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Cambodia Opinions and Advice

by Charlie Smith

Per: Cambodia Daily, Tuesday, 28 October 2003, page 14. It quotes Khek Norinda, an official from Societe de l’Aeroport and says that once the new government is formed the government plans to apply a new 10% VAT tax to airline fares on international flights and also a new safety tax ( undisclosed amount) on all flights. He also said, “Then the airport tax will increase.”

The Phnom Penh departure tax is already $20, which is more than I have paid at any other airport in the area and this one is certainly not a 5 star airport. It is also interesting to note the continuous reports in the newspapers from foreign investors about the downsides of investment in this country pertaining to high beauracratic fees and corruption costs.

And here is a mentality experience from the private sector: I have been staying at the LUCKY GUEST HOUSE (#30 Street 115) for almost a month; I also stayed there last June. They have decent rooms with bath at $5 and let me put my motorbike in their locked garage. But, Thursday morning, 6 November, when I stopped at the desk to pay my room rent I was told, “Sorry but the price has gone up to $8 due to Water Festival and Independence Day weekend.” I presume that meant for the fallowing 5 days but didn’t wait long enough to ask. I went out of there so fast they probably didn’t even realize they had talked to me. I made a quick survey of other guest houses in the neighborhood ­ even including Narin (^#$@**) and others on Street 111, shot back to Lucky to grab my belongings and moved out. Other places where I enquired had not pulled this shit.

On my leaving they said, “You can come back after the week-end, no problem.” Had to restrain myself from giving them the middle finger salute but did inform them that will not happen. A shame tho as it is a clean place with great staff and usually needs more business than it gets. But they need a new boss.

As an aside there is a bright new Guest House, "Thmov Dos Diamond," at #8, street 115, just a few steps south of Psar Orrusay (or 2 blocks west of Capital G,H,) with nice $5 rooms with cable TV and bath and you can park your motorbike in their very large lobby. But most of the people there do not speak English. For me, and most certainly some other people too, a secure place to park my moto is always a big plus and not an easy matter at most guest houses.

Also it is common knowledge that there are lots of new G.H,’s every place you go and many are very good so if you can handle the terrible traffic chaos of Phnom Penh it is nice to have a motorbike so you can drive around to check them out. Plus with the convenience of independent transport you are opened up to a wider variety of areas.

Last time I was here I bought a moto for $300 and sold it for $240 when I left 2 months later. This time I bought one from Vay’s for $400 with the agreement that when I leave he would buy it back at $35 per month less if it is still in perfect shape. I have not left yet so will keep you posted when I do go. Other shops would not make a commitment about buy backs and would rather rent. Lucky Lucky said $45 per month for rent and leave passport or $400 deposit. I would rather buy as it does not leave me under their thumb for repair or replacement costs if something should happen.

Also, same morning, 6 Nov (a really not nice day) - BEWARE ­ Always check your visa stamp (chop). I went back to Lucky Lucky Motorcycle to pick up my passport as I had left it there the previous Monday, 3 Nov for getting my visa extension. And, guess what, the extension was refused because when I had come into the country the Immigration man had neglected to put a ’code’ on the bottom of the stamp. I do always check to be sure the dates are entered correctly in my passport but how would anyone know about this deal??? I looked at previous Cambodia chops in my passport and
discovered that yes there is a very inconspicuous and almost unreadable code stamped separately into the bottom of the chop. Lucky Lucky said as I had entered at the airport I had to rush out to the airport and see if they would code it. Of course this was the day it expired so lucky I had applied early for the extension, lucky I had entered at the Phnom Penh
Airport rather than at the border, and lucky I still had about two hours left in the day to try to accomplish it. The traffic was horrendous due to holiday traffic coming into the city but I did make it out to the airport and back in time for Lucky Lucky to send my passport in for another try before I was ‘overstay’. The Immigration people at the airport were nice and took care of me right away, for which I was very grateful but do wonder what would have been the case if my entry had been at the border or at the Siem Reap airport instead of at the Phnom Penh airport.

Also I highly recommend Lucky Lucky for visa extensions. Last time I went to the immigration office across the road from the airport and can definitely say that is a wrong idea. They charged $45 for one month, plus the guy wanted a small tip of $5, and it was last day of my visa so what could I do? I waited until last day because in many countries the extension starts from the day you go in to do the extend. But in Cambodia they do add the time at the end of your present visa’s expire date even if you do it early. And that is information that I was unable to learn form any of my travel guides etc at the time. Also the guy was very strong and clear about, “Do not come back here to pick up your passport, I will deliver it to you in town.” I was happy about that as the ride out to the airport and back is long and no fun. But when he came by the next night with my passport he wanted another $5 “for gas, etc.” He had my passport in his pocket so it was not easy for doing much negotiation. So the moral of the story, Go straight to Lucky Lucky for your extension! They charged me $40 and didn’t screw me around. There are probably other people in town who will streamline it for you too.

SIHANOUKVILLE:
My recipe for beating the aggresive moto-dups is to walk out of the bus drop off lot in the same direction the bus will be pointing (down hill), turn left (again down hill), walk past the Angkor Arms G.H. and across the main street (Ekareach), and you will be at the GST bus station. Most others in town charge $5 per 24 hour day for a motorbike but you can get a nice new one from GST ­ even equipped with mirrors! ­ for $3. Then you are ready to scout around on your own and choose what ever guest house looks best to you.

I found one at Occheuteal Beach for $5 with bath. Turn left at the Golden Lions roundabout, as going to Occheuteal, then take first right and there it is next door to the thatched roof outdoor restaurant with the big Angkor Beer sign. It is, BROSOER G.H. Their hand lettered sign is about the size of a sheet of A4 paper and the place looks a bit rough from the street but inside it is new, very nice, very clean and the lady even put my moto inside her own apartment at night, although they do have a fence and gate. They only have 5 rooms, all with bath, so it is luck of the draw if you get one but very much worth checking them out. Phone is: 016 945 337 & 012 667 153.

Last July I let a moto-dup deposit me at SONTEPHEAP G.H. at Occheuteal and they did have a nice room for $5 but it was a hot sauna bath type of room on the no breeze side of the building andI learned that a Koh Kong Immigration man owns the place so that one gets the middle finger salute too.

Also, the bus stops between two big gas stations before town and many people get out there for a quick dash to the fast boat to Koh Kong, which leaves at noon. But the moto-dups at that place are so aggressive they even try to climb right into the bus. I would say, why go thru that when you can spend a nice day or two at the beaches and then go to Koh Kong. And at Koh Kong they are most aggressive of all. As you get off the boat 3 or 4 of them will be trying to grab your pack away from you before you can even swing it onto your back. You almost have to get violent to remove their hands from your stuff. I would rather just go past them and do the short walk to Kolab Cheay Den Hotel or to Otto’s. And if you like parades it can be great fun as you will certainly be leading one, with lots of motos on each side and following behind you. But you do need to have a bit of sympathy for the people here as times are far from good for them. And if you have ever dealt with New York cabbies or walked thru some of the other big cities of the first world at night it will be easy to pick out the blessings we do have here...

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