Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cambodia - Day 8 Returning Home

Morning came very slowly. All of us decided to gradually crawl out of bed on this last day in Cambodia. Frankly I am really looking foward to GO HOME.
We only went out for breakfast around 1030am in the morning, choosing a restaurant further down from the Royal Highness Hotel to sample their fares. Nothing out of the ordinary other than the standard continental breakfast but it was the part when we had to pay the bill that drew our ire. Presented with a bill of USD13.50 for the 4 of us (George opted to eat another place), we each individually tried to get rid of as much 'Rials' as we can, mixing in with our US dollars to pay the bill. We gathered a total of USD14 worth of dollars and rials and gave it to the waitress to return our change, change that we later realized was not forthcoming.

Breakfast, with a twist.

Er asked the waitress for the change and in typical Cambodian 'feigned' bewilderment, she waved her hands and shook her head which to us only meant we were made 'suckers' again by these wily Cambodians.

Unhappy customers...

Leaving the restaurant in disgust, we headed back to ours though not before stopping at the nearby Puncak Hotel immediately next door. A van with the hotel's name imprinted on it's side luring us to it's lobby.

Puncak Hotel, a Malaysian oasis in the Cambodian wilderness

Owned by Malaysians and apparently run by Muslims, we entertained the thought that perhaps we might find some truly honest people to deal on account of our transport to the airport. Earlier enquiries at our hotel reception had furnished us with an airport transfer cost of USD7 per tuk tuk (we needed two with all our bags and all) or USD20 for a midsized taxi.
Encyclopedia on TDM proudly displayed in a book shelf at Puncak Hotel. Now we truly know it's a Malaysian hotel!

Our faith was rewarded when we were told that the hotel van can be used to transport us to the airport for a nominal fee of only USD10. We booked the van, promising to get back to the hotel with our bags by 1:00pm.
In between, we returned our rooms, doing our final packing and playing cards to burn the time away. At 12:00pm we checked out, dropping our bags at the Puncak Hotel lobby and heading to the Sam Em restaurant for George to have his lunch. ;)
Price list at Sam Em restaurant

Wei Han chilling out with his sunglasses

Somehow I don't look as cool with those shades... :p

Fortunately, there were no surprises here and proper change was returned to us. Still full from the morning breakfast, I treated George to a round of Angkor beer while having one for myself. At 1:00pm we returned to Puncak Hotel, waiting for the van which only arrived at 1:30pm after going to the airport to pick up customers.

Happily leaving Phnom Penh and very safely seated way at the back

Boarding the van after loading up our bags, it's now our turn to head towards the airport so that we can catch our return flight at 4:35pm via AK853. As we weaved through the crowded city streets of Phnom Penh, we took our last pictures of the capital city.

The streets of Phnom Penh are clogged with motorcycles

A picture of the Cambodian King outside a government ministry

We arrived at the airport about 2:30pm in the afternoon, the supposedly 6km journey taking more than 45 minutes to complete. The international airport is a small place, no where in size to KLIA, we didn't take long to find the Air Asia check in counter.

Air Asia's counter at the airport

Three VERY LONG lines had formed in front of the counters. It appeared that most of the people standing in line were Cambodians. From the looks of it, Er suspected that they were probably Cambodians coming to Malaysia to work as domestic help. Wei Han thought they were exchange students'. I was more inclined to agree with Er.
On reaching the counter, I was somewhat dismayed to find out that my bag was 5kg 'overweight', which normally entails me to fork out USD5 for every 1 kg of extra weight pass 15kg! Fortunately, the check in attendant was nice enough to accommadate the additional weight by lumping it up with my other travellers. Whew! ;) Here is also where they will take back your departure card.
After that, some of us went over to the foreign exchange counter to convert their greenbacks to our humble Malaysian ringgits, a little too soon though because they completely neglected the fact that they still had to pay the USD25 Airport Tax at the 'Passenger Service Tax' counter located right opposite the forex!
Paying the tax entitles you to have a sticker placed onto the reverse side of your boarding pass, which airport security will inspect before letting you pass for immigration processing.
There are no bargains to be found at the duty free shops here. There was also nothing to buy from the two restaurants located near our departure gate. ALL the food offered were way overpriced even by Malaysian standards.
Unfortunately, our 'escape' from Cambodia was delayed. We had to spend an additional 2 hours at the airport terminal waiting for our 'missing' plane. During this time, I dished out my deck of playing cards and played 'Chor Tai Tee'. I also took one LAST picture with my 'I survived Cambodia' T-shirt prior to boarding the plane when it FINALLY arrived.

One last round of Chor Tai Tee!

I SURVIVED Cambodia!

The flight home lasted 2 hours, touching down in Malaysia at close to 10:00pm. One of our member checked his handphone bill tally and was aghasted to have incurred a horrifying bill of over RM1000! I myself incurred RM618 despite hardly making calls out (except during in the frenzy immediately after the accident) and only receiving calls from Malaysia.

My meal on the AirAsia flight. Notice how mouth watering the photo is compared with the REAL fare?

Going through immigration and snatching up a few bottles of liquer for my cousin's future wedding in September, we all hopped into a van we rented from the airport taxi services.
Not taking any risks, NONE of us offered to sit in the front passenger seat despite the fact that the driver's steering wheel is at the PROPER side (much to the puzzlement of the driver). One final very late night dinner later, we were all off for home, I offering my ride to send everyone home.

Happy to be back!

Nothing but good old Hokkien mee to remind us that we are HOME!

At close to 1:30am, I finally reached home. Safe and sound. :)
Overall I felt the Cambodia trip was marginal at best. Phnom Penh was boring with the ruins of Angkor the only thing worth seeing in the whole country. Food prices were unexpectedly high especially when you convert all those seemingly small denominations of USDs to Malaysian ringgit and the people have the tendency to 'extract' as much cash from you as they can. Coupled with the completely unwelcomed ACCIDENT on the second day, there will be NO more Cambodia visits for me, at least in the foreseeable future. :p
To all you propecting Cambodia explorers, a few words of advice...

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