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Monday, December 5, 2011

CAMBODIA WRAPUP

CAMBODIAN CURRENCY

I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but in Cambodia the US dollar is used pretty much everywhere. I had seen a Cambodian newspaper article claiming that in the future Cambodian currency would be used more. I find this extremely unlikely as it is devalued to 'pretty much worthless'. It's at a fixed rate of either 4000 or 4100 to the dollar. Since coin change doesn't travel to any country, you get anything less than a dollar back in Cambodian currency. Frankly, I'm surprised more countries don't do this. Here, I am thinking only of the ones that have a 'fixed rate' exchange with the dollar or Euro. For those without a fixed rate, I can understand keeping their own currency. They can play with currency exchange rates to make some extra money. For those with a fixed rate, why keep their native currency? Nationalism?



RACKET

In SE Asia, there are no laws against racket. In the US, there are laws against 'disturbing the peace'. If you annoy your neighbors, they call the cops and the cops come and tell you to keep it down. If you fail to do so they eventually (after being called out numerous times) issue you a ticket. In SE Asia this is not the case. Everyone wants to get noticed in the hope it will put some coin (or wildly undervalued money) into their pocket. Bars and nightclubs play loud music, food and drink pushcarts play annoying pre-recorded messages. Even collectors of certain types of trash (plastic, paper, etc) use squeak producing bottles to try to get attention. Semi permanent booths have huge collections of speakers that play local music. [Actually, I've never seen any customers at those booths. Too much and too loud seems to drive away even the locals.] Overall, it makes the cities I've been too pretty noisy places. Be conscious of this when selecting a place to stay. Somewhere off the beaten path or down a side street you probably wouldn't be aware of (ironically) is the quietest place to stay. If you have a window or balcony overlooking the street you probably will get to hear the street with all of it's noise endlessly. I'm curious as to how much nosier India will be.



INFORMATION ON VIETNAM VISAS

Most visas have two things - a duration they last and a time limit in which they must be used. For example, you might have a one month stay in the country and the visa must be used (started) within three months of the date of issue. Not so with Vietnam. You put down the specific dates you want to enter and leave and that goes onto your visa. I dislike that with my only somewhat scheduled travel mode. My Cambodian visa ends on the same day that my Vietnam visa begins (the 18th of December) so I should be OK but I suspect weird drama will come about because of it. Should it, you will get to read about it here.

The visa cost also - for some reason - varies depending on where you get it issued. The cost ranges between roughly $35 and $100. From Phnom Phen it was $45. I thought they'd ask for a photo but they didn't. Good deal, I've only got two left. I am keeping my eyes open for the cheap 'get in this machine, insert coins and it takes a few pictures of you' but those seem to be a European thing. Everywhere else gets the high cost photos.



COMING SOON

I had thought I would be leaving tomorrow but that was only because I didn't know how to read the date off of my computer. Sad. In two days, I will be on a bus headed to Vietnam.



MEDICAL WATCH

I got a pretty nasty attack of iritis while I was sitting around Phnom Phen, Cambodia. It was very nasty indeed and the left eye - my predominate eye instead of the right eye which I've had at least two on. After about three days of total incapacitation, it's finally starting to let up. After having been sick both here and in the states, I've got to say that here was much better. Here's why:

1. I didn't have to ask anyone for a ride to a doctor. When I was living in Virginia going to the VA clinic, had it not been for my friends Bert and Travis, I'd have been totally screwed. The eye doctor I went to see here was four or five blocks away. Even if I wanted to ride one of the dreaded tuk-tuk's, it would have cost $1-$3 as opposed to $50-$70 one way in a cab since public buses didn't go to the VA clinic. Because public transportation in the USA is the worst I've seen in the world.

2. The drugs were a lot cheaper. In the states, I could get free drugs from the VA clinic. They'd even send them to me. That is only because I qualify as 'low income'. Sometimes they'd want to charge me a hundred here or there for various stuff. Here, I bought a bottle of pred forte (used to treat iritis) for $2.50 USD. Hell yeah. Drugs are a lot cheaper in most of the world because the US pharmacy companies have a lock on stuff and want their bottom line to look nicer. Translation, they steal from people living in the US.

3. The doctor spoke English as well as my doctor at the VA clinic did. I'm not kidding. I could understand both the eye doctor here and my doctor at the VA though they both had thick accents. Before you say "Well, they are better trained in the US", that may be but they both told me the same sort of results and they both prescribed the same drugs. Therefore, in this instance it seems to be OK. Sure, if I needed some sort of delicate surgery done I'd rather be in the states but for what I have currently it's not a big deal to be here.

4. Food was less of a problem. Even if I went to the grocery store, in the US a meal would cost $5 or more. $2 if I was eating noodles. Here, I was getting room service for $3-$4 a meal with no additional charge for bringing it up to my room. While it's true that I feel my 'bowels have been looser in Cambodia than anywhere else in the world', it is damned convenient to have someone bring you food when you can't go outside because it makes you want to curl up into the fetal position.

Overall, I hate like hell getting sick as we all do. Aside from those annoying hypochondriacs who need a beating anyway. But if I was to get sick - it is a lot nicer here than I thought it would be.

Visits to the eye doctor, $10. Follow up visits, either $5 or $10, depending on how he feels at the time.



MOVIE REVIEWS

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

3/10. Didn't finish it. It was fast paced, which seems to be the norm in our ADD suffering society. It just felt like it was a movie made by committee. What should we put in there - hum. What all makes a popular movie? Kids? Tits? A funny black guy? Meh. I felt that the first one had some mystique, some style. This one I didn't have that feeling and got bored with it. Judging by it's low (5.2) rating on IMDB, a lot of other people didn't enjoy it either. For those not in the know, if you have less than a 7 or so rating on IMDB, your movie is going to appeal to only a 'limited audience'. If it's in the 5's, it's shit. Lower, epic shit. According to IMDB, they also lost about $50 million dollars on it. Unfortunately, there will be those who say "Well, Conan is just not popular." I think it could be, but Conan did so much more than the brief story arc of the 1980's movie and this 2011 POS. I don't think that will be covered by anyone in the future. They'll probably go find another TV series to try to turn into a film instead.


Swordfish (2001)

5/10. When I watched this movie, I wasn't really in the mood for dialogue so I began to fast forward through it. Fortunately, I didn't have to fast forward far at all to find some action. It has a nice and still topical ending as well. I do like a happy ending! I'm surprised IMDB rated it as low as it did but it had some good boom scenes in it.


X-Men: First Class 6/10

The version I watched didn't have any subtitles so I got to test my knowledge of German, French, Spanish and Russian. It came up short but I was still able to follow the plot. The movie was one of those prequel things. I didn't think it was as groovy as the X-Men (2000) movie. It seemed 'long'.

The reason was probably that it didn't center around the same protagonist, Wolverine who really carried off that movie. They had a cameo with him in this one I thought was pretty funny. I do like how they set the world of the supers in and overlapped it with actual historical events but overall I thought it was an inferior movie.

I'd have liked to see them do more movies involving the people from X-men. They had set it up to be done but didn't. I don't know why.



PRICES

Lux body wash, 220 ml, $2.47
Travel sized toothpaste 40g, $.38
Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, $11.20 (note, that's about half price as in the USA)

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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