Delightful Cambodia – Small Notes
— Shopping Advice 1 – Textiles on Russian Market —
Psah Tuol Tom Pong, or Russian Market, is popular with tourists and locals alike for bargains on quality textiles – it's something like a small-scale Pratunam. Jeans go for around 6 USD, T-shirts are about 1,50 to 2,50 dollars – often wares that were produced for companies like Gap.
But then, some of those products show small faults such as a bit of wrong stitching. If you're lucky, though, you'll discover absolutely immaculate products – grab them fast, is the advice from the locals, because those 1a wares are stolen.
— Shopping Advice 2 – Textiles in BS Store —
If you want dress shopping in air-conditioned department-store like ambience, head for the two outlets of BS on Monivong cnr Kampuchea Krom and in the Soriya shopping mall.
The ladies there wear business suits just as in Thailand's Central Department Stores – but in Phnom Penh they combine it with dirty flip-flops. While you browse the products, one or two sales girls will follow you silently. Ask them in clear Khmer which of the shirts and trousers consist of cotton only, and they will have no clue.
— Shopping Advice 3 – Drinking Water —
In Phnom Penh, beware of the 0,33-liter-bottles with drinking water sold on every corner. Botteling machines for that size have become very cheap recently, and now a lot of those freshly sealed bottles contain: delicate Phnom Penh tap water. In the provinces, drinking water from small bottles is considered safe.
— Shopping Advice 4 – Mangoes from Kampot
As early as February, Kampot province has the first good mangoes. But if you need good Kampot mangoes, don't go to Kampot – the cream of the crop is sold in Phnom Penh. As the locals say: "The trees are in the village, but the fruits are on the market." Only as of late March better Kampot mangoes are available in Kampot.
— Shopping Advice 5 – Oranges from Pursat and Battambang —
While touring Cambodian provinces, make sure to bring home good oranges from Pursat and Battambang provinces – your Khmer friends in Phnom Penh will appreciate the effort. Oranges in Pursat cost a whopping 10.000 riels per kilo, around 2.5 USD. In Phnom Penh, oranges are much cheaper at sometimes just 3.000 riels. But in the capital you get mostly Vietnamese oranges – the difference is difficult to see, but easy to taste.
— Shopping Advice 6 – Fruit in General —
Actually, a lot of Cambodian fruit like mangoes or durians are exported to vitamin gourmets in Thailand and Vietnam. The reason: Khmer farmers don't use chemicals to enhance color and size of their products. Thus, the fruit needs more care and more time to grow; but you get a better taste – and Khmer farmers get a price that makes the effort worthwhile.
— Shopping Advice 7 – Photo Prints in Phnom Penh —
I disturb the young shop girl in the Fuji film print shop on Monivong Boulevard, as she photo shops on a kitschy self portrait. Hastily she tries to stop her efforts, but can't, as Photoshop's polygon lasso behaves different from other tools. Finally she closes her photo without saving.
From the USB stick, my pics are copied onto the shop's computer. I have prepared several folders and subfolders, for each size and number of copies wanted. She copies each of my subfolders separately onto her computer. I tell her several times to copy the overall folder, but she wouldn't listen. She forgets one subfolder, so I have to remind her to copy that one too.
Even though my files are clearly named with size and number of copies wanted, she starts to rename them all – and file by file separately. Only after about 20 of 90 files she gets the idea that a serial renaming might work faster.
Finally an order slip is written. "Please come back in three hours", she says. She looks down onto her pink new high heels and says: "Sorry, I new staff."
— Shopping Advice 8 – Guidebooks —
The Lonely Planet is quite reliable as usual for Cambodia. The newest, 5th edition, of August 2005 has been re-organized and is now less clear. Also, this book is only written for people who travel from town to town by public transport. There are no suggestions for trips off the beaten track.
If you do have your own wheels, you could use Matt Jacobson's "Adventure Cambodia". Even though they don't explain it on the cover, this book is written for people who go everywhere on fat dirt bikes. We toured the country in a self-driven jeep and got lots of great side trip ideas from Matt. He also has good suggestions for restaurants and other venues that are not in the town center, but better reached with your own wheels. There are many more town maps than in the Lonely Planet.
But Matt is not always clear if a dirt road is okay for cars or for motorcycles only. Also I must say that some descriptions, detailed as they were, did not fully work. Without my communicative Khmer partner on the front passenger seat, I wouldn't have found all of Matt's view points, forest temples and waterfalls.
The second edition is from 2004, but in some sections he simply forgot to update the 2001 text. A few descriptions have been wrong right from the first edition.
The first edition of "Adventure Cambodia" had been co-authored by Frank Visakay, a high-profile writer on StickmanBangkok.com. The book has many very smart phrases – sometimes useful, sometimes l'art pour l'art – that sound just like Frank.
Believe it or not, this 400-pages-book with very dense content, which seems to cover every single potholed village road throughout Cambodia, has no index and no map index.
— Shopping advice 9 – Condoms, Umbrellas —
Cambodia is now full of ads for condoms. My favorite:
Pleasure you want. Protection you trust.
Here and there you run into ads or promotional stalls of Number 1, Kama Sutra, OK Condoms or Trojan Condoms – even on the Phnom Penh river promenade. Deep in the hinterlands between Kep and Kampot I saw something like a condom promoting show by OK Condoms, which has all staff and ads decked out in soft baby pink hues. You could win an umbrella (hint, hint) and get rubbers for free. By the way, the best time to look for these give-aways is around Valentine's Day.
— Shopping advice 10 – Lost & Found
Pursat, Than Sour Hotel. We've checked out, I steer the car out of the narrow parking lot. Suddenly a hotel boy knocks on the side window: He brings the laptop battery I forgot in the room.
Phnom Penh, restaurant of l'Oasis guesthouse near Kapkoh market. I drink an after-lunch cappu and depart without my camera bag. I return in the evening, to be greeted by Pierrot Hostettler, the jovial owner with the French accent: "Ha, you forgot your camera, didn't you? My waitress found it – voilà."
Phnom Penh International Airport. In the airplane from Bangkok I forgot an important plastic bag. 15 days after the flight, I e-mail Bangkok Airways if they found my items in the overhead compartment around seat 18A. Two days later they answer they found my things and I can get them at PP airport. I go to the airport's Lost & Found counter and retrieve my complete bag.
Very nice indeed. Good to hear Frank is getting around too.