Phnom to the Penh y’all

Hey I actually went outside last night. My total trip in Phnom Penh was 5 days and the total amount of time I spent outside my hotel room: approximately 6 hours. lol

Ah well.

So, I was out last night and for a bit today and have a fair amount to report.

First off, I can’t get over how cheap it is here. This may be the cheapest place I have been yet (aside from hotel’s… I hear there are super cheap hotels too, but they don’t look like my style… I am staying at the nicest hotel here, called Cambodiana, list price is $160/night, but I got $85/night off internet).

I ordered 2 vodka red bull’s at a club last night, total cost: $3.50. I was at another place, ordered a beer (the local Angkor beer), a vodka redbull, and 2 drinks for 2 of the girls there… total cost $8.50…and when I tipped the extra $0.50 I almost caused a frenzy in the bar! Today I took my little 19 year old (and that is old for here believe me) cambodian gf, named Sray-Ot I think, who i met last night to lunch… we had two very nice fried rice with pork/beef/chicken dishes, 2 cokes, 1 bottle of water, and on the way out I got a fresh pineapple juice. Total cost: $4.. and that was at their super-ritzy mall, called Sorya Mall… I am sure if we ate that at a more downmarket area it’d be even cheaper.

Tuk Tuk (they have them here too, but they have no power at all, they only go about 15mph) rides are generally $1 if you are with a local cambodian, otherwise $2-3.

I am really surprised at the atmosphere in this town… it is really small feeling… and very laid back/tropical/casual. It is funny coming from a place like Bangkok to here, it is such a big difference as Bangkok is just mammoth in size. It’s funny too, twice last night I mentioned to someone I was going to another location… they asked where, and when I said it, they were like, “whoooaaa, thats a long way from here”… both times it was about 5-10 blocks away. That’s how small this place is. And each street is numbered, and they generally are ordered in order, but twice I had my taxi (tuk tuk or motorcycle) driver pull out a map!? After about 10 minutes I pretty much knew my way around and I am terrible with directions.

Also, from all the accounts I read on the internet, this sounded like it was the craziest most lawless place on earth. Either a lot has changed in the last few years (totally possible) or these people came from Idaho or something, because I haven’t seen anything crazy at all here. If anything, it seems like a quiet nice little town… its got a bit of a Mexico feel to it (like Huatulco, but bigger)… Granted, however, I didn’t see a heck of a lot in my few hours out, but I definitely didn’t see anything crazy at all…

One thing I did notice was the garbage situation though. During the day I didn’t see too much garbage, but last night, everywhere we went, there was garbage strewn EVERYWHERE… You know in NYC how every night they put their garbage out on the sidewalk? Well it looks like that is the way they do it here too, but after they put it out, people (or animals?) come along and throw it everywhere?! I mean the streets were literally littered with garbage. And many times I’d see people kinda crouching, going through it. Not sure exactly what they were looking for… I hope not food. And then again today it all appeared to be gone… not sure where it went.

One of my final comments on Phnom Penh is how unpolluted the air is. After spending time in China, HK and then Bangkok a lot over the last few months I forgot how blue the sky could be and how white and beautiful the clouds could look. I guess because of their lack of industry/economy here, they don’t have any factories to pollute the air. It is very beautiful here by the King’s palace on the Mekong River, with the deep blue sky and white puffy clouds.

All in all, Phnom Penh is a neat place. If you want to go somewhere where you could easily spend only $100/week (including hotel), this may be the place for you!

My final final comment is on their crazy mix of their past. They were a French colony for over a hundred years, so most of the street names and signs are all “Rue de xxx” and “Ville de xxx”… but then it is combined in with their crazy communist past, so you’ll have “Rue De Kim Il Song” and “Rue De Russian Federation”… many places would change these names, especially after the disaster that communism was here, but I actually think it is great they kept the names… it serves as a reminder of their past and in that way maybe they can avoid making those same mistakes again in the future.

Taxi’s

As a side note, one of the things about travelling through dozens and dozens of different countries that is neat is to see how each has their own style of taxi’s. In fact, each city seems to have its own style.

Of course, in New York, nothing is more noticable and iconographic than the yellow New York taxi, complete with its announcement from some New York pseudo-celebrity, telling you to buckle up.

As you head south to Mexico, each city in Mexico has its own style, but the most interesting is in Mazatlan, where they have a souped-up golf cart taxi called a Pulmonia, which are also called Pneumonia’s, because on a cool evening you can catch a cold whizzing along on one of these.

Of course, London taxi’s are even more of a symbol of London than the NYC taxi’s are for NYC due to their cool style… but take more than 5 or 6 trips on the London taxi’s and you’ll go broke. I think I paid nearly $100 CDN for a ride from the airport once.

Hong Kong’s taxi’s are kinda neat too, with their red color and their automatically opening doors.

In Japan, their taxi’s are unbelievably clean… most come fully with doilys on everything and the drivers usually where white gloves. You can imagine the trauma we caused the driver of one in Tokyo once when I was with my friend Jamie who was throwing up out the window as we drove! :) As with London, however, the taxi’s in Japan are incredibly expensive. The airport in Japan is about an 1.5 drive from downtown, so most NORMAL people don’t take a taxi, they take the train… but my first time to Tokyo I wasn’t aware of this, so I hopped in a cab. An hour later we still weren’t there and I was trying to compute the fare which was ticking by on the meter, but I couldn’t quite remember the conversion rate of the Yen… I thought to myself, no it couldn’t be in the hundreds of dollars already could it? When I got to the hotel I looked it up on the internet… my taxi ride cost $400!!!!!!!

Then you have Thailand’s Tuk Tuk’s, which are essentially an incredibly loud, clanky motorbike with a cart on the back.

And in Cambodia they have something called a Cyclo which is a bicycle with a cart on the front. While the fuel efficiency and environmental cleanliness of this mode of transportation is much better than Thailand’s Tuk Tuk’s, there is something unappealing about being AHEAD of the driver who is essentially pushing you into traffic before he goes. At least if he is in front you know he won’t go unless he is pretty sure he can make it… but with you in front, hey, he can take a few chances. 😛

That’s my little sidenote on taxi’s for today.

As for me, it is now Sunday night… I arrived in Cambodia Friday morning and went straight to my hotel and have yet to leave my hotel… I caught a cold which hit me as soon as I got here so haven’t been feeling well. However, after two days of sleep and rest I feel quite a bit better so I may head out a little bit this evening… the Oilers game doesn’t start until 4am so I got to do something til then. Maybe I’ll go whip around on a cyclo for a bit.

Hey you, Khmer

Well well well, look who got off his a$$ and actually went somewhere.

Yes, it is true, I tore myself away from my little personal paradise in Bangkok and got on a 7am Asia Air flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia this morning.

Phnom Penh is one of those places where for the last 30 years or so, has been a place of constant change. In fact, in reading about it on the internet, I was finding that from one site to the next, things would change dramatically… If a website was only 2 or 3 years old it was pretty much completely out of date.

First, a bit of background. Phnom Penh is a small city, by asian standards, with currently less than 1 million population. However, it had a population of over 2 million in 1975 before Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took over(Khmer is the name of the local people and Rouge is French for red, as the Khmer Rouge was the communist party of Cambodia at the time. The reason for the french name is that Cambodia was a colony of France from 1863 until 1949 when France colonized Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia under the name of French Indochina).

From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot’s communist regime attempted to rapidly and forcefuly turn Cambodia into a classless, Marxist agrarian society. Between 1 and 2 million people were killed during this short period, many starving and worked to death in one of history’s multitude of examples of how a socialist, centralized system devastates its people.

Up until 1999 there were still factions of the Khmer Rouge who still existed and yearned for the “good old days” of ’75-79, making Cambodia a dangerous place as fighting and violence broke out often.

Even as recently as a few years ago, Phnom Penh was still thought of as a very dangerous place. In fact, even today it is described as a dangerous place by some. There are many different accounts of shootings and murders at nightclubs on the internet, but from what I can tell, it seems that every year things have been getting better here.

I just arrived this morning and took a taxi to the hotel (Cambodiana Hotel). My first impression was at the airport which is very, very small. It reminded me of Kelowna’s airport, but a bit more modern. It has that laid back, tropical atmosphere… nice, small and quaint.

The next thing I noticed was how slow everyone drives here. The majority of vehicles on the road are scooters and very old looking motorbikes (mostly Honda), but as opposed to 100mph Bangkok, everyone seemed very leisurely… to me it almost felt like when I was in Fiji. I was quite surprised at the atmosphere as I was expecting things to look more uptight and dirty… instead, the roads (from the airport to the hotel anyway) were quite nice, very french style wide boulevards, with greenery.

I will get my first real taste of the city this evening as I head out.

On a socio-political note, what a terrible shame it is that the manufactured ‘wars’ between “communism” and “capitalism” caused such devastation here. As we now know (and should have known then too), there is/was no need for any wars over “who has the best economic system”. There should have been no Vietnam… no Cambodia… no cold war.

As we also now know (and should have known then too), free markets and capitalism are far superior to socialist, centralized rule. This has become more and more obvious with the collapse of the USSR and the deterioration of any state still remaining on this path (North Korea, Cuba etc).

Why was there the cold war, Vietnam and numerous other “wars” between capitalist countries and communist countries? The answer is: because governments (of all type) are corrupt and worthless and given the chance to go to war they will as it gives them a chance to spend more money (which they can give to their friends and close associates) as well as distracting the general public from noticing what a terrible job they are doing. All of this can be solved by relegating government to having NO role whatsoever in most facets of life. The only role of a government should be to uphold general law (and the only law needs to be ‘do not hurt or kill others’) and to uphold contract law (where the only law needs to be ‘do what you say you would do’).

As well, the other thing enabling governments to have these useless, unproductive and devastating wars is the use of ‘fiat currency’. Once we return all money into the world to being tied to gold (thereby making it impossible to ‘print more’ if you want to go to war) we would live in paradise. And gold will return as the basis of all money, mark my words. Gold is up nearly 50% since I have been telling you to buy it, but don’t worry, it is just the beginning. Gold is currently $675, but will be well over $2,000 in coming few years and possibly as high as $20,000 in the next decade.

The funniest and saddest part of this whole communist-capitalist war thing is that now, in the western world, most countries are almost totally socialist. Europe is unbelievably socialist (which is why it has lagged in growth for years and will continue to do so), Canada has always been socialist… and now even America has become a massive socialist system with a giant wasteful government and more government programs than could ever be counted.

In fact, China is on track to become more capitalist than all of those in the west in short order. So what were we fighting about?