Monday, March 06, 2006

Phnom Penh

The check-in guy at Tullamarine was a bit of a fusspot, but, as I was travelling Malaysia Airlines, all I needed to do with the bike this time was to let a little air out of the tyres and wheel it to a metal cage to be loaded onto the plane. A minor problem arose when I first arrived - my name had been spelt "WLLLSHIRE" on the ticket - three L's - and after firstly telling me I wasn't booked on the flight and then admonishing me for not checking my ticket details properly, and then checking with his supervisor, he allowed me to proceed. Noting I had a bike, he asked if I had anything flammable in my luggage such as the glue used in repairing punctures ... foolishly I said yes, so he took the tube to ask his supervisor if it was OK (it was). Luckily the bike only weighed 10kg this time, so there were no problems on that front (it does help with the weigh-in if you hold the bike firmly and a little upwards on the scales). I remarked on his punctilousness, to which he replied that he was working a double shift and had been on the job for over 12 hours ....

As usual, I overate, slept very little and watched several movies during the flight - Million Dollar Baby, which was OK until she ended up paralysed and on oxygen, and some absurd sci-fi movie starring Charlise Theron. Eight hours to KL, a 4 hour wait in transit, and then two hours to Phnom Penh made for a tired arrival in Cambodia.

The taxi fare into town is a fixed $7USD but naturally the driver (and his dozen or so colleagues) insisted on a little extra for the bike. We reached a happy compromise ... I said I wanted to go to the the Last Home Guesthouse but they all insisted it had closed down (the old trick, I thought knowingly ... ah! you can't fool an experienced traveller!). In fact it had - they'd moved from 108 St to 172 St. Still, the room was spacious, clean and cheap at $5 USD a night. The only drawbacks were having to lug the bike up 3 flights of stairs and not having my own loo & bathroom, but the latter should not really be a problem (assuming I avoid gastrointestinal issues).

The environment is nowhere near as noisy or chaotic as India, but cycling on the wrong (i.e the right) side of the road will be an adjustment. I still recall, with some horror, cycling in Vietnam & forgetting this fact as I did a left turn onto the wrong side of the road, and being met by a phalanx of oncoming bicycles and motorbikes.

Last night I met a group of expats from the US, UK and elsewhere, some of them having lived here for a decade or more. They were a pleasant & helpful bunch of folk and I'm sure we'll meet up again soon. I expect I'll spend several days here exploring PP before I & the bike hit the road.

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