HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Welcome to Cambodia

My first day in Phnom Penh is coming to a close, thanks to sheer exhaustion, but before I talk about the city a bit, a few notes from my 28 hour trip over here.
1) Employees at San Francisco International, do not tell people a shuttle is running between terminals when the shuttle has actually stopped running for the night.
2) Flying across the Pacific really sucks.
3) On the flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh the airline played what was basically the Chinese equivalent of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. It's English title was Old Lady!, which is hilarious, and it featured an...old lady...shoveling absurd amounts of dim sum into her face while trying to be funny. She's no Bourdain, but it was humorous nonetheless.
4) Finally, flying across the Pacific really sucks.
 On to Phnom Penh. The airport seems to be quite new, and getting a visa was completely painless. When the LanguageCorps staff that met us said our ride was ready, I was expecting a car, but we ended up taking a Tuk Tuk to our place, which is called the Okay Guesthouse (it's better than OK, there's free WiFi, a bunch of Westerners, a kitchen and cheap beer).

A tuk-tuk - the transportation of choice during our time in Phnom Penh
What about helmets, you may ask. Well, the driver gets one, but the passengers...not so much. Still, they are a great way to see the city, although it's best to keep your mouth closed because there is a lot of dirt and other particulate in the air. However, these rides really aren't for the faint of heart, since traffic rules seem to be largely ignored. Need to make a left turn? Go ahead, turn into the lane going the other way and move over eventually. Stop sign? I'm not sure what Stop means. Also, if someone is cutting you off, just honk, don't slow down, just let them know you are still coming. This can be a little scary, but it's really entertaining as well.

The city is itself is basically what you would expect from a decently large capital of a developing country. There are a lot of nicely paved roads, but some of the side roads are dirt. There are lots of Lexus SUV's and black Mercedes sedans, right next to 4-person families squeezed onto one scooter. High-tension wires tower over shacks made of corrugated tin. A few of us took a trip outside of the city today (more on that in a later post) and, unfortunately, ran into the dark side of the developing world. Several groups of dirty, but adorable, children approached us and introduced themselves in shockingly fluent English, asking where we came from, our name, age and profession. I was enjoying talking with them, but then came the heartbreaker: "Can I have some money? Just a dollar." I felt so bad for saying no, but that's how it is; if people see you giving money you immediately become the Westerner that gives money to everyone, an easy target. That was rather depressing, but a nap and dinner with some of the program participants helped me get over it. Plus, every Cambodian I've met has been exceedingly friendly.

Finally, for those worried that America's influence around the world is declining, have no worry. What movie was playing on the TV in the common room at Okay? Twilight! That's right, even in Cambodia you can't escape that garbage dressed up as a movie. Good night.


  1. Hi Michael,
    I'm enjoying your postings - it's like being there. Your descriptions remind me of my many travels/opportunities. Keep it up! Oh BTW...flying across the Pacific really sucks! (the Atlantic isn't much better)

  2. Twilight, really? That's what America is spreading around the world?

  3. I have a new career aspiration in case this whole college degree thing doesnt work out...