WARNING – Long post!
Ok so I am not in Vietnam yet but I find myself in the Cambodian gold rush town of Siem Reap, famous for being the lungs of the nearby 7th wonder of the World. I am staying in a charming French colonial guesthouse overlooking a rather diseased brown river. I have a noisy room and wifi, albeit a little slow at times. I’m pretty happy.
< whinge >
Low cost airlines, budget airlines, no-frills airlines, no legroom airlines, call them what you want but I have had enough of them to be quite honest. My journey to Cambodia from Bali was with Air Asia, the low frills airline of the this part of the World, and was via KL. There must be something wrong with their planes because they only seem to work between midnight and 8am.
So I ended up with a nine hour layover in KL which was not long enough to get into town and back (no public transport at that time) with the prospect of spending the hours of earth’s darkness in the horribly basic Low Cost Carrier terminal of KL airport, which is inconveniently located 20kms from the brand spanking new, you’d eat ya dinner off the departure lounge floor, main terminal.
But there was another option. The Plaza Premier lounge would allow you into their little oasis away from the million normal Malaysian people that use the woefully inadequate space that is the LCC terminal. The large fee, possibly enough to have rented a KL apartment for a year, was not going to deter me from a night of semi-bliss in the chaos of this building they call an airport.
So I got through immigration / customs and bounded up expectantly to the PPL to see that the grotesque fee only covered 3 hours! So I stood there in a state of shock calculating that I’d have to max out my credit card to stay for nine hours. More frustrating was the fact that no one else appeared to be in there!
The girl on reception then said she would do me a deal. I could stay in there for the whole nine hours if I paid 3x! I tried to explain that usually a ‘deal’ involves some kind of discount but I have known for a while that trying to explain anything like this in SE Asia usually ends up with a blank smile.
I suddenly went into auto-pilot and withdrew enough Malaysia Ringget to get me to the main terminal and back in time for my 7am flight. There I found my own oasis that was free; a pristine row of comfy seats with no armrests, wide enough to accommodate my ever expanding backside.
Getting back to the low cost carrier terminal was meant to be straight forward with a 5am inter-terminal bus. Needless to say at 5am the bus station was deserted and I then faced the prospect of being held to ransom by the KL taxi mafia. I managed to knock this one guy down to an acceptable fare, despite stories of his drink and gambling addiction etc and made it just in time to check in (again! budget airlines are point to point, there is no way of checking in for the whole journey) and be on my merry way to Cambodia.
I understand that low cost airlines are run like tight ships in business but the reality is that prices are creeping up and for an extra few quid I could have flown with a full service airline and not had the hassles that I have described above. Yes I know this is all part of travel but maybe I am over all that now.
< / whinge over >
Well I have to say that I have been impressed with Cambodia so far. The taxi driver from the airport was pretty rude, but hey, he’s a taxi driver. Despite the warnings about touts and tuk tuk drivers here I have never found these people to be so adorable. A simple shake of the head or a ‘no thanks’ is returned with a smile and nothing else. In one of my last days in Bali the same shake of head was rewarded with a ‘f**k you mister’.
Perhaps a month in Bali has skewed my judgment of the hassles that tourists receive here. I was also expecting more beggars but there are very few about. I fear that some recent Police crackdown has possibly swept them all away into the brown river that I am glancing at now as I write.
I am in Siem Reap to do a little voluntary work (and take a peak at those nearby temples) for an NGO which will involve web work and marketing, hopefully adding to their fund-raising efforts. I am off tomorrow to start with them and hopefully pass on bit of my web marketing knowledge.
Just have to mention one other thing about Cambodia. Imported goods are just so cheap here! Top quality spirits are $10 a liter, imported food and cheese is cheaper than home! I have to say this comes as a refreshing change after Bali where anything imported has huge taxes imposed on them by the Indonesian Govt and things like cheese costs 4 or 5 times normal and imported spirits are rarely sold anymore (presumably because no one, even tourists, can afford them).
Good on ya Cambodia! I’ll drink to that! (hic)