Eye Surgery – Cataracts(2018 update)

Update at bottom

Many old hands and even Cambodians do not think they have a good health system here.
They are wrong!

In  2016 I realised I had diminishing vision.  My Phnom Penh Optician lady said. Cant fix your sight any more with glasses. Its time!!!! (ie you need surgery).
When I asked for a reference to get it done locally, she was not enthusiastic and suggested I go to Bangkok!!!

I was back in New Zealand a few weeks later for a visit and thought I would get an appointment at my local Eye Centre(5 * Ophthalmologists). Somewhat surprised I was informed the earliest appointment for a checkup was 6(SIX) weeks away!!!!!!!  Hmmph so much for 1st world medicine(did I mention the cost was going to be upwards of $70.)

Returning to the Kingdom of Wonder(ful) I did some research. A popular referral was to specialist eye doctor    Dr Do Seiha

Eye_dr1

He runs a Clinic before and after his work at one of the Private Hospitals.
The 2 occasions I went his waiting room was full.
No appointments.  Just arrive and wait your turn.   Waiting room is basic and had both Cambodians and Europeans waiting.

Nothing fancy with the consultation ($14)  Get a quick eye check from the Nurse (can you read the bottom line)   then in to the good Doctor sitting behind his equipment.
No fancy bedside manner here. “Whats the problem?”

I explain about maybe having cataracts. He looks in my eyes and says “yes you have cataracts.  When your vision gets really bad come and see me.”
ie consultation over 🙂
In answer to my questions
1. How much will it cost “$500-$100 per eye depends on the lens”
2. How long will it take “15 minutes”
Total  consultation time under 10 mutes.

A few weeks later was talking to a Nurse friend who was leaving Cambodia after being here 4 years and talking about eye surgery and me being keen to give the locals a go.

She suggested Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital. Its a “chain” of hospitals started in India and now with Clinics around the world. The brand, “partners” with local Ophthalmologists. Trains them at the Indian Centre for 12 months to ensure they are “up to standard”.
Also the clinics are regularly visited by Indian specialists.

I chose the Dr Agarwal Clinic on the road to the Airport, partnered with Dr Kong Piseth.
Appointment made for 3pm day following enquiry!   No waiting 6 weeks here. Cost $25

ArgawahlThis Clinic is more “upmarket” than the first place. Certainly looks very hygienic and clean. A large spacious reception area with soft chairs. All staff seem competent in English so no having to fall back on sign language and my very very basic Khmer.

After taking medical history I was taken for 3 eye tests.  One machine to check focus the second to puff air on to my eye(to check eye pressure) then a sophisticated look at the chart…with different lenses including a first for me a “keyhole” option.  Could read much better with the keyhole option than with regular glasses.

Then a visit with the “Doctor” in Asian style(compared to New Zealand style where Doctors are a bit more chatty). Asian style seems to focus on gruff professional.
Then out to reception to get eye drops to “widen the eyes”.  Then back to see the doctor.
Yes cataracts.  “How long from when I decide until I have the surgery”. This said at 3:30pm. Answer. “We can fit you in this afternoon if you want”.
(seems they do surgery every afternoon starting around 4:30pm)

Then to the nice lady “customer adviser” who took me through step by step what would happen.
1. Choose lens $700-$2,000 (bifocals)
2. Have a pre op health test for health of eye. Allow One hour (allow $80 for tests& medications). Seems high blood pressure and diabetics are not good and eye structure itself needs to be healthy.
3. Get a customer card if I want to make another appointment…..
Say I will think about t

Time goes by then…….Part 2 to follow

Nov 2018.
I got my eyes done.  Left eye 2017, right eye April 2018.

$700 both times.
The clinic is the same but the Dr Agawahl franchise has regrouped and now only operates in India and Africa.

The Operation.
Turn up about 4:30pm (they ask for 3pm but that just adds 90  minutes to the time)
They give you a quick eye test.
Then its drops in the eyes and wait in reception until all is well.
Around 5:15 was directed upstairs to the surgery area.

A waiting room with a couple of other people waiting for ops.
Then in to preopp, get dressed in clinical gown with bootees and hat.
Preopp Surgeon puts anesthetic around eye. (small pricking sensation).
Wait for eye to numb(can still see ok). About 15 minutes.

Then in to the main surgery.
The surgeon has great english (he has Kiwi son in law and grand daughter).
I was a bit nervous(I am an injection whimp)  So a bit of chat to relax me.

Then down to business.
The team wrap up your head with just the  cataract eye exposed.
No pain but all you see is a very bright light(its the laser tool?)
Some machine noise
9.5 minutes later.

Its all over.
Eye patch applied and a see you in the morning.
Off home.
Back at 8am ish.
Eye patch removed. Look in the eye. All is good.
Given two types of eye drops (one antibiotic to inhibit any infection, the other to keep eye liquid)
Some follow up visits next 3 days then a week or so later.
All done

They provide dark glasses as new eye is very light sensitive and especially at night with car/moto lights, can be very dazzling for a few days.

I was very surprised how quickly the brain adjusted after the first opp to handle one excellent eye and one bung eye(they had asked if I wanted both eyes done at once but that was too much for me to handle so decided a few months apart was the go.

In Summary:
Clean efficient and appeared to tick all the tests and caution boxes.
No slam bang thank you mamm.

Dont know if its because I was foreigner(by the way saw other foreigners at the clinic from time to time)  but not a lot of chitchat from Doctors(who had great English) without me “”pushing””

There is only one fee($700) for the opp. All followups and medicines(eye drops) and glasses are included.

The waiting around after having eye drops was a frustration for me….But I hate waiting for anything…

Yep. Would happily do it all again.

 

You must be joking!

One of the things that is both good and bad in the Hospitality business are the travellers you meet.
Example GOOD. Tom has been living in Bangkok for 50 years where he was sent by his American employer as a fresh face 23 year old fresh out of Stanford University, Long flowing golden hair he was a great hit with the locals.  But his stories abound about how he started working there surviving some company takeovers and then starting his own Thai Company.
Now retired, Tom comes to Phnom Penh 3 or 4 times a year. He says partly nostalgia as it reminds him of Bangkok 15 years ago. Tom could and has stayed in a number of hotels in the Riverside area. But he choses to stay with us, currently in a Superior Room but is thinking of bringing his son and family to stay in our Family/Friends suite over the Christmas period.

Example BAD.  “European” traveller who booked for 2 weeks and at checkin  said he would pay when he checked out. Due to “bad eggs” not paying, we have a pay before you stay policy. This man was obviously a “bad egg”. He threw a tantrum about not paying and stormed out.  Within the hour we had a phone call from another local Hotel warning about this guy, who had just scammed them out of 2 weeks accommodation by skipping out without paying.
Our reception staff handled the whole thing very professionally. I was very proud of them.

A new Adventure

This oldbloke has some interests in 5 Boutique Hotels in Patong, Phuket, Thailand.
Apparently he is Chairman of the Board or is that bored……

After swanning around Phnom Penh for 18 months I have taken on the challenge of running a Hotel for a friend of mine. Yep moved from strategy to Operations.
Since the 1st of February I have been Operations Manager at City Centre Hotel Phnom Penh

Have overseen development of a family/Friends 2 bedroom suite.  Another post on dealing with Cambodia builders and sub contractors.

Also redeveloped the Restaurant with a dynamic local lady Anna Sin.


Yep thats the name on her official ID card. So we called the Restaurant Anna’s
She serves, she manages, she cooks, she plants Jasmin so outdoor diners will have some sweet smells 🙂
Another post on the restaurant and kitchen expansion and buying stuff off facebook posts was/is a new experience.

Yes, lots more information and experiences to share.

Eat like a local

January 2016

Its easy to fall in to a pattern of behaviour. As its as cheap to “eat out” as it is to try and cook for myself, the big decision of the day is what to have for dinner.

When I feel like local food, one of my favourites, and popular with the locals, is a restaurant next to the night market on street 108. Its open 24 hours a day and in all the times I have been there its always about 50% full.

rest_nite1086

Look for this sign to the left of the restaurant…

rest_nitemarket2eats_nitemarket
I would strongly recommend the BBQ beef. The beef is always delicious, sliced in to finger licking(or chop sticks). It comes with a plate of “salad” nicely lade out amongst “sliceslices” of ice to keep it all cool.  Beer is served in a glass containing a large chunk of ice.   Remember is usually 27+ degrees outside  and there is no aircon. But lots of fans!

Its an inside/outside arrangement with lots of tables and lots of staff.

Last week I was invited by a local family and friends. 3 adults and 3 children. In typical Cambodian fashion much food was consumed(and a few beers). Dinner lasted nearly 2 hours and was thoroughly enjoyable.

The menu is all pictures and prices run about $2-$5 with some expensive dishes(whole fresh fish) $6. Needless to say the beer is cheap as well.

Shirts

January 2016

Last year during a visit to Ho Chi Min City with my wife I bought some material for a shirt!  20USD supposedly top quality ie not Chinese rubbish.

Well, finally got it made up by a tailor in Riverside. Had previously enquired at a Tailor about a shirt at a site recommended by Tripadvisor travellers. Tom & Alice. Lovely lady who worked on a shirt for me but when I asked about a new shirt the quote was an eye watering $70!!!  But its good italian material I was told. Thanks but no thanks.
tailor
So back to the story, Light Mode Tailors quoted me $6 to sew up the Vietnamese material for a shirt.  Had taken a previous tailor made shirt from Hong Kong as a patten. But no the chalk welding, tape wearing old tailor insisted on remeasuring me. 5 days later I had a new shirt.

While I was waiting for the Vietnamese shirt, to be adjusted after initial fitting. Looked at some of his shirt material. Lovely stuff so ordered two. $18 each and another 5 days….
Very happy customer, the shirts are a lovely cotton and survive washing very well.

Note: Actually had these shirts made in September 2015 and they still look new, sewing quality is very good.

 

Cyclo trips

January 2016

Finally got around to taking a cyclo from Riverside to Central Market. Usually take a tuk tuk ($1.50-$2) but realised I was probably missing an experience.
Most of the Cyclos are ridden by older men. Some look 60+ years old and its physically demanding work.
cyclo
So hopped in to a Cyclo which was not built for a 6ft high guy and off we went. No gears on these bikes all direct drive, so when they accelerate in to traffic you now its strong leg muscles at work.

Cyclos are used by many of the locals. Even saw one with a motorbike straddled across it!!!!!

Also experienced my first “road rage”, well the Cyclo driver yelling at a lady on a motorbike as she cut across in front of him at an intersection.

Gave the guy $2 (should have been less than a dollar) but impressed with his energy and, after all he was an old guy…

 

Instant Justice?

street130

16th December 2015

Its such a shame that I didn’t have a “before” version of this photo of Street 130 in Riverside, Phnom Penh

Why would that be important I hear you say?
It would have shown many many illuminated signs advertising/promoting Bars.    Most of these signs were mounted on poles that were “installed” in the sidewalk/footpath and linked by a wire to the “shops” electric.

It appears that it is illegal to  install “stuff” on the footpath.

Apparently and who can guess why. The police turned up and took away all the illegal signs (I wonder where the warehouse full of signs is-maybe I can make them an offer?). Not only on Street 130 but all the streets in the Riverside area.

No letter from the Council to say remove in xx days or else, no warning at all. Just a “goodbye sign” discussion.  Talking to a couple of bar owners, they were resigned to the removal and had ordered new signs that could be”fixed” to the building in one way or another.  Bonus day for sign makers!!!

Another insight in to Phnom Penh “justice”. You do wrong…you might be ignored for a while but don’t count on it and dont count on getting a “warning” to cease and desist.

Christmas Ba Humbug

xmassuits

22 December 2015

Fortunately or Unfortunately I don’t like the crass commercialism of Christmas.  After a recent visit to my home country, many people said “are you not staying for Xmas”.

I told them of my feelings and that I detested all the Christmas music being played continuously in shops malls and a manner of public places as well as all the faux “goodwill” signs in shops and pubs and…..  All commercially sourced I may add.

I should also point out that I had a business for more than 5 years that imported and distributed Xmas items. It was a 12 month business, being immersed in Christmas and exposed to all its crass commercialism.

So an escape to a Buddhist Country seemed to be an ideal solution!!!
NO NO NO, an epic fail on my part as Phnom Penh has been invaded by the capitalists and the free market pushing another opportunity to sell “crap” that nobody really needs to a population, which in my opinion epitomises families caring for each other and friendliness to others.  ie they have goodwill in abundance already…

The final straw was Xmas music and a security guard dressed in an idiotic Santa suite, at my local phone shop.

Baa humbug

 

Flying rather than Bus – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Part 2

14/8/15

Bassakaair.      www.bassakaair.com

Also a bit of an adventure. But at least on line payment is available.

Hint, when putting in Country for Credit card there are only limited selections. Excluded is New Zealand. By a bit of trial and error.(nobody answers the phone on the website as its the wrong number and nobody replies to a facebook enquiry.)

Discovered that leaving the country as Cambodia allows my credit card to be processed.  Also marvellous is that the system emails a flight itinerary, ticket summary immediately. No confirmation phone calls required.

The only down side is that flights can only be booked about 3 weeks in advance. But the prices are amazing if you can pick your day.  A return was available for $42 with one way from $11.25 plus taxes(Total around $20).   With the bus at $15 its a no brainer alternative.  Basically a one flight each way each day option leaving Phnom Penh in the morning 9:20am, leaving Siem Reap 10:55 for the return.
Bassakair1bassaka2
So again out to the airport-no worries as long as I have my passport. A 20kg allowance. Large overhead lockers in the Airbus 340?.   This time a 30 minute flight and no snack, but time for an orange juice from the lovely crew. It was reassuring to hear the British accent of the Captain, as some on the interweb had suggested it was untrained/inexperienced crew flying the aircraft. Maybe a bit of petty jealously from the opposition throwing out smokescreens?

All seemed good and professional to me.

Flying rather than Bus – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.Part 1

14/8/2015

After the Bus/Taxi trips between the two Cities. I looked again at the budget airline options and have since flown both.

Bayon   http://www.bayonairlines.com/

This was a great adventure.
I was able to book online and got a good fare ?$60ish dollars return.
The online form requests a phone number and email address.
But you cannot pay online.

So after I finish the booking I get a nice lady phone me and to confirm I actually wanted to make the booking and enquire how was I going to pay. The options being the airport or “their office”.
I chose the office.

BayonofficeBayon1
A confirmation email never did arrive with the details. As I had not written the details down I didn’t have any reference at all when I went to pay.  But we got there but using my name and interrogating the computer <smiles>

Finding the office was a bit of a challenge. But with my trusty Tuk Tuk man we finally found the building. Its new and didn’t yet have the name on the front of the building. The front doors were locked as the ground floor was not yet finished(end July).  So got directed by security guard down the side of the building….. Aha a sign.

Unfortunately that door was locked as well. A passing Cambodian man stopped and asked if I was looking for the Airline. He said I had to go in the building via the Garage.(see arrow). WIthout his guidance I dont think I would have found the office.  Anyway, in the building and up to the 5th floor where lots of pieces of paper were generated and handwritten. I signed both an invoice and a purchase order while an itinerary was computer printed. No ticket as such.

bayon2bayon3

Later it was out to the airport an easy checkin and then going out to board the Chinese made aircraft.

Note the photo arrow showing a spongy rubber anti headbanger on the entrance door. Maybe the designers forgot that foreigners are quite tall.  But once aboard all was well the staff friendly and attentive. A nice in flight snack was served and the flight time was some 50 minutes.

Note: Siem Reap you walk to the aircraft, in Phnom Penh there is a bus.

Overnight Bus Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

5/8/2015

From time to time I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.

Needing to go to Siem Reap on Business I normally would have flown. However I decided I would have a smalla dventure and take the bus. Never having been n a “sleeper” Bus before I figured it couldn’t be all bad.

So online to IBIS  http://www.giantibis.com/.

Choice of 3 departure times. As it was only 2 days before departure I was relegated to the later bus to book a seat, Obviously earlier buses were more popular  The trip is scheduled at 6.5 hours and the 11:30pm ETD suited me so that I wouldn’t arrive before the dawn!  The time is a bit longer than can be achieved as IBIS limits their drivers to GPS monitored 90kph. This is a safety initiative to stop drivers racing to get there and hence driving more cautiously, This cannot be said for the some other Bus company s who have crashes on a seemingly regular basis.
As well as the 90kph, they have another driver aboard as well, by my observation he slept most of the way on a spare sleeper(next to me).

When booking online you have the opportunity to book a particular sleeper. The configuration is singles on the right side of the bus(top bunk and bottom bunk) and twins on the left side(top and bottom).  3G/WIFI is available onboard for most of the trip. Amazing how may devices light up during the night as kids play games and adults watch movies..Another small annoyance is all the tourists taking flash photos as they start the journey and settle in(hence no photos from me)

Settling in on the bus was easy. You have to remove your shoes as you get on board(they provide a plastic bag for you). Then its a case of settling in to the semi recline”bed”. Unfortunately I think these beds were designed with shorter Asian passengers in mind. This mature male at just under 6ft(182cm) was stretching the comfort zone.

So I now know what its like to try and sleep in a washing machine…The bus/road combination is not the smoothest of journeys. But it did depart on time and arrive on time. Apparently there was a halfway stop but I slept thru it.

So another adventure completed without damage or injury. Online cost/pay by credit card $15.

Mobile Internet 3G

July 2015

While there are many “free” WIFI spots in Cambodia it can be a little frustrating at times. Especially using Google maps while roaming around the city looking for a particular place.   This became very apparent when going to a Doctor in Siem Reap(more on that in another post).   It would have been so much easier if I could access the Interweb while in the Tuk Tuk and also tracking where we were going using searchable Google Maps.

Contemplating the options I “popped” by the Smart Mobile phone shop to topup my phone and asked what options I had. Very simple. How much did I want to top up? Plucked a number out of the air $5..

Using their Surf Like Crazy option I got  4 gigs for $5USD.  For a month.  All done effortlessly by the young man behind the counter.

Next time I will only pay $3 for 2 gigs.  Thats way more than I will use, unless I watch movies online.
Other monthly options were:
500mb – $1
4 gigs – $5
8.5 gigs $10
25 gigs $25

So far I have had good download speeds in Phnom Penh, Kompot and Siem Reap.
Its so much more convenient that searching out WIFI spots.

Update – Open Wine Restaurant

Three weeks ago I took 2 bank Executives to a Saturday Lunch at Open Wine.

The ambience was perfect for what I expected the lunch to achieve. A relaxed atmosphere with some excellent food and wine.  My guests had Lampchops and a Salmon dish. They were very happy.  In my view it was $85 well spent.

Interestingly the Special Wine list showcased Australian Wine. After some discussion with the waiter my guests decided to go with some nice French wine. Being a beer drinker I have no idea about the quality of the wine, but my guests did all the body language of showing that they liked the “beverage”.

Once again I tried the steak. Once again it was not what I ordered. Due to the presence of my guests I did not raise a ruckus at the time but dropped a note to Phillipe, owner after the event.

He most graciously apologised and invited me back for a meal “on the house” either Lunch or dinner.
I took up his kind invitation and went back for the meal and a steak. It was superb!
openwine2

A long time between Drinks

I haven’t posted in 6 months. So I will rectify that over the next few days.
Topics will include

Overnight Bus to Siem Reap
Taxi from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Bayon Airlines to SIem Reap
Visiting a Doctor in Phnom Penh
The Casino at Nagaworld
First accident/incident in Tuk Tuk
Chicken Lunch with no chicken

Great Chicken Lunch on riverside

Chamber of commerce meeting people
Best massage lady in Phnom Penh
Boys night out at nightclubs
Gift from Kymer Bodyguard/policeman

and other stuff

Open Wine – French Restaurant

21/02/2015

I was invited to lunch by an Australian Lady living in Phnom Penh. She has 2 small businesses in the garment and apparel sector.
We had agreed to have lunch so that she could pick my brains about how she could give her business a boost.
In return she would spring for lunch. Sounded like a great deal to me.

The venue was Open WIne Restaurant on 19 Street behind the Palace.
http://www.openwinerestaurant.com/restaurant

The photos on the website don’t do justice to the exterior.  It is a lovely green oasis in a hurley burley Asian street.
I had to ask a man standing nearby if this was the restaurant, as there is no large sign proclaiming the fact(or large enough that I could see it).

The lunch special was $12 for a 3 course meal.  Fantastic value.
I had the Caesar salad, very nice.
Drinks were water-but obviously a great wine menu
Then the steak….ordered as “medium” shame.
The chef let the restaurant down by sending me an extremely rare steak with some gristle.

I sent it back to be cooked “properly”.
The same steak arrived back after some time-this time medium rare-which I enjoyed.
No visit from a manager?
No apology from anyone?
Interesting…………………..methinks some staff training would be in order.

steak2
The steak AFTER being cooked further…

As always a restaurant thrives on its reputation. My experience did not enhance that reputation and has been a little detrimental in that I have shared my disappointment with the 12 friends that seems to be the norm.

My 3rd course was a nice chocolate mousse (small in size, but big on flavour)
It seems that my “upmarket” steak experiences in Phnom Penh are 100% disappointing so far.
My best steak meal is still Larry’s Bar & Grill 110 Street.

Sunday Lunch – Indian Style

22/02/2015

For the first time in Phnom Penh I went to an Indian Restaurant for a meal.
A couple of the guys from Cadillac said it was their favourite eatery and only a short walk away.

An American girl, working in Phnom Penh for the United Nations invited herself along.  She is vegetarian and lactose intolerant, so it made an interesting mix of meals.  That combined with a Brit a Yank and my lovely Malaysian friend Alvin made for some interesting tastes as well.

Click to enlarge

I had the Mutton Rogan Josh, absolutely divine.  Spiced perfectly not to hot, not to mild.
The Nan bread(non garlic or garlic were the only choices). filled out the menu.  Total for me $6.25.
Total for the five was $27.

We all only had water, but the beverage menu was extensive.

An added BONUS for me was that inside was lovely air conditioned and a NON SMOKING area.
The other four eaters all smokers, managed to last the distance without major consequences for lack of a “gasper”.

Chinese New Year – Phnom Penh

20/02/2015

In public celebration terms, not much seemed to happen.
From time to time truckloads of party dressed men would pass by, with truk blasting on its horn and the team on the back doing “ra ra” type singing/chanting.  Wherever the dragon dancing was going on was not apparent.

Having said that I went with Mr Tuk Tuk to the Supermarket and a full 70% of shops enroute were closed. Most it seems have gone to be with their families. Pov from the Cadillac, who went home, told me that the Celebration was mostly sitting around being a family, eating drinking and talking!!

I only saw shops selling celebration decorations and didnt think to take a photo as I expected something more “entertaining”

For another insight-read this post
http://www.yourphnompenh.com/chinese-new-year-in-cambodia/

Wasting a Saturday

21/02/2015

I was going to write up a lunch visit to a nice French Restaurant for a business meeting, or some observations about Chinese New Year Cambodian style.

However I have being sucked in to a huge vortex called computer security.

First.
I had a small amount of money left in my Thai Bank account which I wanted to send to a Thai Girl for her 20th Birthday.
Previously, while in Thailand I have either used my ATM card or sent money via internet banking which provided a one time password via SMS.
But being in Cambodia that service doesnt work.
To enable me to receive an email onetime  password. I had to phone the service centre.

The automated voice required me amongst all the verbal menu items to enter
10 digit account code
Date of birth ddmmyyyy
Last 4 digits of my passport
That got me to a human operator who required
My thai telephone number
My ATM card number
My Name

Well with having to step by step forage for the information and a bad skype connection.
4 Hours later a positive result.

Second.
In a moment of enthusiasm I deleted the automatically inserted password for my skype account.
No worries I thought. A simple forgotten your password, enter your account username and we will email you a new password link.
Nope, doesn’t work that way YOU HAVE TO HAVE the original email address.
Having been on skype for a lot of years I have given up trying to remember which old email address I have used to set it up.  After 3 hours searching the interwebby thing for advice I end up on a skype page which is euphemistically called a help page.  Lots of compulsory questions like mm/yy I started SKYPE, the original email address duh! amongst other probably helpful information like 5 names of contacts on my SKYPE account.
The kicker arrives when I negotiate all the questions and enter my plea for help.

With relief I hit the submit button, to be instantly informed that “Service is unavailable”

Remind me? How much did Microsoft pay for this system? Yep $8.5 billion US dollars.
Guess they are trying to save money by not providing any support!

A grumpy old man is now off to buy a beer and figure out how to
a) Find old email addresses in an attempt to resurrect the account
b) Setup a new SKYPE address for a Sunday afternoon communication
c) find a geek who may be able to help

Workers Tax Rate

18/2/2015

So no tax until worker earns $200 a month. Some perspective. A restaurant worker gets around $85 a month.  A personal assistant to a top CEO makes around $400 a month.

Workers in Cambodia will pay less income tax from January as the government raises its lowest tax threshold from 500,000 riel ($125) to 800,000 riel ($200).

Previously, the lowest monthly income tax bracket, which was taxed at 5 per cent, started at $125 and went to $312.50. Following an announcement from the General Department of Taxation on Tuesday, the floor for taxable income will rise to $200 per month. This effectively puts about $3.75 a month, depending on exchange rate fluctuations, back into the disposable income of workers in Cambodia earning more than $200.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/reforms-raise-income-tax-floor-200

New Market Quick Time

16/02/2015

On the 24th of November last year a major fire ripped thru one of Phnom Penhs major markets.

http://www.thecambodiaherald.com/cambodia/psar-chas-market-catches-fire-7712

See a drones eye view of the damage.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyTRXQRceAI#t=33

The newspaper covered the story well.

https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/fire-engulfs-historic-market-hundreds-of-stalls-destroyed-72975/

What impressed me was the speed with which the stall holders resolved the situation and got rebuilding under way.
Construction was well underway when I left 10 days later.  A stall holder interviewed at the time said they thought it would be reconstructed in 3 months.
Well I returned after 2 months and the market has obviously been active for some time.
Its so much better now with high ceilings(6? metres) a fully covering roof of long run steel, a new concrete slab floor and looking very clean!. An added bonus are the much wider aisles compared to the narrow alleys of old.

Can you imagine a Western Contry rebuilding so fast. I would image than after 3 months officials would still be debating what should be built and building permits would be “locked up” in City hall while they decided which building code would apply.
Well done Cambodia.
market1

Old on the left, new on the right

market3

Stall around the outside with nice verandah banners and a clean street edge

.market2

Some habits die hard, untidy electric wiring and the odd bit of trash on the floor.
But otherwise…..brilliant. All in steel and concrete so unlikely to be so damaged in a fire  from one of the stalls.

Cleanup Time

15/2/2015

Downtown Phnom Penh has areas that flood during the rainy season (see my earlier post 28/9/2014).

I suspect that this must be a dryer part of the year as workers are cleaning out the stormwater drains.
No fancy sucky machines here. Just guys stripped to the waist climbing down manholes along the street and filling buckets with the gunk they find.

Said buckets are then hauled to the surface by rope and emptied in to a large pile on the street. Later, much later, a truck arrives and the men shovel the heap of  gunk on to the tray and it disappears to some distant place.

drains

Note the piles on the street in the background.

Man in the foreground had just emerged from one of the holes, all sorts of muddy water dripping off him.

Valentines Day – 14th February

14/2/2015

Today I returned to Phnom Penh via an Air Asia flight from Bangkok.  I have to say that if I never visited Bangkok again I would be a happy man. Its just not for me. Whereas arriving in Phnom Penh I felt relaxed and happy to be back.

I think tourism must be getting better for Phnom Penh as the AIr Asia flight was 95% full of tourist looking people.  Double checked the Visa on arrival counter, as I was last off the aircraft. Sure enough it was packed with people lining up for said visa.

Makes for a very fast clearance through immigration when only a handful of people go straight to the immigration counters.

While loading my bag in to a taxi (Driver – Mr Pen Kong) I was approached by a stout German man enquiring if he could share my taxi downtown. I was ok with his request. When the taxi “marshal” heard this, he inquired if the taxi was going to 2 separate destinations. When this was confirmed he advised that the fee was now $18, instead of the single destination fee of $12.

taxi

My new travel buddy started an arrogant spiel about the taxi operators being robbers. I had to firmly tell him that it was business and they were trying to make a living and if was not happy he could take another taxi….. Humph….. Tourists who think they need to berate locals and insist on a lower price get me annoyed.

Anyway, the rest of the trip was convivial enough, although the German had readup on some things Cambodian he was far from understanding life in Phnom Penh. I was happy to update him. But I must admit to a small sigh of relief when he was dropped off (and happy with the $10 bill he gave me).  The rest of the journey was very pleasant having a chat with the driver, who had heard me chiding the German on a number of things.

Next time I think I will not “buddy up” with anyone at the airport. Mr Pen is an interesting man, he tells me that he has been driving a taxi for 15 years and during this time has learnt English. He can not read or write however and is very keen for his boys to get a good education. I would use him again.

Whats happening?

2 Feb 2015

As a good friend pointed out to me the other day. What is happening with the blog? You havent told anyone you have gone to New Zealand for a couple of months……
I hope normal transmission to resume from Phnom Penh in a couple of weeks when I get back.

Another friend who is a Travel Agent in New Zealand, suggested I put something together to offer a support service for those who are thinking of travelling to Phnom Penh/Cambodia for the first time.   More of an informal, on demand companion to help with checking out hotels, arranging taxis, tuk tuk tours etc.    Will give it some serious thought.

By Bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City(Saigon)

5th December 2014
Booked the ticket online with Meekong Express to save a $1, from the normal $14 fare. Online booking needs to be done more than 2 days before travel. Meekong also offer a free pickup service if you phone the day before travel(its a minivan) it takes you to the bus.
bus_bus
The Bus waits to depart
bus_terminal
The People wait at the “bus terminal” shack outside Russian Market Phnom Penh.
The website allows you to choose a seat. I went for seat 4D. Middle of the bus and on the side closest to the edge of the road. Figured easier to see the passing scenery.
Seat was good and comfortable with recline. Free WIFI was great but was only working on the Cambodian side of the border. Not a big deal as its only 80km from the border to downtown Saigon.(Ho Chi Min City).
Service on the bus was excellent with bi-lingual hostess taking passports and checking visa etc all OK. I travel with an APEC business card and this was no problem. A small snack of a donut & a Cambodian savoury were handed out as we departed Phnom Penh along with a bottle of water.
bus_food
The Snack box
The TV is not yet playing movies.
The trip out of town was uneventful, with traffic reasonable(it was the 8:30am bus). The bus is equipped with a big TV and if you enjoy  Asian music videos and B grade Kung Foo  movies- a real hoot. Then you will be entertained.   Passengers were evenly divided with Cambodians and Foreigners.
About 2 hours in to the journey the bus takes a  short trip across the Meekong on a ferry. No drama but I noted a large bridge under construction across the river so suspect Ferrys will become redundant in the not too distant future.
After a stop for lunch before arriving at the border and about 4 hours from Phnom Penh we arrive at the border where we get our luggage and walk to immigration out of Cambodia, then back on the bus to Vietnamese Immigration. Unfortunately we arrived at the same time as half a dozen other buses and had to wait an hour to be processed. Processing is done by busload (the hostess has collected all the passports from us before hand) so no use trying to push to the front of the line. Its chill out time 🙂
Bus_lunch
Buffet style lunch.
Then on to Saigon.  We unload just short of the central bus depot in the middle of town next to a large green area park. No problems to get a taxi, but not a large number of touts, brilliant!. A Burger King is opposite along with a number of ATM machines. Luckily my hotel was literally a 100 yard walk away. (Golden Wind Hotel which was excellent value via booking.com)

 

Girls

26/12/14

I am often asked by male friends about the Cambodian Girls and nudge nudge wink wink the bar girls.

Personally I find the western attitude to young women in Thailand and Cambodia who work in Bars as “pathetic”. Stereotyping is rampant and not complimentary.  ie they are all hookers and only interested in your money and ripping you off.

While I am sure there are women who fit that category, in my experience/observation it is a minority.  Seems to me there are three(3) types/levels of women who work in bars.

1. The bar(and or restaurant) that is in the business of serving  food & drink to casual diners.  These ladies are like any in the western world. Working for a wage and tips.  Usual wage is around $80USD a month for 6 days working 8-10 hours a day, plus tips. The staff share all the tips received amongst all the staff (including cooks and cleaners). At establishments aimed at Westerners tips can be in the order of $80-90USD a month.  Most of these girls are very young (teenagers) or very plain in the looks department.

2. The bar or restaurant, that caters for a more upmarket? western clientèle.  Same pay and conditions but most of the ladies are looking for friendship with the male customers to gain a foreign boyfriend or eventually husband who will “take care of her”.
The Cambodian girls are fairly feisty bunch and picky about who they want as a boyfriend. Many I have talked to(being of advanced age many call me Papa and treat me like their Grandad!!!!)  are looking for someone they can love.
These are not poorly educated girls with no other option, but have very good English skills and many are studying part time for business or other skill diplomas.   Mostly they are attractive!!

rady1 rady3

Meet Rady….She is 25 and works at the 110 Street Bar & Grill. She has been working for Larry, the owner for over a year.  Her English is excellent. She would like to get married and have children.

In the mornings(She starts work around 3pm) she does homework….Means cleaning the apartment doing some chores and spending at least  one(1) hour studying English and learning new words.  She is looking for a tallish,foreign, blond headed boyfriend age 35-45..
Many Thai and Cambodian girls have a preference for older men as they see younger men as “butterflys” and flitting from girl to girl. They also calculate that by the time they get to 35 or older that the men will have experienced a lot of the world and accumulated some wealth or a good job!

3. Girlie Bars or Hostess Bars.   Yes this is often the seedier side of life. But not all are seedy!!!!!!  Here the girls are hostesses, meaning that they are there to come and talk to you, play pool, dance etc(and ask “You buy me drink”).  They get paid a small wage-not sure how much, and make money from the girl drinks. They get $1 of the girl drink price. Unless the patron insists on a particular alcoholic beverage mostly the drinks are non alcoholic and range in price from $3-$4.
This is also the area where a patron MAY(not always) be able to buy the company of the girl for some more intimate activity.  While the arrangement between the man and the girl is private, the man will have to pay the bar a “fine” for taking the girl away from her job.
By the way I have heard  that many hostess bars will look after ladies interested in lady lady activity.
Apparently(I cannot speak from experience) but by keeping my ears open., a  price for some intimate company runs around $40-50 USD.  Not sure about bar fines but I think about? $10?.

These girls are usually from the rural areas and have no skills. They are sent to the cities by their families to send money home.   Some do find boyfriends(the jackpot that the families dream of).   Mostly they are not hard and bitter but lovely people who have been dealt a bad hand in life and they are trying to make the most of it.  Due to the nature of the business they only have a few years available before they become too old. Think 25 as being old!. Then they mostly return to their villages.

Religion

30/11/2014 (Original draft-but published 26/12/14)

The Apartment WIFI is playing up again. Makes it “painful” to try and post. 30 minute exercise can turn in to 1 hour very easily.

Today at lunch was asked if I had visited the main Buddhist temple (known as Wat) in town.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Cambodia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Phnom

Was also advised I should visit today as they have a ceremony “freeing” birds.
Turns out that the birds must have been captured in the first place.

But interesting to watch the ceremony.  Have always been fascinated by different religions and the fact that they all seem to have a tenant that various ceremonies have to be held with a  “boss” the priest intoning some scripted things with the “faithful”  replying with  preordained responses and actions, such as bowing or turning or some such.

birds0

Praying for the birds..

birds1

Opening The Cage doors

birds3

Helping them leave with “Holy water” and hands in the cages.birs1

 

The faithful carrying on the prayers.

Cambodia is predominately a Buddhist country with some estimates as 95% of the population being Buddhists.

On a daily basis you will see monks in their Orange outfits walking around or in Tuk Tuks. From time to time they will walk along the Riverside stopping at the restaurants and getting alms(money) from restaurant staff and sometimes diners.   In reply they will chant some sort of prayer and blessing.

Also reflecting the Buddhist faith are all the small shrines inside restaurants, bars and shops.  These shines will often have small amounts of food and drink as “offerings” to bring good luck.  I am told that this food is available for wandering monks and if not eaten by them then “regular” people will eat it.

From time to time you will see small pots on the street with burning incense.

 

Labour verse Capital

27/11/2014

In a very low wage economy its cheaper to use more bodies that machines for “mechanical” projects.

I have posted about the 10 day transformation before when lots of bodies were involved. The only equipment seemingly a welder.

Another fascination is road works.  Not sure what triggers the event off. But replacing drainage pipes in a major street nearby comes to mind.   Lots of bodies, no diggers, cranes, or scrappers…Just lean well muscled bodies.

dig1

 

Then after its all filled back in, wait a couple of weeks, then hand mix some concrete and put a cap on the trench.
20141122_134628

Presume at some stage a couple of inches of tarseal will finish the job.

Another Friend

25/11/2014

The Younger of my policeman pair was very keen to have a selfie after I showed him the pics of “Mister”.
Also insisted I have their phone numbers.
So I now have their face & phone numbers in my contact list.

Saren
Saren tells me he has been a police “bodyguard” for 25 years. His current assignment has him working days at “the National Assembly” where he and his team look out for MPs and the Prime Minister.  Lots of interesting photos on his phone of various dignitaries.

He also showed me (on his phone) a copy of CCTV footage of an “assassination”.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/search-widens-oknha-killing

Most unlike anything I have seen in the movies…. The guy was still standing after about 3 shots, altho crumbling to the ground when he was shot a couple more times  The killer was about 3 or 4 paces away.  Killer didn’t have mask or anything so suspect he will be apprehended in due course.

Challenging Times

25/11/2014

It all started when the WIFI at the apartment started playing up…
Nearly every webpage I wanted to load was “unavailable” including Google!!!!!!!

Mostly the page would then load after a few seconds. But very frustrating.
Made a 1 hour job run to about 90 minutes.

Then in a fit of enthusiasm I decided to clean-up the “media library” in wordpress.
Deleting large numbers of photos which I had already “uploaded” in to various blog posts.

WRONG WRONG WRONG….

Seems that the photos are actually not loaded to the post but that the post uses a referenec back to the Media Libarary.

Hence when flicking back thru various posts there are missing photos.   MMMM a few anglosaxon words and its back to retrieving original photos and re-editing them and reloading to the media library. There goes 4 or 5 days 😦

In the mean time Phnom Penh carries on, warm days, interesting people, and an occasional cheap beer!

Cheap Booze

23/11/2014

Popped in to the local convenience store(Think 7-11) to get some supplies.

Walked past the booze display as I have lots of times before. But then thought?
Western Countries are trying to crank up booze prices to stop people drinking.
Maybe Cambodia treats its people as adults and isn’t trying social engineering.???
Don’t see many drunks on the street(usually tourists anyway)

It makes no sense to buy booze duty free before arriving in Phnom Penh…
Probably as cheap or cheaper at the local convenience store.

By the number of “facings” of Vodka, suspect that it is a common drink here.

booze1

booze4

Prices(in case you cant read in the photo, range from $9-13

Wine is about the same as home(Given these prices are US Dollars)

booze3

New Friend

22/11/2014

I have a new “friend”.  Mister is a senior policeman who has been assigned to evening bodyguard by Cambodian Government official to look after another drinking buddy(Greg) who has been mugged twice.  Greg has been involved with the government in setting up a new Bank in Phnom Penh and they have assigned two senior policemen to look after him from 6pm until he goes home(about 11pm ish most nights).

Mister is the older of the two and doesnt talk much english. But we get on like a house on fire 🙂  When push comes to shove and language is really needed we get a bartender to translate.   He has shown me all the photos on his smartphone. Must have been about 500!   Very proud of photos of him and his wife in various costumes. Also lots of photos of his Graduation, presuming some academic qualification as he is dressed in Cap & Gown, and of course photos of him as a Policeman…

He was curious about my glasses. When he tried them out, it was the amazing the look on his face, usually dour, he was lots of smiles as it seemed he could now easily read the menu and other bits and pieces.   So taken with his transformation I donated the glasses to him (Got another pair made up this morning).

policeman

The photo doesn’t show the “lump” on his right hip.  For those so inclined its a Glock 9mm pistol…

Wonder if I can persuade him to take me to a shooting range so I can “have a go” 🙂

Newspapers

21/11/2014

While the housekeepers clean the apartment(Tuesdays & Fridays).  If I am here when they knock, I leave them to it and go downstairs to the lobby.  Sometimes with my laptop. Sometimes just to read the magazines and newspapers.
Today was reading day.
Surprised to find a third English language Newspaper to add to the Phnom Penh Post online also at
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

and the Cambodia Daily.
news4

 

Kymer News is published Tuesdays and Fridays.  Well laid out. Interesting articles not much advertising.

news2

news1

Interesting article on a significant improvement in medical facilities especially for foreigners who used to fly to Bangkok for medical services. They can now get a lot of that in Phnom Penh.
news5

 

The perennial problem of traffic where there seems to be a million motor cycles driving around in a city with a population of 1 million….

Unfortunately I saw my first “fatal” traffic accident on the weekend during the return from the car breakdown.  A collision between 2 motor bikes at a Highway intersection. Heartbreaking to see one lady sitting on the side of the road next to one machine, cradling the “victim” in her arms. Victim, obviously a teenage/20ish girl, body covered by a blue plastic sheet but legs showing.

Tears streaming down lady’s otherwise impassive face. Ambulance guy and police guy standing by doing “paperwork” and talking on phones. No rush to move the grieving lady on.    First time I have felt able to mention it, very emotional.  So easy for it to be someone you know and love.

 

 

Chamber of Commerce

20/11/2014

Last night I went to a “networking” event put on by the British Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh.

There are a number of Chambers of Commerce.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce. (Established by Law)
Euro Chamber
American Chamber
This advert attracted my attention and attendance…
2014-11-20 15.11.45

About 80 people milling about in the bar area near a swimming pool.  The finger food was good. Loved the little cheese twist breadsticks.
90% of the punters were drinking wine which was being “pushed” by the bar staff. When I asked for a beer I got “steered” to wine red or white. I declined. But then later found an Australian lady drinking beer.   Seems the females had more sway with the bar staff and I soon an ice cool  fizzy alcoholic beverage.

Met some interesting people.
British GP who was furiously passing out Business Cards.
British lady who came as a volunteer for 6 months…6 years ago. She is now managing an NGO which is supporting local artists.
Then an American who has extended his marketing/PR  business from Singapore in to Phnom Penh where it will move from 50/50 Singapore/Cambodia to 100% Cambodia.  Interesting stories from his time working for advertising agencies in the “Big Apple”.
Then a long chat with my Aussy battler/beer girl.   Her and husband now in Cambodia after 3 years in Mongolia. They are trying to find a way NOT to go back to Perth!!

He has setup a micro financing business and she has a fashion (ladies/knit garments) business and a bespoke wedding gown business.    She is an arty person and when I asked business stuff like PR strategy and similar she laughed and said she understood the concepts, but her arty side kept getting in the way.

Interesting bunch, but left at 8pm as it was starting to become a little tedious as all the “clichés” started nattering about “their” stuff and friends.

10 day transformation!

18/11/2014

Gosh this daily blogging can be challenging. Days slip by and publishing is a 2 step process…First it gets saved as a draft. Then I have to go back and click on publish. Elephant story publishing got missed…… Will go back and look to see if I have met my blog a day target.. 🙂

Anyway, back to the topic.

I have always been intrigued as to the speed with which buildings can change in Thailand & Cambodia.
The latest was the transformation of a “restaurant” part of a hotel lobby into a Massage Shop. It had been for sale/lease for some time.

Then 10 days ago the gang started.

2014-11-09 13.33.12

Up on scant scaffold and to work with grinders and welders.
Note the safety footware(not) and safety helmets(not). But the guy working on the beam does have watchers.

2014-11-09 13.32.46

Meanwhile the “tiler” is spreading sand and banking away on the the tiles, he carried on inside after finishing the outside work.

2014-11-09 13.32.53

Pedestrians to the bars/restaurants next door just had to get past as best they could. No barriers or safety notices here.

Then 10 days later. Open for business!

2014-11-20 16.13.01

 

Everything in place, signwriting, outdoor signs, pot plants, brick façade, new doors.   Inside… chairs, desks and massage beds, air conditioners, fans, pictures. Just like you would expect in a regular spa!

Not sure why the ATM machine was covered up! Maintenance?

 

Elephants!

17/11/2014

While eco tourism sounds great to preserve wild life and generate income for locals, it is not without its dangers.

This item from Phnom Penh Post

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Elephant kills girl, 11, near eco-tourism area

At about 11am, the young girl, named Cheam Sokkhim, was fishing with her mother at a protected area when the male elephant emerged and went on a rampage, Koh Kong’s Thmor Bang district police chief Saum Samei told the Post yesterday.

They ran, but the elephant started chasing after them, and the the daughter fell down.

The elephant then kicked and crushed her with its foot, according to Samei.

“This is the first time this has happened,” Samei said. “Before, elephants used to be afraid of people, but now they chase people.”

John Willis, director of programs for the preservation group Wildlife Alliance, which oversees Chi Phat, said elephant attacks are unheard of around the eco-tourism zone.

“There have been some elephant attacks in other provinces … but we haven’t heard of any elephant attacks in Chi Phat,” Willis said.

However, he added that a male elephant in the area was reported to be acting aggressively around the same time last year.

According to Samei, the elephants have grown bolder ever since Chi Phat became a popular tourist destination.

In 2013, Willis said that Wildlife Alliance recorded 2,000 international tourist visits in the area.

“There are banana and sugar plantations around there that tend to attract elephants, and that might be a factor … but as far as elephants being acclimated to humans, I don’t know if it is,” Willis said.

A Wildlife Alliance worker, who has not been authorised to speak to the press, confirmed that the wild elephant has since disappeared into the forest and that the NGO is looking at policies on how to deal with the incident.

“This is a tourist site, so we couldn’t do anything to the animal,” Samei said. “We only hope that people would be more careful about this.”

The family of the victim could not be reached.

The Big Day out!

15/11/2014

Saturday I arrived back from an afternoon walk to get a message.
“Would I like to visit some artisans in the provinces”.    These are people who provide handicraft products to Cambodia Charities.

Advised that a man is driving from Phnom Penh, but leaving at 7am Sunday morning. He could pick me up at the hotel and have me back by 7pm. There would also be an opportunity to visit the bear sanctuary.
http://www.freethebears.org.au/web/Projects/Cambodia/

Sounds good I though. No late night watching rugby to ensure fresh start for the adventure.

Mr Dara dutifully arrives in his Mazda. Bit of a challenge in that Mr Dara’s English is somewhat limited.  Hello, how are you, yes and no seem to encompass his vocabulary.
No worries, I have had a tour of Rome with an Italian who spoke no english matching my lack of Italian. It was a great tour.

After 40 minutes driving, switched on my smartphone to show on google maps where we were(the wonders of GPS). Rats, had forgotten to charge it overnight and I am down to 12% battery.  We seem to be about  30-40kms from the City.. No problem I thought.

Another 40 odd  minutes later after heading down a “secondary” road with its potholes and ruts we came to a grinding halt. Front right suspension had given up the ghost.

Middle of nowhere, Mr Dara indicates not to worry and that he will use his phone to summons help.   mmmm no signal just there, so he starts walking off down the road after making sure I had lots of water to drink.  Actually not an overly hot day, not humid where we were in amongst the rice fields.
Get my trusty phone out to take some photos. Na cant save photos, insufficient battery…..lucky nobody is about so I can vent the full range of my anglosaxon frustration.

Mr Dara is gone an hour during which time a few of the locals stop by to ask(in Cambodian) if I was Ok. SIgn/body language is a wonderful thing.  Some came back with BBQd meat on sticks. Have no idea what it was Rat? Chicken? Pig? But tried a couple and they tasted OK albeit with some odd tasting sauce.

Gather from Mr Dara that someone will come.  They did!  2 hours later.  A  large pickup truck with a trailer.  Lots of discussion amongst all assembled men……whats another 30/40 minutes between friends. Much grunting and groaning from assembled locals loaded the car on the trailer and we started off back to Phnom Penh.   They stopped at the “garage” and I got a tuk tuk back to the apartment. Yes I was home by 7pm!  6:30 actually and exhausted..

Some wonderful people and some crazy scenes, unfortunately no photos. So the artisans and bears will have to wait another day.

Project “Shoes”

14/11/2014

One of my main objectives in coming back to Cambodia was to investigate the viability of getting custom made shoes individually manufactured to order. Subsequently the shoes would be air couriered to the customer.

Some industry for Cambodian Artisans and some lower cost custom made shoes for First World concerned consumers.

The  idea was to have a website for people to order from. It would include a range of leathers colours and styles.

The customer would take appropriate measurements as described and detailed on the website.
Shoes would be made within 20 days and then couriered to the customer.  Payment would be by credit card and include a courier charge.

The cost of shoes would be in the range $50-$75 USD, depending on the style and leathers used. There would be a guarantee (of fit and workmanship) or full credit given any time up to 120 days after shipping.

Original estimates had courier charges in the $40-$50 USD range.

2014-08-25 17.52.25

I visited one family business to get a pair of shoes made.
Price and timing(made in 2 weeks) was excellent.

Speedy responses to any investigation in the business world of Cambodia is still a dream. Email is rarely used unless a foreigner is involved and therefore getting a response to enquiries by email is  like winning the lottery – very rare.   Of course phoning is equally challenging and really only good for making an appointment. Such appointments are also time consuming as often you end up talking to someone who has no authority or understanding.. It really comes down to knowing “someone” who “knows” someone to be able to negotiate a good price.

The challenge came with Courier charges! See comments above about timing.  Simple request in the West, probably solved in 24 hours. Cambodia, allow 2- 3 weeks.. For some quotes I am still waiting 6 weeks later, even with regular followups.

Cambodia is still developing a competitive infrastructure. This is very true for air courier and air freight.
The garment industry here is huge, but it still took one large manufacturer to set up their own sea freight container service to Japan to introduce competitive pricing.

Quotes I have had from FEDEX, DHL and other International players are frankly “silly”. $190 USD to courier a shoebox to Australia/New Zealand.  With maybe a 40% discount being given after customer has established a record.(Still $114)   As a comparison DHL couriers shoe boxes individually from China for around $35-40USD (after discounts).

Things are slowly evolving with Cathay Pacific announcing an airfreight service starting 30th November from/to Hong Kong and the International systems operating from there.
AIr Asia also is starting some lower cost air courier services in to their network(which includes Australia) but this is still some months off.

So it seems that the dream of a boutique export business in custom made shoes may be on hold in Cambodia for a little while yet.

If the idea seems a bit out of left field(ie ordering custom shoes online). Consider that custom shirts, wedding dresses and suits are already part of the internet shopping world.  Shoes are following..Top end example being https://www.shoesofprey.com/.

Well at least I have a pair of custom made shoes!

 

 

 

 

 

Early Morning Phnom Penh

12/11/2014

I am not normally a morning person, but last night – had an early night and subsequently woke up as bright as a berry at 5:30am.

Decided to go for a walk and see what was happening.

Obviously a bit quiet. This intersection is normally jam packed with citizens doing what citizens do.

6am1

After taking this photo I walked 50 metres to my right.
A little way down that road, turned around and took another photo. This time the corner restaurant. It was busy busy, busy.

6am_breakfast

 

Have zoomed in on the original photo so you can see that many are older workers(no tourist frequent this restaurant anyway) and many having what appears to be a coffee. The start of a working day in many cultures now I think.

6am0

50th Post

11/11/2014

A milestone has been reached, 50 th post.
What would be appropriate I ask?  Perhaps something that contrasts Asia/Cambodia and the Western world.
The thing that stands out for me is the markets.  The western Supermarket, of which there are a number in Phnom Penh and look like this selection from Lucky Supermarket, near Central Market. Like Western markets they are clean tidy, air conditioned with trolleys and checkout cashiers. Most everything is plastic wrapped and sanitised looking..
Something I hadn’t seen before though was Pizza slices…. in the chiller section.

markeys_1 markets_5markets_9 markets_6markets_7 markets_8markets_2

 

Then there is the Cambodian market place. Under rickety awnings open to the elements. No air conditioning, no trolleys, no wide aisles (and with the odd motorbike weaving its way thru the narrow alleyway).
Certainly no central cashier and no shrink wrapped goods.  But, surprisingly no infestation of flies or other bugs around the fresh meat and fish. Altho some fish are still alive and wiggling around on their trays.

No prices are displayed but it seems all the locals know the prices anyway as I don’t see much haggling going on.

market1_fruit

Fruit stall as we know it

.market1_sugarcane

Sugar cane, a staple

market2

Motorbike in transit

market2_asleep

Sleeping in the heat

market2_meat

Fresh meat

market3_meat2

Lots of fresh meat

market4_fish

Various small fish.

market5_fish

More fish options

 

market7

Or hairdressing?

I should also mention that other than at close proximity sometimes to various food, there is no pervading smell!!!  Almost like the food has been plastic wrapped. Strange phenomenon.
Also for taller people, ie over ? 170cm there is a lot of stooping to get under the awnings. 🙂  Unlike supermarkets with very high ceilings.

Cambodian Currency.

10/11/2014

While Cambodia operates a two currency system (USD and Cambodian Reil) the thing I find fascinating and rather good, s the absence of coins….

The generally accepted exchange rate is 4,000 Reil to the US Dollar.
So to pay 50 cents USD, simply provide a 2,000 Reil note.  Handy when dealing with Tuk Tuk and Moto drivers, when a ride might be $1.50 or $2.50

I quite like the Cambodian notes as well altho different

2014-11-07 16.37.44

issues of notes are different colours which provides some challenges, especially in low light conditions..

While officially there are 50 reil notes I have not seen one. While 100 reil is very common (2.5 cents USD). The largest denomination is 100,000 reil but I have not seen one. The largest I have had(for a brief time) was a 50,000 reil note (12.50 USD) given very apologetically as change by a Cambodian shop keeper who had run out of 10 USD notes.

I don’t like coins as they are awkward, ie put in your pocket as opposed to your wallet, heavy… Then awkward again trying to work out what coins are what at payment time, especially in a foreign currency.

Viva Cambodia and currency in bank notes….

Water Festival….. the last

9/11/2014

While the Water Festival provides some spectacular visuals with racing boats and night time light displays and fireworks.

One of the things I found fascinating was the Cambodian people. While they came to town in their thousands, they maintain a strong family/extended family relationship.   One of the indicators of this is the eating together phase.

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Then of course there is the opportunity to put on their entrepreneurial hat and sell “things”. Again a family affair often with children helping.

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I should point out that some Foreigners got in to the swing as well. I noticed one Frenchman who was doing a roaring trade selling crepes to Cambodians…
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The social side of things is also well taken care of. A large contingent of police from the many levels of forces (City, Traffic, National) were present. With regular patrols by three(3) man teams. The leader with a megaphone slung from his shoulder followed by 2 men with automatic weapons carefully carried in cloth bags.  Shades of Al Capone and Violin cases.   In one instance I saw a patrol of 6 men, heavily armed with automatic weapons in full view. The last man in this patrol had a GO PRO video camera mounted on his helmet.

walk6police

Then their was the “community” team with a large sound system. This was a case of a lost child(see arrow).  Poor wee mite had tears streaming down her face and the man on her left was yelling into the microphone (attracting a lot of lookers) and the older guy on her right was talking to her calming her down. Everyone seemed very concerned for her.
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Delli Belli

9/11/2014

From time to time travelling, one gets a stomach upset.

This $7.50 Pizza is the suspect…It couldn’t possibly have been the beer!!!

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So a day in bed and visiting the toilet!

Water Festival – Part 2

6/11/2014

The festival provides a visual feast!!!
So I have included some snaps of racing boats and some video.

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Some Video courtesy of Phnom Penh Post.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/video/away-and-racing2

Some “boats” below. Not racing but barges setup for night time light displays. They are pushed by tugboats up and down the river in front of the crowds..

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Water Festival Part 1

5/11/2014

The Water Festival is celebrated for 3 days, a public holiday for many. Thousands come from the “provinces” to watch the spectacle in Phnom Penh.

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The Boat races are really spectacular.  With an almost continuous set of “pair” racing. With long canoes(maybe 20 metres long) with crews of ? 50 or 60.  Some standing and paddling and some sitting.
(sorry for the poor quality photo, I will get some better ones for another post)
For more on the history and why they are now, when the river is in flood.   I found this explanation.

History of Water Festival

The history of the Regatta Festival has been chronicled by the Cambodian people and also foreigners for a very long time. In fact, the festival is depicted in stones of the Angkorian period.There are three defferent histories to the festival, each quite distinctive.

1. According to the chronicle of King Jayavarman VII in the ancient Academic Buddhist Institute, it is claimed; in the 12th century of the Angkorian era, Cambodia had achieved peace and prosperity following Preah Bath Jayavarman VII’s success in a naval war with the neighboring Chams. The war victory(1177-1181 AD) liberated Cambodia and is inscribed on the bas relief of the Bayon Temple and the Banteay Chhmar Temple. On the bas relief there are images of the navy with Preah Bath Jayavarman VII bravely wielding a fighting stick and bow on the royal barge.

2. According to documentation written by Mr. Trach Pen, the lay teacher of the Academic Buddhist College in Kampuchea Kraom Kleang Khet, it is mentioned that: In the Longvek era (2071 BE. 1528 AD). Preah Bath Ang Chann I appointed Ponhea Tat to the position of King Tranh (District King) of Kampuchea Kraom Bassak District.

Racing at the junction allowed easier access for many provinces. The event became an annual tradition providing the navy with the opportunity to show its military prowess.

3. It is said that the water festival is one of the most spectacular traditional events. It is described as being similar to some festivals held in the north of Europe today. Some traditionalists claim the history of the festival lies in close connection with the history of Buddha, however, others translate that the festival represents a thanksgiving to the Gods of Water and Earth for providing the livelihood and welfare for the Cambodian people. One final translation relates to the festival following the tradition of Brahmanism and reflecting the daily life of the farming community.

The District King assigned a royal administration to defend his district. He divided his navy into three different types of boats with his troops trained in specific fighting styles:

Group 1- The Vanguard: A boat that is similar in shape to today’s racing boat.
Group 2- The Reserve Army: The rowing boats traveled two abreast.
Group 3- Bassak Army: A large boat with a roof structure, fixed oars and sail. This boat is similar in shape to the traditional used on the Bassak. The boat was used primarily to store the army’s supplies.

The navy was headed by the King on Earth and King Tranh who directed four ministers (Four Columns). During the period of the full moon in November the four ministers mobilised their troops for a campaign for one day and one night. The navy was ordered to a boat race on the river Peam Kanthao in Khet Kleang at a junction of the river.

The water festival is held on the full moon in November coinciding with the rainy season. During this time the lakes flood creating great seas and in turn it is time to harvest the rice. When the Mekong River swells during the period August to November, the waters flow into the Tonle Sap Lake from the south to the north. Then in the low water season following November, the lake waters ebb and the flow reverses back from the Tonle Sap into the Mekong River from the north to the south. This annual flooding of the Mekong River, with its source in Tibet, provides the livelihood for many Cambodian farmers.

The silt that is carried by the flood waters is extremely fertile providing a rich resource for Cambodia. The crops produced in the low water season are essential to the welfare of the Cambodian people.

For this reason the Khmer people choose the full moon of Khe Kadek as the time to conduct the water festival, the procession of illuminated floats, the salutation to the moon, and the Auk Ambok as a means to express their profound thanks to the Mekong River and Tonle Sap River.

The festival is usually held for three days, i.e. the 14th and 15th of the waxing moon and the 1st of the waning moon. Festivities take place in front of the Royal Palace.

 

Dentist Finally!

4/11/2014

After a false start (see previous post) I finally got to see the Dentist 3pm, 4th November to start treatment for some crowns.
I chose the closest option as I am anxious over needles(yep I faint and all the drama). That means the Dental Clinic 2 blocks away rather than across the other side of the city.
Also a less expensive proposition from a dentist who actually listened to what I wanted to achieve rather than “tell me” what was needed.

So in to the green room (waiting room). Interesting in itself from the magazine rack full of yellow pages and other directories, to the certificates proudly mounted on the wall proclaiming head of Student Union and Union representative at an Asian Conference. Oh and hidden in a corner the actual certificate from Australia showing he had completed dental training 🙂

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In to the surgery, told him about me being a nervous Nellie about injections. No worries he said, he would use numbing gell and he and the nurse were very gentle. Told him how often I had heard that and still “performed”.

He was as good as his word…brilliant!!!!

First some gell, then lots of small jabs. All the time his nurse was touching, tickling, rubbing my top lip. Not sure if it was this distraction or the large number of little jabs but never felt at all like I was going to lose control and faint.

He fires up the drill and starts. Then stops and said “this tooth is mobile”. Lets look at the xrays again.  In to the xray room we go, put xrays on the screen and a long discussion followed. He was not happy at all to proceed with a crown as he was not happy it would last..or indeed the 2nd tooth targeted for a crown it was mobile as well.  (Mobile = a little bit loose, not that you would notice in these cases).  Remember the crowns were to repair broken/chipped teeth with jagged edges.

We finally agreed(much to his relief) not to crown but to “repair” the jagged edge of a back tooth with some bonding/filling material.
He then handed me over to his nurse who did the work. A good job she did too. He came back and checked all was OK.
Then told me he wanted to sell me something <smiles>.  Inter teeth proxy brushes “from Germany”.  I was happy to oblige for $7.50.
With $20 for the filling. It was a cheap 45 minute appointment and I have a smooth tooth!

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Dentist false start

3/11/2014

Had a call from the Dental Clinic  at 11am to confirm my appoint that afternoon at 3pm(Monday).  Was sure I had arranged Tuesday, no worries lets get in to it.

I am a nervous nellie when it comes to injections(yep fainting spasms the whole 9 yards).A NZ Dentist had given me two Antivan relaxant pills in 2011 to say next time I was going to have jabs, take one the night before and one an hour before and I will be “spaced out” and not worry about jabs.

Dilemma…. it is not the night before. So down the first pill at 11:45am.
The next at at 2pm and head off. Feeling a little bit strange, but nothing significant.   Arrived to find that receptionist had screwed up and indeed my appointment was for Tuesday 3pm.

No worries, head back to the apartment, via a beer at the Cadillac.
Then a blank until I woke up next day at 11am!!!!!!!!
Apparently I had a few more beers, have no idea what I had to eat or what I did before going back to sleep. Rumour has it (well eyewitness account!) Was that I was a bit off my face and went in to the Hostess Bar across from the apartment and got all the girls dancing and singing before staggering back to bed. Maybe thats where the missing $20 from my wallet went? 🙂 Said witness recalls it being about 11:30pm..

mmmmm no more drug abuse (Antivan) . No problem no more pills anyway!

PS. Noted a couple of days later that level in Rum bottle had reduced and the half a pizza I had in the fridge had also gone missing!!!
NO MORE DRUGS FOR ME!

Bye Bye Anet

31/10/2014

As any reputable beer drinker will attest. Once you have a “local”, you get to know the staff very well and if you are lucky they will start to treat you like extended family.

While I have not taken photos of the Kitchen staff they are included in the “Gang of 9”. Nine people male & female who do a great job of looking after the family. (and all share in the Tips from customers).

In previous posts I have talked above Pov & Si The double shift workers.

Here are some more of the front office people. Including a 19 year old, a  60 year old, a lady supporting a family of 7(including Mum & Dad & siblings), and others.
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The 19 year old (Anet) is very bubbly and fun loving. So we were sad to learn that 31st October was her last day as she is returning to her hometown (77kms from Phnom Penh) to help her Mum & Dad run their shop.
A whip round from the drinking fraternity ended up with a fun stuffed toy for her.  The shreeks of excitement from her were memorable and enjoyable.  Bye Bye Anet.

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Cambodia Holidays

30/10/2014

By my calculations there are about 28 “Public” Holidays.
Mainly observed by banks, government departments and other institutions.   Needless to say the regular Tuk Tuk Driver, hospitality staff keep working.

January 01 International New Year Day
January 07 Victory over Genocide Day
February 14 Meak Bochea Day
March 08 International Women Day
April 14, 15, 16 Khmer New Year Day
May 01 International Labor Day
May 13 Visak Bochea Day
May 13, 14, 15 King’s Birthday, Norodom Sihamoni
May 17 Royal Plowing Ceremony
June 01 International Children Day
June 18 King’s Mother Birthday, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
September 22, 23, 24 Pchum Ben Day
September 24 Constitutional Day
October 15 Commemoration Day of King’s Father, Norodom Sihanouk
October 23 Paris Peace Agreements Day
October 29 King’s Coronation Day, Norodom Sihamoni
November 05, 06, 07 Water Festival Ceremony
November 09 Independence Day
December 10 International Human Rights Day

 

The last Festival was Kings Coronation Day.  Lots of Cambodian People on the waterfront during the evening and then a fantastic fireworks display over the river itself.  No photos or video can do justice to a good fireworks display. But a couple of attempts below (Note. I was in Montreal for International Fireworks competitions in 2012-This was up there with some of those.)

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The next “event” is the annual water festival next week If its anything like the Thai “water festival”, then we are in for a wet day…..

With all this talk of water festivals I should mention that I am still “working” every day.

Whether its fixing computer system problems in New Zealand, writing competition rules in association with a young man in Belgium (or is he now is Scotland-hard to keep up). and of course providing business advice for a charity here in Phnom Penh (www.craftworkscambodia)
As well as pursuing some business opportunities here in Cambodia. Days are fully occupied.

 

Shopping – its different!

29/10/2014

Like many Asian cities Phnom Penh is blessed with many markets.
Also like many other cities there are “clusters” of shops.

For example Gold shops have a cluster, Home Appliances attracts a number of small shops to be side by side.

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Cambodia is currently the “darling” of the textile industry employing hundreds of thousands to make garments for all the top brands around the world.
So its not unexpected to see some good quality “low cost” garments for sale. Great if you are an Asian size.  In the Western world I am a size M, here that translates to XXL!!

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But one shop I found amazing. Selling crockery by the KG!

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Travel is a wonderful thing

28/10/2014

I like to travel.

But airports take the fun out of it by deciding to extract as much money as they can while you are captured on the “air” side of immigration with limited retail opportunities.

Why is it that airports charge so much for regular things.

I decided to have a Banana split at the departure lounge Dairy Queen.  Price 149 baht  ($5)  the same thing in town 69 baht ($2.30)

Sure it was lovely and delicious. But Was it worth the extra.  One of life’s imponderables.  One of my favourite books to explain the phenomenon is Undercover economist.

http://timharford.com/articles/undercovereconomist/

But the banana split was great!!
The 3 year old kicking the back of my seat for 2 hours was not!!

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Nothings perfect but everything is educational