Friday, 4 May 2012

Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 2nd 2012

Phnom penh..

The only option, other than hiking of course, is to get a taxi to the airport. Hiking past the illegal Filipino settlement during darkness and with 2 backpacks is not something to be considered lightly! So taxi it is then and at 35RM must be close to the most expensive taxi fare for the shortest distance, in the world. There is a 50% surcharge between 9pm and 6am, no exceptions, no bargaining!

Just 10 minutes to the airport, KKIA Air Asia terminal. Another flawless and straight forward process to the gate, although oddly enough I get a passport stamp, odd because this is a domestic flight. A nice little airport actually with plenty of facilities, but limited once in the departure lounge and 5.30am. Thankfully, I bought breakfast from the market last night, so I'm not in need of said facilities. Prices are quite reasonable for an airport though, about a 1/4 of anywhere in Europe.

27A has always been a good seat to have on an Air Asia Airbus, but this time there isn't much to see as the plane climbs out directly over the City. A little of Gaya Island, and some of the floating settlements can be seen, but only briefly as the plane sets course for Kuala Lumpur. So, for the next 2 hours, nothing to see but water.

Arriving at the LCCT, which stands for Low Cost Carrier Terminal, on time and with 5 hours to kill, before the next flight to Phnom Penh. I have to collect by bag since they wouldn't check it through to PP. Bag storage for the 3 hours, until check-in opens is £3 - I'll carry them thanks. Hungry time, and a host of expensive eating options are available - £3 and up. Thankfully, last time here I spotted a food court next to the Tune Hotel. So, bags in tow, off to find it again - after all, being a budget traveller means searching out all the budget options, right. About 8 booths, some Indian the rest Middle Eastern. I settle on some Middle Eastern version of Cornish pasties, a plateful of rice and some obscure but tasty sauce, all for 3 RM, about 65p - the best airport meal ever! . 23p for 2 donuts and a bean curd cake, will go nicely with a Starbucks. Thunder and lightening, rather frequently as I surf the net and sip coffee. I suspect my next flight might be subject to a delay.

Once again a flawless process from baggage drop to immigration and the aircraft gate. Nothing to indicate any delay and planes are still coming and going as scheduled. I always thought flying near thunderstorms was a dangerous business, even for airliners!

Eventually airborne, 10 minutes late but on the way to Phnom Penh. 1 hour 20 minutes for this flight according to the captain, so sit back, relax and enjoy the bumpy ride. Yep, it's rather bumpy with thunderstorms around, but nothing too alarming although I wouldn't want to have a hot drink in hand! Soon above the turbulence and the crew start handing out drinks. Based on bitter experience, not the coffee, but let's try some tea. Actually, it's real tea, but the milk is powdered, drinkable all the same. Descending towards PP then, and a good view of the city as the pilot makes various turns, avoiding some rain showers I would think, seeing that there are some beefy ones in the distance. A sprawling place with a concentration of buildings mainly along a river, the Meekong I would think.

Welcome to Phnom Penh
Here we are in Phnom Penh again, well not quite, still need to get through immigration. Plenty of officials around to help passengers fill out the various forms. Visa, immigration and customs forms need to be completed before any onward journey. $20 for a tourist visa, add 5 if you need a photo. They didn't have change for a $50 so were happy to take 2 RM instead. No interrogation so out in 30 minutes, now what? No backpackers milling around looking for a ride to Sihanoukville, so looks like an overnight in Phnom Penh which I'd half expected, and actually this time don't mind since its daylight and any banditry will be limited to the very darkest corners. A booth in the arrivals area see touts handing out tickets for a tuk tuk ride downtown, $7 and it's hot, about 35 deg c according to the captain about an hour ago.Tickets issued from the Airport booths generally indicated that your driver should be a 'good guy' and stay well away from any potential danger spots - well, I'm about to test that theory.

The driver knows a place for between 5 and 8 dollars a night so I let him get on with it. Apart from the vehicle engine stalling every so often, it's not too bad a ride. It's a good road to the city, interspersed by potholed side streets as he navigates around traffic jams, yep, it's rush hour downtown Phonm Penh. I don't feel in any danger since the streets are wide, plenty of space around and of course keeping a sharp eye on my bags - its all quite exciting actually!

Kings Guest House on 110 street is where I've ended up. The room is a good size, has 2 double beds, tv, shower, toilet and wifi all for $8. A couple of nights here, before booking a bus ticket down to Sihanoukville. Time for a little expedition, mainly to find food. First thing to say is it isn't anything like Malaysia. I can't find any prepared fruit, pan cake stall, self service cafes - nothing in this area anyway. Plenty of informal street cafes with noodles, rice, soup and BBQ'd meats - just the meat, no meal as such. I settle on fried noodles with chicken from a street cafe - what I actually get is noodles and half a dozen bits of chicken bones for $2.70. Still hungry, so it's another search for something else, from somewhere else. It's going to have to be a tourist trap cafe since its dark and getting quite late.. A banana pancake and a coffee is about $4, but at least it's enough until breakfast. So far then, the eating experience for the budget traveller has been abysmal. And rather grumpy, it's off to get some well needed sleep.

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