Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Phnom Penh again

Well, having spent a middlingly pleasurable couple of days on the beach in Sihanoukville (see previous post for details), we are now back in Phnom Penh. Today we went to see the Royal Palace, which is pretty cool. It's pretty much (excuse the cultural ignorance) like the palace complex in Bangkok but marginally less impressive, perhaps because it doesn't have the ring of novelty for me due to having seen the Bangkok jobber first.

The part of Phnom Penh we're staying in this time is far nicer than the area we were in before. We're now by the lake, staying in a guesthouse that actually has a jetty with a restaurant protruding out on to the lake itself. Lovely - it should be grand come sunset. Very romantic...

One more thing before I end this, though, and I'm afraid it's a good old-fashioned rant. Enemies of vitriol, turn away now.

When we arrived in Cambodia to start with, there were no money change facilities at the border. Absolutely none. Fortunately, we could change traveller's cheques from US Dollars into Cambodian Riels at our guesthouse when we arrived, albeit at an annoyingly cack exchange rate. In performing said change, I accrued a couple of 100,000 Riel notes, as well as other smaller denominations. All very well, I thought. But I was wrong. It emerges that more or less nowhere in Cambodia takes 100,000R notes for any purchase, as they don't have the spare wampum for the change. "How odd," I thought, "never mind - I'm back in the capital now, and I'm running very low on other currency. What I'll do is I'll go to a bank and get them to break the big note".

It took not one, not two, but three banks before they could manage it. THREE BANKS! I mean, what kind of country has notes of a denomination so high that banks can't change it, despite the fact that it amounts to about 13 quid, and things here are far more expensive than anywhere else I've been in Southeast Asia!?!

To make matters worse, I'm rapidly running out of readies, so I'll soon need to break another traveller's cheque. Mind you, as the woman at the bank where I finally changed the demon note explained, here in Cambodia they do take US dollars.

I'd better end the rant at this point - I do hope to be allowed in to the Good Ol' US of at some point during this trip, and the FBI, CIA and NSA do exist...

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