Our winter trip this year is to Camboda and Hong Kong. It takes 20 hours of flights from Chicago to Cambodia (13 hours to Tokyo then 6.5 hours to Cambodia). We stayed in Japan one night, then Cambodia 7 days, then Hong Kong 3 days, then back to Chicago (15 hours).
Here are some notes (and lots of pictures and video) about the Cambodia portion of the trip. I think I’m learning that people like to see pictures and video, and read less commentary, so here you go!
Chicago to Japan
It was a snowy day leaving Chicago. The flight to Tokyo (13 hours) was about 30% full, so we each got 3 seats to lie across.
Overnight stay in Narita, Japan on the way to Cambodia. Narita is a small(ish) town near the Tokyo airport, about 60 miles from central Tokyo. Dinner at a local yakatori last night followed by karaoke at the Cage. It is a bar frequented by airline personnel on overnight layover, so there is a good amount of alcohol consumed here every night.
Japan to Cambodia
Uneventful 6.5 hour morning flight from Narita to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and settled into a hotel near the Mekong River and had a nice happy hour at FCC (Foreign Coorespondant’s Club) then a good Indian meal. Arranged a Lexus taxi to Otres (near Sihanoukville – 4 hours drive, but only 100 miles – to the south, lots of traffic, $50). A lot faster than the bus. Here are a few pictures from the capital, Phnom Penh.
Good morning from Otres Village, Cambodia. The only two awake in Cambodia at 7:00am are a cat named Agent Orange and me!Nice Valentine’s Day/birthday yesterday, hung out by the beach and then had a delicious Fish Amok. Staying in a cute house behind Woody’s Pub, they were just building this when we were here 10 months ago.
Very productive day today. Walked up the beach this morning and hired a Hobie Cat sailboat. I sailed my wife across the shipping lanes (one fishing boat!), 6.8 miles, walked into the beach bar, bought 3 cold beers ($1 each) then walked back to the boat and sailed her back to where we started. The trip back took a little longer, because of wind direction, I should have bought more beer. All in all, a nice 4 hours. Pictures and video
I planned to get a haircut before I left Chicago, but it didn’t get done. Now I need one, especially as it is 85° everyday here in Cambodia. There is a guy one minute walk down the street that cuts hair, here are some pictures of his clients that I took. D says go for it (easy to say, it’s not her hair). What do you all think? Should I “go for it? My guess is that it will cost about $1.50. Or should I wait two weeks and get it done in the Philippines with my regular guy.
In the afternoon, we went down to the beach and walked across an estuary (river flowing to the sea, waste-deep) and walked along a completely desolate beach. Trash on the shore is noticiable because it washes up from what is dumped in the sea and no one is there to pick it up. When the beach is developed in 10 years, that will change. 🙂 Here are some beach scene pictures.
We came in 4th out of 11 teams at “Quiz Night in Cambodia” at Woody’s last night. Not bad, as we were a team of 2 against a lot of other teams of 7, and we were not high. She knew what M.A.S.H. stood for, and we did well on the 70s songs and identifying the districts of Asian capitals, as well as the “beer” catagory. The Winter Olympics category did us in, as she finds the Winter Olympics mostly pointless and we’re not really following the news. The 3rd member of our team, a cat named “Agent Orange”, was useless.
Finally, a few menu items and signs we’ve seen in town and on the beach in the last 5 days.
After 4 days in Otres Village, we moved about 2 hours east along the southern Cambodian coast to Kampot town. Did a river cruise with nice sunset over Bokor Mountain then a walk through town.
The lodge where we are in Kampot (Villa Vendichi) for 2 nights is along the river about 2 km north of the main town. More expensive ($45/night) than other places in town but the setting is really nice. 25 rooms, many surrounding a pool and also along the river and in the garden in back. The view of the river area can’t be beat. Boats, kayaks, and SUPs along the river. Staff is great. Here are some pictures of the river cruise and the hotel.
Our kayaking trip took us a mile or so up the river (against a small current) and stopped at a beautiful Buddhist temple along the river. The grounds looked abandoned, but the inside of the temple was immaculate. Then we paddled into the mangroves and found a place called Retro Guesthouse, run by a nice Swiss guy named Alex. We pulled the kayak up to the shore and had a great lunch. Had a dip in the pool after we returned and then had a nice dinner at our lodge while watching some videos on the tablet.
Here are some misc. pics in Kampot.
Next day, mid-afternoon, we returned to Phnom Penh via bus ($9 person for the 3 hours trip). Decided to try something different and safer. Checked into a room near the Phnom Penh airport as we have an early morning flight tomorrow to Hong Kong.
A few observations about Cambodia.
– It doesn’t have the “Wild West of Asia” feel that it used to. I guess that is what you get when the economy is good and the streets get paved.
– Westerners visiting or living there seem fairly laid back and friendly. It’s pretty relaxing there, so not much to get stressed about. A few folks smoking pot at bars, etc. Very willing to share.
– Beer is about the cheapest we’ve found in the world (Vietnam is similar). 25-50 cents happy hour, $1 max regular price. Almost every meal we had (both western and asian) was very good.
– We saw a guy walking down the street with one hand in the air, holding an IV bag over his head and the needle going into the other arm. No need to stay in the hospital when there is 25-cent beers for happy hour! I couldn’t get the camera out fast enough for a picture, sorry.
– For us, a vacation here is SO MUCH nicer than going to Hawaii or Florida. Great beaches, perfect weather, great food, we’re not surrounded by stressed-out people, the hassle of day-to-day life is far less than in the west, accomodation is better at 25% of the price you’d pay in the west, and the amount of money spent for food and drink is an afterthought because it is so cheap compared to the west. BUT … you gotta fly 22 hours to get here (but not really unpleasant in airplanes that are empty).
I’ll end this blog entry and get it posted now. We have 2.5 days in Hong Kong coming up, a place we haven’t explored together for many years.