Thursday, January 29, 2004

I've been in Phnom Penh for 2 nights now, and haven't really done much. The bus ride down from Siem Reap was one of the most painful rides yet, much worse than the pick-up truck ride (which was actually pretty fun in retrospect). It was about 7 hours long, on some incredibly bumpy roads, with little cambodian kids around us puking every hour or so, and horrible Khmer karaoke and dubbed soap opera episodes playing at full volume on the TV. Overall an extremely painful experience.

We got into our hostel around 3pm and first went to a travel agent to book our flight back to Bangkok. I wanted to try to arrange a flight from Hanoi to Shanghai so I could go to the north of Vietnam, but the guy said it would cost $700. I asked him if there are any towns over the border into China that I could fly from Shanghai from, and he said I bought the plane ticket back to bangkok. Then later when I was on the internet, I found a plane ticket from a city in China just over the border from Vietnam to Shanghai for only $200. Either the travel agent lied to me or he was an idiot. Most likely the latter. I could have cancelled my old tickets, taken a bus from here to saigon and saved about $300 in plane tickets, plus I would be able to go to the north of vietnam.

Anyway, Phnom Penh has been pretty interesting, but there isn't much to do. Went to a place for lunch yesterday called Happy Herb Pizza...they make pizza that makes you happy. So the rest of the day we wandered around the city pretty happy. The laws here are pretty seems like the cops will turn a blind eye to pretty much anything for a few cigarettes or a couple $. There's a place right outside the city where you can shoot any weapon you want...from handguns, to AK-47s, to hand grenades, to bazookas. I was told it costs $200 to shoot a bazooka. I see a lot of European tourists renting these huge motorcycles and flying around the city like they're badasses. I thought about renting a motorbike, but after watching the traffic for 5 minutes there was no way. Most of the intersections dont have stop signs or traffic lights. It's pretty amazing to watch the intersection by our guest house. I sat watching it from the balcony for about 20 minutes. It's a really busy intersection, with no light and everyone someone cuts their way through. Haven't seen an accident yet.

There are also beggars everywhere, mostly children...when they find out you speak english they go through the ABCs and count to 10 to try to impress you, and say they need the money for why aren't they in school right now? I ask them that, and they just ask for money or ask where I'm from, I say america and they say "America, very good, capital Washington DC." This exact same thing has happened so many times. Our moto driver today said the public schools are free...Also, last night when we were eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant there was a group of about 10 kids that were going around to all the tables and asking for people's leftovers. They grabbed Shaul's plate and scarfed down half a meal in about 10 seconds. Literally every block we walk, we have to turn down at least 4 or 5 motobike drivers' offers of a ride, a "lady massage," or a few beggars asking for money. Apparently it's part of buddhism to give money to beggars, and I see a lot of well-off cambodians giving spare change to them. I imagine some of these beggars make more money than the moto drivers and other working people whose average wage is only about $250 a year.

Tomorrow morning we're (regretably) flying back to Bangkok, then flying to Saigon on Sunday.


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