the toa Blog
MOST RECENT POSTING: September 15, 2007
The toa blog - September 15, 2007
I don't want to talk about it.
A voice of reason
It's nice to know that much of the complaints lodged by foreigners in Thailand at Thailand in respect to how Thailand treats them as well as the general direction the country has been moving in recent times are shared by at least one Thai in 60,000,000. Have a look here at what is well and truly an excellent piece written by a Thai. Unfortunately as it's written in English, it's much a case of preaching to the choir and of the 59,999,999 people who should read it, few ever will. Anyway, here it is:
It's from here: http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/tawan3/2007/09/06/entry-1, from The Nation website.
The dengue fever epidemic is easing up, which according to people who know more about these things then I do, makes sense as they run in cycles of about three to four months and the whole wave of illnesses kicked off back in May. Still, try not to get bit.
Hun Sen and golf
Hun Sen vented ire over the sorry state of the Siem Reap to Poipet road after having personally traveled over a small section of it a couple of weeks ago. He made it as far as the Phokeethra Country Club to play golf and that was far enough for him. He gave another one of his national embarrassment speeches which would kind of make sense given that a major international golf tournament is slated for the golf course sometime next year and we certainly can't have Tiger Woods bouncing along a broken road, can we?
The whole project is supposed to be finished in 2008, but given the slow pace of work and that a certain airline has a monopoly that doesn't expire until 2009, which probably explains the slow pace of work, 2009 is more likely the completion date and people involved in the road project have admitted as much. Still, if there's going to be a major golf tournament at Phokeethra next year I would imagine they'll find away to at least finish the road to as far west as there before Tiger et al turn up for a few rounds.
Last year power lines were constructed from Poipet to Siem Reap with a plan to deliver a steady supply of cheap reliable electricity from Thailand, something Siem Reap desperately needs - we don't have enough and it's ridiculously expensive. It was supposed to have been switched on last October just in time for the Korean Gigolo exposition. A year later it's still not switched on. The first reason given was that the residents along the road were demanding compensation for having their trees ripped out of their front yards and utility poles stuck in their place. Apparently it was Thailand they said should pay which seemed kind of silly (though asking for compensation in itself was not silly at all) given that the power lines were in Cambodia and it was Cambodia that put them in. Then the second story was that Cambodia decided not to buy electricity from Thailand because Cambodia and Thailand are fighting over Preah Vihear (again). Both of these stories originated from people working in the Siem Reap office of Electricite du Cambodge. It would be a shame if either one of these stories was true, particularly the latter. Siem Reap is a booming tourist town without enough electricity to go around and what does go around costs nearly 21 US cents per kilowatt hour. And as a business owner who has experienced the power outages and recently went through a very costly and time consuming experience to get his electricity supply increased I know how bad the problem is.
More local transport hassles
So you take a taxi from the border to Siem Reap like you should. Guess what? They don't take you where you want to go anymore. Seems a certain enterprising and arguably dodgy young man has struck a little deal with the Poipet mafia taxis and some local tuk-tuks. Taxi comes in from Poipet hits the edge of town and stops in front of a hotel where a group of tuk-tuks are parked claiming the taxis aren't allowed into the city, which is of course a complete lie. So passenger gets out of the car and has to take a tuk-tuk who jumps right into the commission crap and hire me for the temples. Several reports I've received indicate that these tuk-tuks are nearly as aggressive as the airport taxis at keeping you away from any establishment they can't get a commission from. And of course the tuk-tuk rides are offered as a "free service". Right, nothing is free. According to my sources, the taxi drivers get $5 from the tuk-tuk who gets the passenger and the tuk-tuks pay $20 a month to the guy that organized all of this.
It's also come to my attention that the drivers, not just from there, but everywhere (airport, bus, boat) are really stepping up the "don't stay at foreign-owned hotels/guesthouses" campaign pushing their agenda that it's better to help Cambodia by staying at Cambodian-owned businesses. This is of course utter bullshit and what they are really saying is "it's better to help me by staying at a business that pays me a commission which few of the foreign-owned ones will." And one non-commission paying Cambodian guesthouse owner had a good laugh with me over this, because he's as Cambodian as Cambodian can be but the drivers try to avoid bringing people to his place just as much as they try to avoid bringing people to mine. And do I really need to get into a speech about the millions upon millions of dollars foreign business has pumped into the Siem Reap economy? Or the higher salaries and generally better working conditions such businesses provide?
Global climate change? Chinese damming the Mekong? Not much of a rainy season? Some or all of the above? No idea but water levels at the Tonle Sap are well behind normal this year as my boat guides report and Kompong Phluk's flooded forest remained mud flats until only recently.
The toa blog - August 8, 2007
For those of you who were ready to give up, the new toa website is a reality... almost. The new toa, a massive php-based headache is more or less complete in that all the old data is transferred, a working design is in place, and the linkage is in order. There is still work to be done before we can raise the curtain, but much work has been finished, some money has been paid, and that said, the beta version should be live before the end of the month.
Dengue is back
Though I'm usually one of the first to dismiss what are often hysterical disease warnings (i.e. SARS, bird flu), claims that this is turning into one of the worst dengue years on record in Southeast Asia are real. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Singapore are all reporting record numbers of cases, with mortality rates, depending on the nation, from barely 0.1% (Vietnam, Singapore) to as high as 1% (Myanmar).
There's still no preventive medication for it. Just don't get bit by any of the larger striped mosquitos (Aedes aegypti) which tend to do their feasting by day. Given however, that you're probably not going to stand there examining each mosquito making moves for your flesh, best thing then, don't get bit.
I certainly wouldn't go cancelling travel plans over it... even if there are triple, quadruple the amount of cases this year your chances of catching it are still slim and if you do, a majority of cases, though not pleasant, aren't serious and nothing more than a few days in bed followed by a few weeks of lethargy and depression. I know, I had a not particularly serious case in 2001. Though not enjoyable, I've been sicker.
More info here:
Siem Reap airport taxis
I guess somebody with some sense finally learned that having customers pay in advance for their taxi at a desk at the airport wasn't a particularly good way to ensure that the customer would be delivered to where they wanted to go. As one of the renegade guesthouses in Siem Reap that refuses to pay taxi drivers commissions for delivering a customer (why the #$%& would I pay a driver a commission for doing his job as the passenger made the request in the first place????), we have on those occasions where customers did not contact us first for a free airport pick-up, had drivers throw them out on the side of the road, call us on the phone telling us they had a customer that wanted to come to our guesthouse but if we didn't give them money they would take them someplace else (never mind the customer *wanted* to come to Two Dragons), or simply drove them to five different places before finally giving up and bringing them to our place.
That's almost all a thing of the past now as the Siem Reap airport taxi mafia has recently stopped the practice of having customers pay up front and done the intelligent thing of having the customer pay the driver upon delivery. Problem solved. Well, almost, there will still be a few troublemakers but thankfully faced with the prospect of not getting paid for the lift at all, the drivers are behaving better now.
A bit of a scare last month when an expat couple's dog, a really nice Golden Retriever, went missing. It's traumatic enough to have a dog wander off on you but over here it's not enough to drive around the neighborhood and check the local dog pound (there isn't one anyway). Nope, here you also have to go looking in on the half dozen or so Vietnamese restaurants that serve dog. And that's where they found her. Fortunately for both dog and owners she was still tied up in back, very much alive and very relieved to be reunited with her family. Keep an eye on your dog...
Quick Poipet update
I went through the border a week and a half ago. For better or for worse the government transport mafia's bus/taxi station is pretty much underwater and hence closed indefinitely. For better - it's a lot easier to avoid the more expensive mafia transport. For worse - it makes getting transport a little more disorganized and while avoiding the mafia can result in a cheaper cab ride, it can also result in one a lot worse.
As for the road, there is plenty of construction going on, but that work notwithstanding, certain parts, particularly near Siem Reap (Puok area) are turning into lakes every time it rains.
Xenophobia in Thailand
This is a real story from a real newspaper.
Just as many nations have reciprocal agreements on visa regulations, I wonder how Thailand would handle it if other nations began reciprocal treatment on matters such as foreign business ownership laws, real estate ownership, residency status and rights? Not very well would be my guess.
Police punishment in Thailand
This is also a real story from a real newspaper.
While it's nice to know that small offenses won't go unnoticed it does make one wonder about large offences: extortion, extra-judicial killings, etc.? Seriously though, as a disciplinary measure for what are essentially office rules offences, I like it. Perhaps I ould implement something similar with my own staff???
Was watching Thai news recently and they had a video clip of a man getting stomped on by an elephant. The story was that the man was drunk and decided it might be fun to whack an elephant with a stick. The elephant didn't agree and spent about ninety minutes making its point.
Apperently efforts to pull the man from the elephant failed as the elephant wasn't letting anyone near, and any time somebody tried the elephant's response was another squash with its foot or to kick and toss the man around. When the elephant did finally grow tired of pummeling the drunk and moved off to pummel a pick-up truck - which it did as thorough a job with as it did on the drunk, rescuers were retrieving nothing more than a corpse for the mortuary.
Lesson to be learned: don't get drunk and whack elephants with sticks. But can we also ask why elephants are kept chained up in urban environments and not left in the jungle where drunks with sticks are few and far between?
The toa blog - July 5, 2007
Thailand is raising visa fees this month. Among the numerous new rates is the cost for a Cambodian citizen to get a tourist visa to Thailand, which is being hiked considerably from $10 to $35. The reason given by the Thai embassy is the appreciation of the Thai baht against the US dollar, which has gained 20%+ in the past year. If that was truly the case we'd be looking at a new visa fee of... let me get my calculator here... okay... umm, hold on a sec, this is complicated, here we go... $12, maybe $13 just for laughs, $15 because it's a nice round number.
On the other hand, while it is clear the Thai embassy is talking out of it's you know what and talking as if anyone listening is a complete idiot, given that the Cambodian government has always taken the attitude that any foreigner who visits Cambodia is rich and can afford most any price or price increase levied, perhaps to have the same logic turned on them is well, a case of sum muk na (serves you right). And this is the same government (Cambodia that is) which in its stricter drivers licensing requirements (you pretty much have to have one in Phnom Penh now - car or motorcycle) charges its citizens $30 per year for the privilege, which if you were to compare that to a US or UK license against the average salaries of its citizens, it would be the equivalent of paying quite a few hundred dollars a year for the license.
Recent Updates on toa
August 19: Updated the Cambodia Overland, Bangkok to Siem Reap Travelers' Reports, the Bangkok to Phnom Penh Travelers' Reports, and the Pailin/Battambang Travelers' Reports sections.
back to Cambodia
back to Home
All text and photographs © 1998 - 2007 Gordon Sharpless. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.