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!

New Blog Series – Retirement, Asia, and Traveling Forever

I’m starting a series of a few blog posts on retirement and living and traveling. The purpose of this next series of posts are to define how you can do better if you are living on fixed income if you have a mildly adventurous soul and are able to adjust to cultural change and thrive. Here’s an article that got me thinking about just how far US social security retirement will carry you. So what do I hope to convey that adds to the balance of information for people? That’s the topic of the next few posts. Here are the posts upcoming. Each one will be linked and presented and hopefully at the end of the next few posts you can see what retirement means, your choices if you travel, and how some freedom can work if you are retired in places that cost less.

  1. Retirement and Travel in Asia
  2. Making Life better with limited funds traveling in Asia
  3. How to go slow and see more
  4. Visas and Passports and places that offer more for less
  5. Bringing it all together. Being old does not mean you sit at home wondering

I came to the conclusion that more needed to be done after talking with a variety of people in Vietnam and Cambodia about retirement. Retirement is supposed to be the good times folks. You are supposed to be able to take a breather, find a new thing, do a new thing, and perhaps find a new way of living. Maybe even finding a new partner if you are socially inclined. I am a solitary type so I solo travel but perhaps its not meant for you so you want something more.

Another thing I hope to convey in the series is that a person is never too old to find a new adventure. I answer questions about aging a lot on Quora about aging and travel. I think people reach their retirement years and get complacent or believe they are XX years and cannot possibly hit the road. I think fear plays a great role in this. Fear of both the known and unknown. There also is the difference of a place like Vietnam or Cambodia. Some of us are simply not made for having our senses assaulted by change. We’re more comfortable with the known yet often the known will cost more, mean you live less, and perhaps even threaten your possessions.

I am gong to write each of the blog posts above sequentially each week. So the retirement and travel in Asia post will come next week or late this week and I will then publish one in the series each forthcoming week.

So anyways, if you are interested in what a tomorrow may look like; stay tuned. I’ll continue to write my regular travel posts about life on the road in Cambodia and what I see and link to photography I do. Maybe instead I will create a static page in WordPress for this work. I think perhaps a static page would be easier to manage and let there be a difference in content.

The Market Scene in Phnom Penh

Today I picked one of the many markets here in Phnom Penh to visit. The market today was the Russian Market. They don’t sell Russians at the market but historically it was visited by Russians here quite a bit. Each market has a specialty or two and I picked the Russian Market because I wanted to see if I could find t-shirts that would fit me so I can stop ordering them from the states. And I was successful! I picked up a shirt that says Cambodia for $5. I don’t know how long it will last but lets face it. A shirt that costs $5 can go for 6 months and that’s good enough. I’ll have gotten my money’s worth. The other thing I wanted was a small change purse type thing since I lost the money clip I bought in Saigon. I found a little purse with an elephant on it for $2 which has a zipper on the top. It will hold all my US and Cambodian money I take when I’m out for the day. I don’t carry my wallet and would never carry my passport either.

The Russian Market is also known for food stalls so you have to stop and eat. Eating is not limited so I just sat down at one place and got some Kymer noodles spiced up which were really good! There are competing places that serve the same food so you can just have your choice. I spent about $2 for this big bowl of noodles there. After eating and watching the scenes in the food court I wandered through the clothing, fabric, backpack and jewelry sections. Its amazing how markets here and in Vietnam work. A lot of travelers from different places too. One person from Australia I am gathering was not having a good day of it and complained to me about having to do yet another market.

The other things I saw in the Russian market are backpacks and purses. If you are after anything from a small daypack to a larger backpack, the Russian Market is for you. I saw several stands with a variety of backpacks. Perhaps you should not believe that these are genuine but if you pay $10 for a bag and it lasts a year it seems to me you have gotten value. I bought a genuine fake North Face Surge backpack in Saigon and it has been fine. I will probably buy more t shirts as I get rid of the ones I have and re-stock them since finally the 2XL t shirt size fits me.

Bargaining is enabled on items but seriously for the little purse I bought to hold my daily money, how would I bargain for less than $2? Would I say $1? I just cannot see doing it for things so minor in cost. A t shirt for $5 is the same. I will just pay the $5 for the shirt. But… When you get to things like backpacks and duffel bags or belts; then its time to bargain and shave some cost off.

Then there are bunches of other markets in Phnom Penh. I thought perhaps there were about 10 of them and then I saw this list. So many of them scattered throughout the city! I don’t know that I will it to all of them. I guess if one of the markets specialized in something I needed I would go. So far, I have been to two and the things I commonly want (clothing, belts, backpacks) are at the Russian Market.

Tomorrow I will go and get a haircut and then walk back. I found a barber that is highly reviewed and rated that will be a good walk back. Now its a nice and slow time in the hotel room with BBC news going and the hotel is all quiet and stuff. I’ll sit here until 6pm and then walk over to this spicy noodle place and try it.

I will also wander the neighborhoods by the hotel since its a group of interesting little streets and shops. In a week I will be at the half-way point in Phnom Penh. Next stop Sihanoukville for a month. Then Siem Reap comes with the temples that I am really wanting to see. Being there a month means no real rush to see them or to go back. Finally the second largest city has me for a month. Battambang is the last city I will see and then will head back to PP and the LaLune Hotel for a week. After that I take off for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand! 2019 is shaping up to be an excellent year for my brand of slow travels.

Take care all. Have a great day, evening, morning. Wherever your timezone finds you.

Aeon Mall 1 in Phnom Penh and new ways to see this amazing city!

I went through some thoughts on how to change my method of seeing the city since I’ve spent a number of days roaming around the local places. I think I have a new method which is fun and profitable for me. I have these locations saved in google maps for “want to go”. Many are 3 to 6km away. I did one today which was the aeon mall which I captured here. So the new method to be able to see things like malls, markets, and parks or historic sites since my hotel is located a bit distant is to tuk tuk there and then walk back. The farthest distance I would have to walk is about 8km which is no real problem for me and I would get to see a very nice cross section of the city. Riding the tuk tuks is no big expense for me. Couple dollars here and there and I have a method of seeing the city which will ensure I can reach all the places easily since Grab tuk tuks use google maps for GPS and you add in the destination in the app and get the price up front. Most of the drivers speak some English and today the guy was really good.

My few hours at the Aeon Mall were interesting. The mall is about 5 stories I guess with a bunch of stores, a pretty nice food court, and pretty good access from this road that runs nearby. I wandered the mall and saw a Burger King, Krispy Kreme Donuts, and a bunch of coffee and bakery places. Really a nice mall and the AC blasts so if you are a bit uncomfortable from the heat the mall is good. The heat really does not bother me that much any longer. I guess the times in Hanoi and Saigon kinda got me ready for Asia heat and humidity.

Tomorrow I will do Russian Market which is about 4km distant and then will tour around the market and look for a few things I would like to have and then walk back to the hotel.

Next week I will pick out other spots I want to do and extend my reach in Phnom Penh. I am gonna spend some time finding the places for the day trips and also restaurants at night I want to do. I don’t really care if I spend for the tuk tuk twice or not or if the restaurant is close to where I go. I want to see the city the way I want to do it and this seems to be a great way to look around and also extend the distance I can go.

Next Friday I do a dinner cruise along the river for a few hours and will have all food and drinks paid for on the tour. That sounds dangerous :-). I should have the remainder of my time pretty well scoped out for places but will always include some randomness around the hotel since the area is a tightly knit set of blocks which I think should be seen.

I’m hoping by next Wednesday to have my passport back from immigration with the date extended. Once I get that done, time is pretty much mine and I can take as long as I want or define new trips with a return flight always to Phnom Penh.

That’s about it for a pretty nice day of wandering. Cambodian BBQ tonight on tap down the street from the hotel. I am hoping to try their steak and veggies cooked at the grill on the table. The cost is about $5.00 for the food.

Visas and Travel and how Southeast Asia is the best!

I went in today and took my Passport in for the so-called extension of stay retirement visa. The visa agent was a great person who understands the visa laws of Cambodia quite well. She told me some of the things I could do if I wanted to change the extension of stay to another one of the four types. Here’s a synopsis of the extensions you can get. I got the retirement extension or the ER choice. This visa can be given for up to 12 months and is a multiple entry visa. It costs $290 per year and next September after the 16th of the month I can apply for a renewal by going back to the agent and doing it again.

When I planned the departure, my primary goal was to find long stay places that also had reasonable visa laws that I could extend easily. Thailand has a decent retirement visa. Malaysia’s is priced too high for me. Vietnam does not have one but I could get a year long visa but would have to leave every 90 days for a visa run. The best combination of value and cost was Cambodia and I think they really want retired folks spending their money here.

My primary goal with the long stay visa extension in Cambodia was to establish a home base from which I can travel out to where I want to go but always be able to get back and have an established home so to speak. I don’t intend on staying in Cambodia all the time. In my current travel plan I will be back in Phnom Penh in January after visiting 4 other cities in Cambodia in 4 months. Then I will spend a week at the LaLune Hotel and fly to Singapore. I will not be back to Cambodia until June then as I see Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. In June I fly to Ho Chi Minh City, then to Hanoi, and then back to Phnom Penh at the end of 30 days. Probably two weeks in each place. I have friends in both places that want me to visit.

Its good timing for the visa to get back around August or so to Phnom Penh. I will be able to extend the retirement visa for another year in September but the other reason is China. I can get a tourist visa for China right here in Cambodia in a few days and go visit later next year. Another new goal I have is to ride the Shinkansen from Kyushu to Hokkaido in Japan. I want to see all of Japan and I would take a few months doing it. Then there’s India. I have to get back to India. People have been asking after me in Chennai, Mumbai, and Bangalore.

As long as I have the anchor or home base here, I can always get back and rest up or plan more things or just hang out in Phnom Penh. I also don’t mind return visits to places like Malaysia. I would only do long term stays in cheap places. So the long term retirement visa here is a big deal for me. It anchors me and also lets me go. Its multiple entry so I can take time as I want in Vietnam or Thailand or wherever but always get back here.

If you ever plan a getaway that is a forever thing and you are retiring, consider that Southeast Asia is kind of tailor made for retirees. Living is cheaper although you have to adapt and adopt a bit. Traveling is cheaper. You can travel across a lot of countries big and small and meet some amazing people. And you can do it all on less money than you think. Having the monthly social security retirement is nice for stability but the actual living expenses are low. Even if I splurge multiple times on food, everything always ends up good for me.

Give it some thought if you are getting close to retiring and wondering what in the world you will do next.

Getting around Phnom Penh – Real and Ideal thoughts for you

I went out for a great walk with the camera today and saw a variety of city blocks. Big streets with lots of businesses and few people. Small streets with the little shops crowded where the tuk tuks and the motorbikes vied for a two lane road. It was really a warm day here but it started out raining. Like most places here I’ve been the rain only goes for about 30 minutes and then you get blue skies.

So I walked and took some photographs and walked some more. Down streets here kids yelled hello at me and old people nodded and smiled. I’ve felt in both Vietnam and here in Cambodia this warmth and genuineness and openness that perhaps I did not see so much in busy San Francisco. Maybe did not see at all there.

I’ve read a few warning blog posts about people being mugged and robbed and drugged here and I was down this evening in the pub road district where the drunk travelers and backpackers have their court. One guy staggering almost in front of the tuk tuk and even the driver shook his head. I can see why people get scammed there if you go wandering around shit-faced down some of the streets I saw. I don’t think those people want to see Phnom Penh. They want the bar and food district that’s like other places they’ve been. The real Phnom Penh still is there though. You just need to get away from that part of the city and find the blocks where people work, laugh, and eat. Where the Khmer people live and the kids yell at you and smile. It all depends on what Cambodia you want to see. Its not all good and a Kymer told me there is a lot of poverty in their country. You can see it easily out walking. I saw the same in India. Dealing with it takes a little effort. Like even in Vietnam there are parts that I loved and laughed at and even cried a bit over. Here you can see it by a small lake where the poorer people live. Asking for handouts is in full effect and I feel bad for the people. There are many children there too but even with all that sadness the children find some bit of joy in the simple things of being a child. So somehow you have to take both and deal with it if you come to Asia. You will see it all. If you leave the touristy havens and see what Phnom Penh or Hanoi or wherever is all about. The areas where the people live and eat and children go to school.

Small streets where football is played and the small carts with produce and bbq wheel through. Those streets may be the most fabled in all of the places. Each time I’ve walked one I’ve enriched. Its a microcosm of life there as I’ve said before. You can see so much in how the day to day life of the person is played out. The local market. The coffee stand. The sandwich place. The laughter and smiling faces as people go by. I truly think that Cambodians want people to see their country. They’ve come a long way.

The main thing here though is getting around. And I mean that in the largest sense of the word. If you settle for bar districts and scams and wonder why you never saw Cambodia, I think I have an answer for you. I’ve wandered for 4 days in non touristy areas. Taken pictures of the city. Stopped for water. Got back to the room and planned out dinner. A local place? The best burger joint in town? Getting around in the tuk tuk is the way but there is also a tuk tuk of the heart and soul that will take you through Cambodia. Don’t miss some of it because its not where the tourists go.

You owe it to yourself to see the place. Breathe in the goods and bads. Look at what the city offers. Don’t be afraid. Just get around on foot or tuk tuk. I think  you will be enriched at the effort.

Traveling Forever and Visas too…

I’ll submit my passport and request for a 12 month retirement extension of stay visa this Sunday with the agent. It takes 7 to 10 days to get one and then I’m done with the last passport and visa thing required for here for a year. I can always come back to Cambodia from where I am for the next year. The LaLune hotel becomes my home base because I like this place and they treat me well.

But now, I’ll drink my beers in the room and watch BBC world news and wonder about the United States. Some of the things are so sad there. We seem stuck in a political climate of dysfunction and corruption. I hope that things change but my take is it will take longer than 2020 to set our ship right again. Then our allies will be our uncertain foes and our enemies will know how to take advantage of us.

That’s about it for now folks. Have yourselves a good evening. If you blog, write something. Create some content. Delete an ad or two that gets in the way. Like I’ve said before I want your words and I want them tied together.

The Casual Travler – Long Term Travel Ideas and Solo Wandering

Lately been thinking again of the whole solo travel thing. I follow a few people on Twitter that are solo travelers and a few that are traveling forever. But the direction of the recent thought is not so much the solo travel itself but the solo traveler engaged in slow travel. Slow travel does not mean a week or two in a place. To me, it means a month or two in a place. I spent three months in Hanoi Vietnam and while some people were surprised, I did this with a purpose in mind. I wanted to get grounded in Vietnam and use Hanoi as a base of travel for the places I could reach like Halong Bay. I also made it on several day tours and a few get aways to places like Hoi An and Hue.

Another thing is the stability in having a room for a longer time. I was able to settle in and find the services necessary for daily life. Things like getting a haircut, getting laundry done, the food places I wanted to eat at. I don’t do street food all the time and I enjoy western food on occasion and staying longer means I can explore those places as well. I also don’t have a budget so to speak for the travel. I like living how I want to live on the longer travel. I have not really splurged on a hotel or apartment yet but I have on food and taking tours. I will book a tour for myself when there is no choice. Yes, I will pay more to get to a place and also have it easy. I’m old and lazy I guess. I don’t need challenges trying to figure out four ways of getting to a place that I will visit for a few hours.

What I also like in the longer term travel is being able to slow down and see a place how I want. Here in Phnom Penh there are the tourist places by the river and the Wats there and museums and food and coffee places. I purposefully booked a hotel away from all that because I have time. Time to explore in all different directions and see the how people live, the smiling children as I walk by, and the city where I don’t see a lot of tourists. Its a different reality and by having sufficient time, I don’t feel rushed to reach a place within some schedule.

So, the longer term travel to a place like Phnom Penh or the month long stays in Da Nang, Da Lat, Saigon have meant that I had time to explore. Explore the non touristy areas, find the local restaurants, find the smiling people on the streets where I walk and at the same time have a regular approach to the travel. Here in Cambodia, I will spend an initial month in Phnom Penh then months in 3 other cities and then back to Phnom Penh in January. I’ll stay here a week and get some things done and then travel long term to Malaysia and Thailand and short to Singapore. I don’t stay long in expensive places like Singapore and Japan. I usually spend a week or two at those places and its more focused time to see things.

The Casual Traveler…

I think the casual traveler is best suited for places like Asia. The industry and tourist and services are well adapted to staying long term. Hotels have no problem giving better rates for long term. I won’t stay in Hostels so I don’t know how they do things. In Saigon, I stayed for a month in a home stay with a family. It was the best! The host cooked the best meals!

I think Asia is well suited for those that want longer stays and also have a regular life in a place. Perhaps the person is a Digital Nomad (whatever that is) or a ex-pat (I think I know this one) or just a slow traveler like me. If you combine countries with good long stay visas that also have cheaper costs of living the pattern is interesting. Vietnam will let you you stay up to a year but every 90 days you have to do a visa run. Cambodia has some nice visa rules and you can get a retirement extension of stay for a year of multiple entries for $290. There are other choices as well for the casual traveler. Thailand and Malaysia both have retirement visas but I would not get either since Cambodia is just so much easier to maintain the visa and extend it.

Finally, though its what you want. I travel to not arrive or close out a place but to live in a place. I purposefully pick the places that have things I’m interested in or have not been to. Part of the enjoyment of a first day in a new country is that first walk all day. Having the time to enjoy the walk, not feel that a week will go by way too fast and I will have not seen all the temples or whatever is a big deal for me. Finally, having the freedom to see the places and not focus on the touristy places is very liberating. I like taking pictures of every day life. Museums and temples and pagodas are good but here are also people out past all those. The long term travel makes it possible.

Like I said, I think the long term travel method is really well suited for Asia. You can go slow and not feel guilty. Perhaps though you don’t have the perfect storm of independent living or retirement or being that nomad or whatever. Then you have to live in your reality.

Wandering Phnom Penh – life, money, and time

Another day wraps up for me. Its been a good two days learning about this fascinating and busy city. I walked today with almost a destination in mind. I wished to see the Olympic Stadium but more wanted it as a landmark so I can get to other places walking and know how far it is to get home.

I have lots of places to see and I feel like the city is this huge area of wonderful sights still unexplored. I also have a few things I have to get done. One is I need a haircut. I found a place which does them for $4.50 and includes a beard trim. Its past the Olympic Stadium. The second thing next week is I have to get my visa extended to a year multiple entry here. That will take them a few days to get done and its costs $290 for the year. Once I have the year extension, things become more gradual the remainder of my stay. Its day by day seeing the city, finding restaurants at night, and doing the usual photography things.

Since I like wandering cities and seeing people doing their stuff, my initial photographs of Phnom Penh are city and street shots. I’ll be going to some of the tourist things next week and perhaps then the National Museum. Here’s the start of my photo album for Phnom Penh.

I also am going to work on sharing out all the photo albums from Vietnam pretty soon. I have numerous albums of the places and things I saw there.

Changing of the Routine Too…

My routine now has changed since the hotel serves free breakfast every day. Now I get up earlier and have breakfast up on the roof of the hotel and see Phnom Penh every morning. I get a few cups of coffee and enjoy the time relaxing in the cool mornings. Then back to my room for a few hours of relaxing and reading or watching news. By 11am I’m out the door and usually am back by 2pm. Sometimes I decide after breakfast some direction I want to walk. The city though is there for me to go anywhere I like. I don’t feel cautious or uncomfortable walking any of the cities. I understand how the traffic works and its pretty evident how busy the city is.

By about 1pm its time for some water for me. Today I stopped at the City Mall and set on a bench and this young girl came up and told me hello. The mall is an interesting place. Kind of a mix of a classic mall and the asian markets you may know. I went in because it has a very nice grocery store that I wanted to see. That’s where I got the bottle of water.

Then I kinda decide that I should head back or see something else or whatever it is that strikes my fancy. After awhile I’m back to the room and tend to relax reading and writing until about 6pm when its dinner time. I find a new restaurant because at this point they are all new. Tonight its Cambodian BBQ down the street.

Money and Time

Now since I don’t buy breakfast, my expenses have dropped a bit I think. I am spending about $4.50 a night for dinner with beers. I don’t really care what the cost is but its fun to see what the food costs and that everyone will take US dollars. I normally carry $20 and some singles and local money but when I pay in local money I get a combination of currencies back. They will pay me in US dollars an Riel back so I have to stop and think what the combination is and what I am getting. I guess for the small things like a bottle of water for $0.40 and I pay a dollar, I don’t really care. I will have to exchange a $100 bill for smaller bills at the hotel. I won’t carry that much since its not needed or necessary here.

Time has changed to. I think its slowed down. I feel like I have more time to spend on things here in Cambodia. I will stay here longer but also will travel out of Cambodia once I have the annual visa. I realized early on I needed a home base of sorts that had really good visas for retired people. I was considering the time being on the road now for 7 months. Nothing seems the same time wise. It used to be a march of schedules and tasks and milestones. I don’t have those any longer. That feels pretty good!

So maybe that brings you up to date for a day on the life of me. I have no complaints. I travel slow. I stay longer. I go where I want. How could I complain there?

Day One in Phnom Penh out wandering the city streets!

This is about my very first real day in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Kinda what I did, how it went, what I saw. I arrived last night here a bit later than planned because the flight was delayed out of Saigon. All in all, the flight only took 35 minutes to get here so I don’t think it really mattered. The taxi service had the person standing outside arrivals with my name on a sign which made it easy to find.

The ride to the hotel was a bit complicated because the driver had to call the hotel first and be assured of the directions. I had a SIM card so I looked up the hotel as well on google maps and we kinda navigated together there. The hotel is called the La Lune hotel and I really like it. I spent $320 for 30 days and the room is very nice and comes with free wifi throughout the hotel as well as free breakfasts.

Today I decided to kind of get a sense of turns and streets and see what the city was like. I have to say the city is a dynamic, frenetic, and busy place. Motorbikes form a large enterprise both in sales and service. I saw entire blocks today that cater to repairs and maintenance. Other blocks are fresh markets with lots of produce and stuff. Street food stands are all over the place. So I walked around today to see all of this but also kinda feel grounded and get a sense of initial impressions of the small part of the city I saw. I had read a few things about safety here but I had seen the same things about safety in Hanoi and Saigon. There is a lot of information out there about robberies and mugging and scams. I saw a few scams in Vietnam and was never taken in. Here they are about the same. I think though a lot of things happen to travelers after they get tanked up in a bar and go staggering down the street and for some reason also carrying wallets and passports. Never once in 6 months in Vietnam was I asked for my passport besides at hotels. I bought an expensive camera and it was done with no passport. Here is Cambodia I was told by the hotel staff to not carry the passport whatsoever and that it will never be asked for when I’m out walking around or using facilities. I also will never carry my wallet with debit cards leaning out. Its best to carry $20 and some singles. Single dollars are good for small things like bottled water or snacks. A 1.5 liter bottle of water cost about $.40 and you change back in local currency. There are circle K markets here as well as other convenience stores.

So there I was out walking around and taking a few photographs of the busy daytimes in Phnom Penh. People walking and working. Lots of activities going on around me. Traffic about the same as in Vietnam. People drive motorbikes wherever they want to go. Wrong way, on sidewalks, etc. They will beep their horns a few times behind you to let you know they are there. The behavior of walking here is exactly the same as in Vietnam. You will see traffic lights that some observe and others don’t. Cars a lot of the times observe the lights while tuk tuks and motorbikes really don’t. I tend to cross with the light but if traffic has a pattern to it and I can cross against the light I’ll do that too.

So I walked in this kinda big square today around the locality of my hotel. It was an interesting outing since its a new country and city I have not been in. I love to walk through urban settings and take candid photos of the settings. At one point a few young Khymer guys offered beer smiling. Other people waved and said hello. To find my way, I have this approach with my iPhone that works well. I will never just take the phone out middle of the street even in a relatively safe place like Da Nang. I always wait until there is a building foyer or stairs and go stand by them numerous feet from the road. Then I check google maps for my location and I have my hotel marked as “home” on maps. Navigating this way is simple here in Phnom Penh. Streets are all numbered and are in grids for the most part. Some bigger arteries are more random but the vast majority of areas form squares which make navigation a breeze. I think it would be difficult without a data plan on my phone though. A paper map would be confusing because there is no real time “you are there” type thing.

Finally after a few hours of walking, I found the Main Street I was looking for that would let me cut back to the hotel I stay in. I wanted to see a bit of the area my hotel was in but that will wait to tomorrow. I got back and felt that I had a better understanding of this city and what to expect out there walking it. I did have the taxi and tuk tuk drivers occasionally offer rides. I’m used to that so refusing gently is right there for me.

Tonight I will go to this restaurant down the street and try it. Since I’m getting hungry, it will probably be by six PM or so. Hope this helps you understand a bit about this rather large and dynamic city with nice people, the usual traffic patterns, and how to get around. I observe the security precautions by carrying as little as possible with me. No backpack, no wallet, no passport and only limited funds. As I mentioned you should be able to get by with only carrying a $20 and a few singles for a few days of food and beer and water.

On to my second day tomorrow!

Reached Cambodia – now new adventures start!

Some initial notes on Cambodia from a newbie arrival guy. May help if you decide to come over. I arrived today from Vietnam and had no real preconceived notions about the visa process. Vietnam’s is pretty easy too. Arriving at the airport was probably better since no one wanted some kind of pay off to rush things and there was no real need to rush things. Read some notes below and see what you think.

  1. There are two kinds of visas to enter initially. There is the e-visa which is fixed for 30 days and you can get one extension for 30 days but that’s it. Then there is what is called the E class or ordinary visa. That visa is also good for 30 days initially and it costs $35. That $35 is in US. Its easier to just come with US dollars or use the ATM to get the money. I don’t think they like to be currency exchangers. The entire process requires a few stops. First off you fill out the form for the visa and the arrival form. You need one picture of your mug. Some people say two. I asked and they only want one and the guard has a stapler and does the work for you. You then take the forms to the processing desks and they take your money and you wait about 10 minutes. Soon they show your passport so be watching. You go up and retrieve it and it has a bright and shiny visa in it. Now you go through customs and security before getting your bag. That takes about 10 minutes if the line is not bad. I don’t know what happens if the line is bad because none of them were tonight. Once done, you enter the arrival area and you can get money, a SIM card, order a taxi or tuk tuk. That brings me to my second note.
  2. I did believe there would be a mad rush to offer services but it was not that way at all. A few people approached me but I had ordered a cab and paid already so it was painless. To get from the airport to the hotel it was $15 US. The driver was very courteous so I tipped him. I asked for someone that spoke English and I got that person and he was very helpful along the way. The drive from the airport to my hotel was about 30 minutes. Traffic was like Vietnam pretty much so nothing unusual. Now I am at the hotel so on to the third note.
  3. I had booked a room at the La Lune hotel months ago when I first organized the trip. I don’t know why but it seemed like a place to stay that would be nice. The owner is French and his wife speaks a multitude of languages. The staff at the hotel is very nice and strives to please. You can get cold beer at the front desk for $1 a beer if you wish to take to the room. I paid $320 US for a month including free breakfasts that are US meals if I want. So I want! I was very taken with the people and I’ve only met a few. Very friendly, smiling, ready to help and they really welcomed me to the hotel including telling me about my room and that they want me to come back. I have a return trip in January so I will probably just stay here each time. I like it that much! So after all that work getting here, I was hungry. Lets talk food.
  4. I went to a restaurant next door which was rather more expensive. I had chicken lemon grass and two beers for about $7 US. I did not want to go out searching my first night and the hotel recommended I try it once. Menus of prices are in US dollars, change comes in US and local currency. I have not used US dollars for months so it takes me a bit to realize I don’t have to translate the dollars to another currency.

So I have 30 days here in Phnom Penh to go venture out much like before. I will start tomorrow with an excursion to get my senses straight about the streets. They are all numbered! My initial take is that Cambodians are very friendly and gregarious people that love to talk and tell me about their city. Just like my Vietnamese friends. I am twice blessed I think. This was a delightful choice for my second long stay country. I will have fun here and I think I found a home here.

If you decide to check out Cambodia, remember the parts about the visas. If you are only gonna stay a short time the e-visa is good. You can extend it once for 30 days but then you are done. The ordinary visa lets you stay longer. As I talked with the hotel owner’s wife, we both laughed about the open nature of the visa system. I can basically walk into to a travel agency, order up a year extension for retirement and leave in 3 days with a visa good for a year of multiple entries. It was what I wanted when planning and I thought Cambodia would be a great choice for a place to act as a home base. From here I can make it to the airport easily and go places but always come back as I need.

Tomorrow the days really start and I cannot wait to explore the city. I told the hotel person my goal was to walk the city and she just laughed and told me “good plan”.

Onward now to a new country to call home.