A Strong Dollar
Yes I'm folllowing the news in the US, but thankfully it all seems a world away. Or half a world away at least. I assume the madness of the man who would be king (MWWBK) will still be going on when I return. But what I do know is that a strong dollar is good for those traveling abroad. And here in Cambodia, the dollar is king.
When I landed in Phnom Penh, I hit the ATM at the airport and it gave me dollars. Not riels. Which annoyed me a first. I've got plenty of dollars. But it was useful since I needed dollars to pay for my visa. Afterwards, I hit the currency exchange. $130 is equal to 490,000 riels. Their largest currency is 20,000 riels. Which is about $5. So I had a wad of riels that could barely fit into my wallet. And I definitely didn't need them. Everything here is in dollars. Tuk-tuk rides, museum entrance, rooftop cocktails, you name it. Even in the markets. It's just insane. Of course, I ended up paying a lot of my stuff in riels since I needed to use the currency I had, but I'm not going to get anymore.
After my soul crushing day at the genocide museum and the killing fields, I hit another rooftop bar and then found a place for dinner. I'm still jetlagged, so I'm not really going out much. And that's okay. While I'm very popular on the gay "social networking apps", I'm afraid the interest isn't mutual. Plus I'm saving myself for my future Australian husband, Aiden. Or Jack from New Zealand.
My last day in Phnom Penh, I hit the Russian Market. It's apparently run/owned by the Russians, but all of the shopkeepers looked Cambodian to me. I was on a mission for a suitcase lock, a pair for shorts, and a linen shirt. I scored on the lock and the shorts. Not so much the shirt. Overall I think I've done a fair job packing for this 8 week trip. It's the hiking in New Zealand that's thrown a wrench in my wardrobe planning as I need some cold weather clothes. Otherwise it would all be shorts and t-shirts. BTW, I have no idea how the backpackers do it. I've got my big rolling duffle, my backpack, and my CPAP machine. Oh, that's right, they are young and healthy and don't mind smelling. With some of the low cost airlines I'm flying, my checked luggage has to be less than 22kg. Or 44 pounds. When I left Bangkok, I was at 18.5kg. So I'm good for now.
After the market I went to Wat Phnom which is the major temple in Phnom Penh. It's on this man-made hill in the center of town and as you climb up the smell of incense is over powering. But it was interesting to walk around and check out the temple and see the hundreds of Buddhas. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel for a traditional Khmer dry massage which was interesting. And then another rooftop bar for drinks and dinner.
Today, I took the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Rep which is the city just outside of Angkor Wat. The bus ride was fine, but long. 6 hours. Having said that, it was cheap, $15. Oh, back to money. So I developed a very detailed, some may say anal, plan for my trip to include flights, hotels, tours, etc and I even had a budget that included per diem for my expenses. I'm a little over my budget mainly because I didn't include all of the transportation costs associated with being in a foreign city. Taxi and tuk-tucks cost money and they see me (white, blond, well blond-ish) and so I'm sure I'm getting gouged as compared to the natives. But oh well. Since none of the signs are in the Roman alphabet, I'm sort of at their mercy. It's not a big deal. But just something to think about in the future when I do my next big trip. Tomorrow I'm doing sunrise at Angkor Wat!