Tuesday 25 November 2008

Phnom Penh observations. Making money changing money.

One year ago I was Shulin in Taipei City working as an English teacher. I had recently met Zi Ting from Jiali near Tainan City for the first time. Two years ago I was in Wuhan central China having just completed a 2 week bus trip through the Eastern Himalayas from Kunming to Chengdu. I remember the fantastic Tibetan culture along with the altitude sickness in Litang which is perched on a plain at 4700m. My wanderlust shows no signs of abating even after all this time. In fact I feel it getting stronger. I had never known what I wanted to do but I think I know now.

Enough of that bollicks, on with the news:

As we drove into Phnom Penh it was difficult not to draw comparisons between the old PP and the new one. Don't get me wrong, it is still a dirty cesspit of a city but some progress is being made. The amount of construction going on is bewildering. Massive new buildings being erected in the centre of town. New, immaculate car sale garages peppered along the airport road. It seems Cambodia is on the up. However, as in China, only the few at the top of the food chain appear to be benefitting. The vast majority of poor souls at the wrong end of the social heirarchy are as penniless and as desparate as ever. Same the World over I suppose.

The biggest difference for me is the way the moto and tuk-tuk drivers have eased off in their intensity to offer their services. Two years ago you couldn't walk 5secs without someone giving it the old:

"Hello Sir, Where you go? You want motobike? Tuk-Tuk? Girls? Ganja?"

However, now you can walk about 1min between these verbal intrusions that seem to demand a response of some sort. I try to pre-empt them by asking them "Where you go?" first. They can't seem to deal with being asked their own shite. Also last night at 0200 I answered one of the "Where you go?" questions with "Killing Fields". He was excited about the prospect of overcharging a stupid foreigner and started preparing to leave when I pointed out that it is actually 2o'clock......in the morning! These people are crackers man!

Other advice when dealing with these jokers is to establish the price before you even get on the moto. This will avoid ludicrous demands at the other end.

Armin and I have booked flights from BKK-KL for 15th Jan. Then KL-Clark Air base in the Philippines for 1st Feb and back to KL on the 18th Feb. Three flights for 70gbp isn't too bad.

So my sketchy itenary for the forseeable is:

Now - 18th Dec Cambodia

18th Dec - 15th Jan Thailand (Xmas and New Year in Thailand - cool).

15th Jan - 1st Feb Malaysia

1st Feb - 18th Feb Philippines

18th Feb - ??? Malaysia

I might go to India after Malaysia and then find a job since money is becoming a serious issue for me now. Like everyone else I am suffering from this Global credit crunch (fucking greedy bankers). I am thinking of perhaps teaching English again but this time in Japan. I fancy learning Japanese and it also appears to be quite lucrative out there. We will see. Somewhere in all this I will need to get a new passport, especially if I go to India since that is a full page visa job.

Oh yeah, just now as I was eating two plates of cold spicy Khmer noodles for $1 (or 4000reil if you prefer) there was an old guy crash into a young guy on their motorbikes. This happened in a filth strewn street maybe 3meters from me. I have become so immune to such things that I worry for my sanity. I can exist in this shit and see amazing things and think nothing of it. Armin is the same. I think I would be more shocked at home seeing an ordered, organised society functioning in a logical fashion. That must be called something like reverse culture shock.

Oh yeah, another Cambodian tip. I actually made $3 for free yesterday by converting $132 into 539,880 riel. I got an exchange rate of 4090 = $1. I pay everything in reil. All bars and shops quote usd but they consider $1 - 4000. So I got an extra 132 * 90riel = 11880riel. Almost 12000riel = $3. The only draw back is that I have a wedge of money that makes me look like a millionaire when in fact I am only worth about 85gbp.

It's important to be a canny traveller. $3 could feed you for a day out here!

I think I am off to spend my free $3 on a couple of afternoon beers. One drawback to this is that some local (or Vietnamese) lass will sit near me and try to solicit herself. The slant here is that they speak no English beyond: "What name you" and "Where you from". It just makes me very uncomfortable sitting so close to someone in silence. They actually bugger off when they realise (pretty quickly) that I am 'keeniao' (a cheap charlie) who would rather have a 'chuckwow' (wank) for free!

Jam rib lien - bye

brahm dola = 5 dollars

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