Getting around, finding things, services and support in Vietnam and Cambodia

Getting basic stuff done in Vietnam and Cambodia is the subject for today’s post. There are a number of things you need to figure out in a new place. I kinda keep a list so I can refer back and find the things:

  1. Laundry services. I don’t like washing my own clothes nor will I ever do it again. You can easily find laundry services that will turn around your laundry in a day or so and charge you about $2.00 or so in Vietnam and Cambodia. My last place in Da Nang, the hotel did laundry for guests and turned it around in one day. It was decent service. In Cambodia you can see Mr. Clean signs here and there and they quote the price for the weight of laundry. If you are determined to do laundry in your room, go for it. I have done it by washing in hair shampoo and warm water, soaking, rinsing, soaking and then getting a towel and rolling up the underwater repeatedly in the towel to remove excess water. In a warm place, laundry will dry pretty fast.
  2. Money Exchange. In Vietnam I headed toward a jewelry shop or just took currency out from an ATM. They did not accept US dollars wherever I went so I really got out of the habit of using it. Here in Cambodia, everything is US dollar based. ATMs give US dollars. Cash registers give you both USD and Riel prices. Down the street is the WING shop. They do currency exchange and will break larger US bills. Here is a hint. If you want to make Cambodian vendors unhappy, give them something larger than a $10 bill for something small. Instead, in your daily carry around money pack about $20 USD in singles and a 10 or so. Its fine for a day or two even if you splurge.
  3. Water. In the heat of both Vietnam and Cambodia you will sweat. My t shirt gets drenched because I walk everywhere here. Drink bottled water! Get yourself a 1.5 liter bottle or two every day. Do not drink the tap water even if people say its okay in Cambodia. Why risk it? Also the circle K and other stores like VinMart quote the prices on the shelf. One price for everyone. A local vendor will decide to charge you more. Once in Hanoi, I was out with a Vietnamese friend and we stopped for water. She was taking a picture and I rejoined her and told they wanted to charge me 25k VND for a 1.5 liter bottle of water. She was outraged and went to get water and it was 10k. An argument broke out with the vendor about the pricing and my friend threatened to call the police. Finally the vendor relented and sold me a bottle of water at the non tourist prices. The same happens in Cambodia. A local person will quote you some price in Riel. You have to be quick to know what is being offered. For small purchased like water, I carry a 1k Riel note with me or so.
  4. SIM cards. This is always interesting. Do you get one at the airport or wait? Everywhere on every street you can buy them. I really recommend that you go with viettel in Vietnam since its government owned and I like Smart Services in Cambodia. You can walk in with your passport, plop down some money in either country, buy talk and data time for cheap, and be ready to adventure in your new country. Don’t forget you need an unlocked phone. For Heaven’s sake also be careful with where you flash your phone. Carrying it one hand down city streets in just about any street in big town anywhere is asking for it to be lifted.
  5. Electronics, Camera and other goodies. I have found only one camera shop in Da Nang I trust. I bought the Fuji xT2 there. They were authorized Fujifilm resellers. I would read reviews carefully before buying stuff off the street. You can find quality electronics shops here in Phnom Penh and in Vietnam by reading a bit. Use those and don’t get ripped off.
  6. Clothing, shoes, socks backpacks, daypacks, etc. Often you just arrive at a place and need something cheap to carry around in the new city. Markets in Asia are meant for that. Head to a market but first read up on which one. In Phnom Penh the markets are kind of specialized. In Vietnam, one market can have an astounding variety of stuff but you have to be patient and go through from back to front and side to side. Its fun really if you just relax, get yourself an iced coffee and go with the flow. Its what the local people do! Also I figure there is a boundary to haggling. If something costs $2 USD its kind of ridiculous to haggle.
  7. Food. How do you find food in a new place? Its probably like how other people do it. In Hanoi I just walked out the door and Voila! Food! But sometimes I wanted to find some splurge food like hamburgers or western dinners or pizza. Google Maps and TripAdvisor work very well. In Vietnam I would walk or get a grab. Here in Phnom Penh, its simpler. Install the GRAB app and since it uses google GPS data you just favorite your hotel and type in the name of the place in English like “Tokyo Barber Shop”. The app goes and finds it, tells you the distance and give you the cost in Riel. No bargaining since its computed and you don’t get some scam going when you get out because you have the receipt on your phone in the app.

I have other topics like how I decide where to go when I’m staying long in a place. Here in Cambodia now, I target a thing, activity, museum, or site I want to visit. I will Grab tuk tuk there. If its a restaurant at night I will tuk tuk both ways. I won’t walk around Cambodia besides by my hotel at night that much. I walked more at night in Da Nang because I felt safe there. So anyways, finding a place then figuring out how to get there and get back is the fun of a new city. Like today I picked a new way to walk back and I found the government and military buildings I had never seen before in wide blocks with beautiful sidewalks. Walking is definitely the way to go folks!

Anyways, those are my primary things for finding the new things, services, support I may need in a new place. Of course friendly hotel staff like here at the LaLune Hotel in Phnom Penh does not hurt. Getting a local recommendation for food rules!