Last week it was time for a visa run so I headed back to one of my favorite destinations, Phnom Penh. After living in Pattaya for three years I'm finally settling down and getting everything legal, even applying for a retirement visa so I won't have to leave the country every three months as well as being able to put my car and scooter in my name. I'm even going to be one of the few drivers in Thailand, Thai or farang, who actually have a Thai drivers license
I started out by packing the essentials in the backpack, passport, money, raincoat, toilet paper, and Imodium just in case. When you travel overland many of the facilities don't have western-style toilets or toilet paper so it is always best to be prepared. As usual I met the 6AM bus to Trat, took the minibus to the border, and then took a taxi across to the staging area for the Phnom Penh bound taxis near the market in Koh Kong. It was pouring down rain when I went through immigration and I was sure glad that I had the foresight to bring the rain poncho along, I would have been like a drowned rat without it. Costs for this leg of the trip were 120 baht ($2.80) for the bus from Pattaya to Trat, 100 baht ($2.30) for the minibus to the border, then 100 baht ($2.30) for the taxi to cross over into Koh Kong. I usually take a motorbike taxi for 40 baht (92 cents) but it was still raining so I opted for the comfort of a taxi.
I arrived at the market area at 1:30PM, which is a little late for taking a shared taxi to Phnom Penh, most of them leave Koh Kong around 8AM, but I wanted to get to Phnom Penh without spending the night in Koh Kong. I bargained with a couple of drivers who happened to be hanging around the market for a taxi to myself the whole way and we finally settled on 2,000 baht ($46) for the whole trip as opposed to the 500 baht ($12) I usually pay for the front seat in a shared taxi. The car was a late-model Toyota and it seemed to be in good mechanical order as well as having good AC so I tossed the backpack in the trunk and away we went. The trip from Koh Kong to Phnom Penh takes six hours and crosses four ferries but it is still much faster than taking the ferry to Sihanoukville and then catching the bus to Phnom Penh. Using the new road it is fairly easy to get from Bangkok or Pattaya to Phnom Penh in one day. Below is a photo of one of the ferry crossings. The ferries are primitive but in a couple more years when the bridges are finished the trip will be cut to three hours or less, then going overland will be a piece of cake. A photo of one of the ferries is below.
I must be getting old or losing a little of my adventurous spirit because the day I was planning on leaving Phnom Penh via the overland route, I woke up at 7AM and it was drizzling rain so I just rolled over, went back to sleep, and decided to fly back. As an expat I definitely have more time than money so I usually opt for the overland route but here lately I've been flying as much as going overland, I don't know what the reason might be other than I'm getting a little lazy. Also once you have been overland you have seen that part of the country several times and it isn't the fun sightseeing that it once was. I have my sights set on an overland trip to Yangon, Myanmar in the next few months so don't be surprised to see a trip report from there. I've seen a couple of trip reports that piqued my interest so I'm going to have to go and see for myself.
The first night in Phnom Penh I went to Martini's to look for one of my favorites, Mum, but she wasn't anywhere to be found. I did end up taking a beautiful Khmer girl even after she told me, "Lady Cambodia no yum yum" and we had a great time. Usually the 'no yum yum' is a deal breaker but for some reason I decided to give this one a try anyway and I'm glad that I did. The next day I headed out to Svay Pak to look for my favorite Vietnamese babe, Yim, and after looking around a little I located her and took her for every night but the last night that I was in town. The last night I had to get up early the next morning to catch a taxi and I was afraid that with Yim in bed with me I might be tempted to sleep in.
While I've never been an Svay Pak aficionado, I did hate to see it turn into a ghost town like it was for my visits this trip. Some of the brothels were open and there were a couple of new ones in operation but for the most part it was a dreary scene out there with no punters to be found. I was out there three days of the ten that I was in town and I think that the most foreigners that I saw on any afternoon were five and the place was just dead. Martini, Sharky, Sixty-third Street, Le Cyrcee, and most of the other places were going strong though and there sure wasn't any shortage of available girls, in fact the babe to punter ratio was probably as high as I've seen it on any of my trips to Cambodia, just the way I like it.
My first afternoon
in town I headed out to Svay Pak (K11) to look up an old friend, Yim.
She was very pleased that I was back in town but no happier than I was to see her again. When you live in SE Asia you meet many girls that you really enjoy spending time with but there are always that five or six that are a cut above the rest, Yim was definitely one of those. Chemistry has a lot to do with it, a girl I think is the best thing since sliced bread another guy would have a miserable time with and vice versa, you never know. That is one reason I always refrain from recommending various girls, a good one to one guy will be a complete dud with another.
It is good sometimes to get away from the westernized atmosphere of Pattaya to a real third world country where there isn't a McDonalds on every corner and the products and services aren't the sanitized homogenized ones we take for granted in other more developed countries. Cambodia is changing fast though; I'm always amazed by the differences from one trip to the next. It is much safer now with well-lit streets and many people out at night where before there was an inky blackness over the city with only the bold venturing out after the daylight hours. I don't think it will be long before we see the first Pizza Hut or McDonalds in town. A couple of days I went over to the new shopping center near the Central Market and it was a treat to see all of the Khmer people who had never seen an escalator ride it the first time. Some couldn't make up their mind to give it a try and ended up taking the elevator.
All in all I had a great time and it was good to see PoppaLORN again as well as many other friends that I have made over the years. Cambodia still has a little of the wild west feel to it but I don't think that it will be long until some of the excitement and raw edge is gone. The crackdown has eliminated much of the riff raff that was hanging around so I think that I enjoyed Phnom Penh now more than before. Cambodia definitely isn't for everyone, some guys love it and some hate it but it is definitely worth a stop on a S. E. Asia itinerary. For a look at Cambodia, check out the movie City Of Ghosts that is available for rental most places. It was filmed in Cambodia and captures the look and feel of Cambodia better than any other I have seen.
here to see the photos
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