom Penh. These ATMs may or may not be compatible with your card.

Visa

As of 2003, Visas are available on arrival at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports (see below), so if you are entering Cambodia at the airport, there's no need to get one beforehand. If you enter by land, you must get a your visa before you get there in most cases, and it must be marked for entry at that entry point. If it isn't, you are nearly certain to be sent back (Download visa application.) Find more and better visa info at Tales of Asia.
There is no other preparation needed that I can think of, except for a couple of shots, and for a short visit even those are probably not necessary. Havrix costs $60-100, but is thought to provide lifetime protection from hepatitis A, which is not a bad thing.

Language

The vast majority of Cambodians speak Khmer, a language of the Mon-Khmer group. Its only close relative is the language of the Mon, a Burmese minority. Khmer is only distantly related to Thai and to some Indonesian languages, with some borrowed words from Vietnamese, Chinese, Pali, French and English. The script is related to Devanagari and looks a bit like Thai script at first glance. An increasing number of urban Cambodians speak English, especially young people, and some (mostly older) Cambodians can speak French. Though its grammar is quite straightforward, Khmer is a fairly difficult language for most English speakers to learn because of its pronunciation. If you want to go beyond the tourist phrasebooks, you can study online at Northern Illinois University's introduction to Khmer site. For home study, I especially like Frank Smith's Khmer Language Learning Materials.

Arriving at Pochentong airport


Bring two small photos and $25 US. You will get two forms to fill out on the airplane. On the form you must identify your visit as a tourist visit or a business visit. It's $20 for a one-month tourist visa, or $25 for a one-month working visa. The only difference is that the working visa can be renewed without leaving the country, so if you might stay more than a month, choose that one. There has been no requirement to prove you are working for anyone. Tell the truth about your job, especially if you are not a human rights worker or similar troublemaker. Actually they don't seem to care. (More on visas at Tales of Asia) After you land you will walk into the terminal, if you are prudent, and join a crowd of people at the visa counter. They will ask you for your passport and your forms. They will ask you for the photos as well, though I have never heard of anyone being turned away for not having them. Don't worry, just hand your passport over, and move down to the other end of the counter to pick it up and pay the fee. (It used to be that if you wanted to accelerate your progress, you could hand over a fiver to the guy who takes your passport and forms, motion meaningfully down the counter, and then move smartly along while honest people wait. But I heard one report in early 2002 that this no longer works.)
Keep in mind that if you overstay your visa, you will be charged $30 plus $5 for each day you overstayed. You pay when you leave; it's hassle-free.
If you get a job with an organization, they normally have a person who takes care of your visa extensions by paying (off) the appropriate somebodies. Once again, these rules can change at any time.

Getting into town

After you get the visa, make like a baby...and head out. You will pass a desk with a sign that says it's $7 for a taxi into town. If you're stretched for cash, say "five dollars" and keep walking. You might be able to get it for $4, but come on. Go with the first person who agrees, which might not be until you reach the sidewalk outside. Don't worry, you will not be stranded! After you get your luggage, you'll pass confidently by the guys who could demand to search your bags, but won't because they are charmed by your pleasant and friendly demeanor. You'll go through a small foyer. Take a look at the rate, but don't bother changing money there (see above).
You will emerge from the airport in a crowd of taxi-drivers vying for your patronage. The only difference between these and the ones who approached you inside is that the ones inside have paid someone off for the better position. If you don't have too much luggage, opt for a longer and less comfortable, but much more exciting moto-taxi ride ($2-3).
Try to buy a Phnom Penh Post as soon as you can, even at the airport sidewalk. It has a city map in the middle, with many useful locations marked. (The most comprehensive map and listings are in the 2003 Cambodia Yellow Pages on sale at various bookstores and Western-style markets. The Phnom Penh Visitors Guide is a very good free resource full of how-to information and listings. It's available all over town. There's an essential version for Sihanoukville too. Both are now on line.
If you to need to make any phone calls when you arrive, ask your taxi driver if you can use his phone. Offer him some money afterwards: at least 20-30 cents/minute. Local pay phones work on phone cards only; look for store signs advertising Telstra or Camintel cards.

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