An email written in Jan. 9, 2006:
An email written on Jan. 20, 2006:
Dear Ai Lin,
How are you ? How’s your thesis coming along ?
I’ve had 2 weeks in Hong Kong and Cambodia (Dec. 30/31 to Jan. 13). You may go to :
http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/kinyip2000/my_photos and then click on the "Cambodia" folder to see my new Cambodian pictures. Not the greatest photos but it’s realistic as it’s taken by myself ! Yahoo doesn’t allow you to see the full resolution but it doesn’t delete my stuff and I pay nothing.
I’ve walked a lot and in order to experience the life of those people there, I’ve taken motorbikes (except during a night by taxi), ie. sitting at the backseat of the motorbike. At the beginning, I felt quite insecure and unstable and I had to grab tightly at the driver (on his shoulders) so that I wouldn’t fall off. All my plan beforehand paid
off … Eg. I knew how much I needed to pay for the trip and sometimes even if the motorbike driver argued with me, I just walked away (eg. at the airport )…..
It’s actually to my advantage not to negotiate a price before getting on those motorbikes. Because when I arrived at the destination (hotel, airport, etc.), I just gave them the amount of money that I thought was right. The websites/tourist guides say that if you try to ask them for a price, they’d think that they don’t know how things work and would try to rip you off. But contrary to what has been said, the drivers have always asked me for more ! But since I have arrived there (the service was done), I was at a advantage. Because I could walk away quickly … The most significant dispute was the Siem Reap airport but at the end I said "I was already here" … not sure whether he understood what I meant but I just quickly walked/ran into the airport restricted area. There was nothing the driver could do. He didn’t even know my name.
This probably won’t work in Mainland China — or I may get myself killed. Cambodia is probably safer than Mainland China
The smarter drivers (in Cambodia) actually asked me how much I’d pay and fixed a price before the journey.
The difference was only that I paid US$2 and they wanted $3. But I don’t think I should be too shameful as tourists have been ripped off all the time in most occassions….. And I’ve enjoyed being able to bargain hard and act nasty. It’s just part of the "fun" in travelling in developing countries 🙂
As in many other places, the drivers have always tried many ways to earn money from you, by asking you to take their ride for an entire day (actually not a bad idea but I chose not to), sending you to hotels/restaurants that they would get kick-back etc. After I told them steadfastly that I had my own plan, sometimes they finally resorted to "pity" — he needed to take care of his wife, children, mother etc. But I showed no sympathy to them.
No matter where I go, even in the smallest (looking like non-tourist) local shops, there would be a way to communicate (~English).
Actually, one of the most interesting visits was in the Toul Sleng Museum (S-21 which was like a concentration camp) in Phnom Penh where the Khmer Rouge (the notorious Communist army in Cambodia supported by various countries at various times, and China all along) tortured the educated people (teachers, engineers, etc. ) under the leadership of Pol Pot. Hundreds of thousands were sent to be executed in the famous "killing field" (outside the city). No tourists could feel cheerful in that visit.
I’m probably one of the very few who haven’t been stunned by the Angkor temples (near Siem Reap) … mostly because they’re more of ruins … Actually, it reminded me strongly of the Himayun’s Tomb in New Delhi, India, and the scale is probably comparable to Angkor Wat (ranked no. 1 in the Angkor temple area). The religion kind of comes from India anyway (Hinduism => Buddhism).
There are also no shortage of local translators to Japanese, Korean, English, French … more so than other places that I’ve visited. Maybe, people probably find US$20 a day cheap for a guide … I never bother.