A rainy day in Pattaya … A little burned out after an extended Christmas spurt of gratuitous generosity. Oh well. Totally self-inflicted and I enjoyed most of it even the recipients didn’t appreciate it so much. I’ve realized that the last few years I have subsumed my loneliness to work and stress. The last two weeks was one of the first times in years that business was not overwhelming me. And my loneliness came back full force and I went doolally just a bit. Ah well.
Going to Bangkok tomorrow, followed by Cambodia. I found out by chance that one can get an ‘e-visa’ for Cambodia instead of buying a visa on arrival. About $36. https://evisa.gov.kh … Very painless. Upload a photo, pay, and shortly thereafter they email you a PDF that you print. They say 3 days but in my case it was about 45 minutes. And what I hear is that it saves you a good deal of time at immigration there. We shall see.
I have been getting back to the gym. That has been really nice. The sauna I found has been great. I found out that the cold pool is 7°C (About 44°F) … Well if I can stand that I’m not doing so bad 😊 … I do four rounds of sauna then the cold pool for at least a minute after each sauna session. Leaves me feeling totally invigorated. Can’t recommend it enough. A good friend said that he heard it could induce heart failure. Well. Yes. Probably it could, so I wouldn’t say do it unless you know you’re in good health. But from what I have read there are a lot of benefits to this kind of regimen. Far more upsides than down.
I realize these days that it takes me a while to relax and calm down. My most obvious sign of distress is an inability to focus on anything. This is the first morning I have been able to sit down and just write. And I find it flowing freely. Up till now I’ve dithered, browsed the web, cleaned my laptop, read my old books. Anything other than writing.
Rant of the week -
Climate change, politics, economics, terrorism, etc. People talk about it, but most of our information comes in the form of media sound bites. Rarely, if ever (other than publications like The Economist) is there any detailed information about the causes behind the headlines. Very little actual data. And it isn’t easy to find. And, no doubt, it is hard to find enough time to do proper research. And, I am certain that the people that guide the journalism and media output condone this, if not outright perpetrate it explicitly.
However, that isn’t an excuse for not doing research. We all have a responsibility to not natter blithely about stuff if we don’t know what we’re talking about. There are enough egregious morons (not to mention certain politicians (all politicians?) by name) doing this already. And sadly, there is a wide population that is willing to blindly listen to people spouting crap with no actual backup. Thank one’s social media for that.
It is laziness on the one hand and, frankly, it may not be the easiest thing to find valid data on the Internet. Sometimes, one might even need to (gasp) PAY for it. If you really want to know about something, don’t skimp on the cost of gathering good data. Pay for a report. Pay for a reliable source.
But, there are a lot of good free sources out there as well such as www.gapminder.org , etc. Wikipedia is good, but one needs to really look and cross-reference what you are seeing to make sure it is valid. Gapminder has some very interesting analyses on common misconceptions (like population growth). Worth spending some time browsing through the site. They have some awesome interactive tools.
To find your own expert in a specific category, try the following search string at Google or any other search engine:
"expert+subject" (substitute your own keyword for "subject")
https://www.gutenberg.org/ - Project Gutenberg (20,000 free books)
https://www.loc.gov/ - Library of Congress
https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-google-3482041 - How to really use Google
OK. End of rant :-)
So … Cambodia. Fifth new country this year. That is a lot. I didn’t realize I had traveled that much this year but guess I did. I think it puts my total at 59. I really can’t keep the number straight. I thought I was in in 70s somewhere but must be delusions of grandeur 😊. But I’m not really driving for numbers. Seems pointless. I just keep track out of idle curiosity. See the map on my About page on my website.
The e-visa worked great. Avoided a fairly long line at the ‘Visa on arrival’ area. The airport was small but clean and arrival procedures were painless. Line of booths to buy 4G SIM cards right outside the arrivals area. They speak English and prices are in US$ and very reasonable. I had 50MBPS speeds on their 4G network. Using the SMART carrier and has been quite good.
Reminds me of Vietnam in the 70s. Chaotic, dirtier than it needs to be, but pleasant. They use US$ here. All the ATMs only dispense US$, not the local currency. If you come, bring a lot of $1 bills. Even street vendors use US$. Lots of low rise buildings. You can see the remnants of French colonial architecture. Quite nice. They have a weird mix of colonial and communist street names, mixed with numbers. Examples: Russian Federation Boulevard, Pasteur Street, No 244 Street 😊
No sidewalks. Little parking, but cars and motorcycles everywhere. 3-Wheeled tuk-tuks are a good way to get around. Seems about $3 - $5 is average fee for foreigners. Even I, with a broad range of experience, have rarely seen such cheerful disregard for traffic conventions as here in Phnom Phen 😊. But … haven’t seen an accident yet. Better to just close my eyes in the tuk-tuk. Nobody, including pedestrians, ever seems to look where they are going.
Even a little converse with locals has revealed that business is WAY down from last year. I heard similar comments in both Pattaya and Bangkok. They tend to have more European tourists and the EU has had terrible issues this year. Didn't get a picture of it but drove past the Rolls Royce dealership. The Russsian Market (pictures below) just a mass of cheap stuff. Not worth the visit. One large mall (Aeon). But could be a mall anywhere in Asia. But nice nonetheless.
I don’t know what is driving it (other than the Chinese possibly – saw a real estate magazine here that was written primarily in Chinese), but real estate prices are insane. A good 2 – 4 times higher than Bangkok if that can be believed.
Staying in a place called the Sun & Moon Urban Hotel near the Tonle Sap river walk. Very nice. Incredible spa with wet/dry sauna and hot/cold pools. I spent 2 hours in there yesterday.
The restaurants seem to be numerous but mostly small almost 'hole in the wall' type places. Tried Raffles Hotel dinner buffet. It was 'ok' but hardly worth $30/person in my opinion. Tried a place for lunch called 'Al's Best Grub in Phnom Phen' ... Hey - I didn't choose the name. Awesome food and a banana bread cake to die for.
Bought a new Briggs & Riley bag. Huge. Seems to be standing up to the rigors of travel extremely well. I bought a larger bag to go to Argentina so I have enough room to pack supplies such as protein powder etc. It expands while you have it open for packing then when you close it you push on both ends and it ratchets shut. Works really well.
Going to do a half day city tour today (look at me being a tourist 😊) … But will post this long and rambling post before I go.
A gallery of images below. Huge coconuts, Phnom Phen at night from the roof the hotel, street shots along the Tonle Sap river (it joins the Mekong river just a few hundred meters off camera).
Phone lines still all above ground. Very few high rise buildings. Car prices surprisingly reasonable (compared to Thailand or the Philippines). Vendor with mound of very small heavily salted shellfish. No idea how one eats them. Many narrow lots on the street as you can see. KFC everywhere in the world (no surprise there).