posted on Dec, 6 2005 @ 05:59 PM
I posted a massive reply to this and then it timed out, I lost the post...
Anyway. Here goes, again.
Lived in Cambodia for two years.
Yes, you can still go out to the firing ranges. Do. Have fun. Please, don't buy animals to shoot, it doesn't make westerners look good in that
If you have an embassy close to home, try getting your visa there. You may save money. If you fly into Pochentong International Airport you will pay
the correct price for your visa. If you cross the border anywhere else you will pay more. If you go to the embassy in Bangkok you will pay more.
Don't get a tourist visa. It lasts a month and can only be renewed once, then you have to leave the country.
Get a business visa, it also lasts a month but can be renewed infinitely. When you want/need to renew it take your passport to Lucky Lucky Motorcycles
on Monivong Boulevard. Trust me on this.
Catch a Cyclo at least once.
Use the motodops (motor-scooter taxis). Wear a helmet.
You may be tempted to hire a motorcycle. Think very carefully about this. Remember, the rules of physics still apply, accidents kill you in Cambodia
too and there are no ambulances worthy of the name. Plus, check your travel insurance very carefully, you may void it by not wearing a helmet or
driving unlicenced. Please take this advice seriously.
DO NOT try to learn to ride a motorbike in Phnom Penh. I see on average, when I'm in the country, a fatality a week. The traffic does not follow the
law. 99% of motorcycles do not have rear-view mirrors and they do not check before they turn, nor do they indicate. Most Cambodian drivers are
If you can already ride a motorbike (trail, not road-) then your best bets for hire are Lucky Lucky on Monivong Boulevard or Phnom Penh Bike Shop
(better) on St 302 off Monivong. Avoid New New Motorbikes, there are some (very healthy) rumours about them. U2U me for explanation.
Unless you have cash the local doctors will not help you.
Visit Tuol Sleng, the genocide/torture musem, and Choueng Ek, the killing fields.
Visit the National Museum and the Royal Palace.
Definitely get up to Siem Reap and see all the Angkorian temples, plus the river of 1,000 Lingas.
If you have the opportunity, get out to Preah Vihear temple. It sits on a mountain and faces the Thai border.
Don't talk politics. Most of the people with English good enough to debate the subject are connected to the government.
The government and PM are in a really ugly mood at the moment. They just put an opposition MP in prison for 7 years for forming a rebel army. The
words "sham" and "grotesque" describe the trial best.
Don't insult the King, or his father. The people love the old man. Since he abdicated they call him Samdech Ta Sihanouk, it translates roughly as
Lord Grandfather Sihanouk.
Read the Lonely Planet.
Do do some reading. I strongly reccomend a book called Sideshow: Kissinger Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross.
There are two Enlish-language newspapers. The Cambodia Daily, kinda self-explanatory, and the Phnom Penh Post, which comes out every fortnight. You
can subscirbe to the Post from anywhere. You probably should for a while before you come.
Check out www.bayonpearnik.com before you leave.
Do practice some charity while you're there. But, remember, the beggars in front of the big supermarkets are there because you are and the motodops
and tuk-tuk drivers on the riverfront earn in the hundreds each month. Find a better target. If you're eating breakfast al-fresco and the monks come
past, giving to them is good for your karma!
Except at restaurants, bargain well. You will be charged white-man's-tax for everything. Hey, you're rich, you can afford it. Many of the vendors
don't appear to have realised that the UN and its pay packets left 12 years ago.
Restaurants have pretty set prices and most will have them in English, even the most illiterate peasant recognises which notes are which.
Don't let a motodop tell you he'll be your driver for the day for $10. That's bollocks. Most trips around the city will cost you around 2000 riel
(US50c). You might do $4 worth in a day.
The cops are effing useless and unbelievably corrupt. They will fine foreigners for the most mendaciously, moronically, mind-numbingly stupid reasons.
One tourist in Siem Reap was "fined" for impersonating a policeman. He as wearing a t-shirt and camo/cargo pants. A woman in Phnom Penh was fined
for wearing her seatbelt!
Did I tell you what I think of the cops? The police in Cambodia are not your friends. At least they make it obvious. If you are in Thailand and cops
ask you to drink, run away. I am deadly serous. People die from drinking with Thai cops and it isn't the alcohol that kills them. At least, not the
alcohol they drank.
Phnom Penh is pretty safe, but westerners do still get robbed. It's a matter of common sense. A mate of a mate was robbed recently, he was going home
after closing his bar at 3am.
Beer costs US$1 in foreign-owned bars and half that in local places!
[edit on 6-12-2005 by HowlrunnerIV]