Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cambodia - First Impressions

With long faces and sad hearts we left our shangri-la at Hua Hin. The brand new airport in Bangkok was a dream and we even had time for a quick last meal in the airport that was western or Asian as you desired.

Our one hour flight to Phnom Penh was spent filling out our 3 forms per person that were required for Visas and entry into Cambodia. We had been warned that Cambodia is a place of total corruption and to watch yourself and your belongings at every turn. After this long on the road that is always second nature anyways.

Cathy and I quickly got off the plane and beat the crowd of over 100 people to the Visa Application table. We had been told this process could take upwards of 2 hours, but they had 5 people processing the applications and Dave and Paul quickly joined the line to retrieve our passports. We were in and out in 15 minutes.

Of course it was a cash only situation, and John had $40 American, I had $20 American and various amounts of Canadian and Australian. The Visas were $20 each and when they called our names one by one, I pulled out first $40 Am and got the first 2; then $20 Canadian but he saw the Australian so he grabbed the $50 and then gave me 2 more and then for the next one he gave me back $15 from the Am $20 and then in the end he took the $20 Canadian. It was quite comical actually because there wasn't exactly a calculator being pulled out ever and I was doing rough conversions in my head and smiling the whole way knowing that I would never even open my mouth as it was pretty close to the right amount.

We were picked up and taken to our hotel that was a mystery to us. Queen Sofia from Spain was visiting so hotel rooms were hard to come by. Our Hotel Villa had definitely seen better days but was a step up from Woody's. We negotiated our way into a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 2 sitting rooms and a kitchen situation for $200 a night and we were being taken at that. It was okay for 2 nights but really quite loud with street noise.

Nevertheless, we are here and safe and it is good to see these people are building a new modern city with lots of tourist dollars. We have moved to a brand new hotel called the Hotel Castle and it has a pool! As I say that, though, there is still a deep level of corruption (all the government officials drive brand new Lexus SUV's) and the drug and sex trade is everywhere (below the surface though) the kids don't see it.

We will be touring the Killing Fields and the Museum where they housed a lot of the prisoners before sending them to be executed. This is heady stuff but as it is going on in present day Sudan on some level that is similar, it is important that we all see it. We will also be going shopping though, which will be on a more positive note!!

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