Friday, October 1, 2010

Cambodian Trip - Day One

Today was our first day in Cambodia.  The fun started when we arrived at the Cambodian immigration counter.  I had to pay twenty dollars for a visa, plus a one dollar fee since I didn't have a passport photo.  Tim, as a Thai citizen, wasn't supposed to need a visa.  She wasn't certain, so she asked the bureaucrat working at the counter, who told her that she did.  Later when we met our tour guide and told him the story, he told us that she did not need one.  A bit annoying, but not a huge deal.

This was actually Tim's second fun encounter with an immigration department.  When e were going through Thai immigration, she didn't have her departure card.  She had asked me if she needed one a few minutes earlier, and I told her that I didn't think so.  I was wrong, and she did need one.  She asked the immigration worker for one, and they told her that the airline was to provide them.  Turns out the person checking us out at Bangkok Air forgot to give her the departure card, so she had to make a ten plus minute walk back to get one.  When she returned, somehow she ended up in the line for diplomatic passports.  Initially the person told her that he couldn't help her and that it was his job to only process certain passports.  She asked him if it was his job to make sure that she missed her flight.  He processed her after that.  

Another thing that becomes apparently very quickly here in Cambodia, is that while they have a currency, the riel, that everyone wants dollars.  I converted some dollars into riel at the airport for 4,000 riel per dollar.  At restaurants and stores, the prices are all presented in dollars.  You can ask for the cost in riels, but the conversion rate is much than at the airport.  

We visited a lot of temples today.  Our list today included Preah Ko, Bakong, Lolei, Prasat Kravan, the Srah Srang reservoir, Banteay Kdei, Eastern Mebon and the mountain-temple of Pre Rup.  Its really impressive that some of these temples were built over one thousand years ago, but truthfully, the whole ancient temple thing is just not as interesting as it used to be.  I took a number of photos, but most of the time I didn't bother setting up the tripod.  

One common thing about the temples are the local children trying to sell items.  They are all working from the same playbook.  Usually they are selling something for a dollar.  When you say "no thanks", they will ask you where you are from.  "U.S. I reply"  

"USA, Washington DC" they shout back.  That happened at least four times.  When you say no again, then they try to get you to commit to buying something when you leave.  They are really pretty persistent, but fortunately, I have three children so I am used to people asking me the same question multiple times.  I do actually feel for the kids.  The people here are very poor and they are just trying to get by.  And while the kids are persistent, they were never rude or belligerent.  

My first impressions of Cambodian cuisine are less than stellar.  We ate at the hotel for lunch, where they served a set lunch.  I chose a hamburger while Tim had the thom yom gung.  The burger was okay, but apparently the thom yom gung was not very good at all.  

For dinner, we took the guides recommendation and went to a place where they had a buffet of Khemer food and had a dance performance.  I can sum up the food this way.  It was a buffet, and after my first trip, I had no desire to go back for seconds.  It wasn't like I was unwilling to try anything, nor was I alone in my disappointment in the food.  There were some dishes that I thought I would like, some of them similar to Thai dishes.  They just fell short of tasting good.  A lot of the food was very plain.  Overall not a great dining experience.

I have mixed feelings regarding our tour guide. He is trying to be very helpful and is very knowledgeable about the temples.  He was even carrying my tripod for me for a while.  Maybe he is imparting too much knowledge on us.  Sometimes I just want to enjoy looking and walking around.  The big thing that really bothers me is he is way too involved in trying to help me with photos.  In some of the photos when I use my timer and I am in the photo, he is looking at the view screen and giving me his thoughts on how the photo turned out.  I don't care what he thinks of the composition, lighting, etc.  In his attempts to be helpful, he is telling me where the good photo opportunities are.  The problem is that he just doesn't mention it once, if I don't go over there, he'll mention it again.  Its irritating me to the point that I don't even want to go to the spot even if it means missing a good photo.  I know that he has been in these places many times, and he is often right.  I need to figure out a way to let him know that he is going to end up irritating himself right out of his tip.  Actually, I'd just let Tim take care of the tip, which for him, would be a much worse thing. 

I can't post any photos since I left my card reader and my USB cable at home.  I thought about trying to buy one, but we'll see.  If I start running short on memory on my CF cards, then I might have to break down and buy one.  

Tomorrow morning we are visiting Angkor Wat, the entire reason for the trip, and the only real reason that I want to visit Cambodia.  We'll see how it goes.

No comments: