Festival in Bangkok central park sets splendid standard

img_3990Having reported on and attended in other capacities an incalculable number of parades, festivals, street fairs and similar special events, I have become rather jaded about them.

But the 2017 Thailand Tourist Festival —  which this year apparently replaced a celebrations of the Lunar New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown in tribute to the memory of the late king — blew me away.  By changing the focus, the government felt able to respect the year-long mourning period since his death last fall.

img_3886The event in the city’s centrally situated Lumphini Park took place from last Wednesday through Sunday.  It was a triumph of organization, diversions and civilized crowds of almost impenetrable size on the weekend, somewhat less thronged before then.  I was there on three days.

The organizers had divided the space according to five of the country’s regions, plus a section devoted to China.

I very much enjoyed Continue reading

Much in the capital city eludes the physically challenged

One of my neighbors moved here from Sweden to work.  That he need to use a wheelchair in Cambodia, where there is little accommodation to individuals who cannot walk as well as able-bodied individuals, does not seem to faze him.

When I asked him about life in Phnom Penh for folks like him, he told me that he managed pretty well.  Of course, managing means that he Continue reading

A devil lurks in the details of ‘hidden’ Airbnb charges

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With this seemingly outdated map, Airbnb boasts of 2,000,000-plus listings worldwide. (Source: Airbnb)

7 easy steps that might save you money when using Airbnb

When I wanted to book an apartment via Airbnb for a forthcoming month-long visit to Bangkok recently, both the so-called host and I were mystified by a discrepancy between the price that was displayed in the listing and the higher price that he showed as the rate.

Including the company’s service fee, the listed total was significantly lower than the discounted price that he nicely offered me.  Both of us tried to learn why from at least two inquiries that he made and email inquiries that I sent to Airbnb.  Currency seems to be a major part of the solution to the mystery.

Only by clicking on the company’s “help” tab did I discover how important it would have been to Continue reading

Almost everything they say about Japan turns to be true

img_1780When we went to Japan last month on a whim motivated by an uncommonly cheap air fare ($300 round trip from Cambodia), I imagined the experience would be pretty much as reputed.

The country would be clean, the crowds orderly, the trains always on time, the cities exhilarating, the history temples and shrines impressive, English rarely spoken, prices high and gardens gorgeous to the extreme.  (Many more photos on Facebook.)

I was not disappointed.

“Clean” doesn’t begin to describe the contrasts between most of the rest of the world and everywhere we visited over three weeks — in order, Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone (to view Mt. Fuji), Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama and Matsumoto.  “Immaculate” is more to the point.

There wasn’t a shred of litter on the streets or in the subway or train stations, though maybe I have figured out how that could be the case in view of the rarity of trash receptacles on sidewalks and elsewhere.

One explanation may be that Continue reading

Not the worst, but friends’ travel ordeal nears extreme

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Up, up and away doesn’t quite describe my friends’ vacation saga.

Pat and Sandy much enjoyed their recent cruise, and then began their problems.  They didn’t suffer a hijacking or a deadly crash, but suffer they did on their way home to Australia from the Baltic states and the final leg of their cruise.

On their cruise to Amsterdam from Norway, the weather was bad and the sea so rough that the ship had to divert to Rotterdam.  So far, not so bad.  So far.
 
Wth minimal editing on my part, Pat gives the following account in a jet-lagged e-mail written in the middle of the night of one disastrous event after another, thankfully none involving violence:
 
Luckily, the ship supplied buses to the terminal in Amsterdam, but we lost nearly a whole day in Amsterdam.

Continue reading

Waterfall is worth bad roads, traffic and a tough climb

Cambodia’s roads are notoriously crowded, generally poorly maintained and dangerous.  That is why I have started to avoid riding on them for trips of any distance.

However, when I saw on my Facebook page an invitation to join an excursion to Chhreav Mountain Waterfall that was supposed to involve only two hours on a bus, the temptation to enjoy the hike, swim and companionship of some 30 other folks proved to be compelling.

Mai Channeang — who runs a transportation service that schedules Sunday tours every two weeks from Phnom Penh to outlying attractions — wrote that the site is in Kampong Speu Province, on the border between Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces 150 kilometers (93 miles) away.  It is in Thpong district.

I had been on another one of his tours, and I was impressed with how well organized and diverting it was.  Including a typical Cambodian lunch, transportation and Mai’s assistance, the $20 fee was a good deal.  The hike to the waterfall sounded like particular fun.  When I mentioned the waterfall to several Cambodian friends, none had heard of it, making the modest adventure all the more appealing.

(Mai has scheduled another excursion there at the end of this month.)

Unfortunately, we got off to a bad start not long after we departed a few minutes after 8:30 a.m.  Fifteen minutes later, we ran into a traffic jam fairly close to the center of Phnom Penh, and we were pretty much at a standstill for something like an hour. Continue reading

Travel continues to infiltrate my blog about Cambodia

Written years ago, the focus of my blog as expressed at the top continues to be true: “Reflections on Living in Another World.”

Although you may have noted a sprinkling of posts that are more about my travel experiences than my perspectives on Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, rest assured that I don’t see this blog as merely or mostly a travel blog.

Yet it occurs to me as I write that maybe you’d prefer more travel and less of my observations about the country where I have made my home since the end of 2013.  If so, you’ll be particularly pleased over the next several weeks.  Indeed, I may find it hard to avoid commenting on aspects of the wider world as I spend increasing amounts of time outside Cambodia in satisfaction of the travel bug that afflicts me.  Nor will I abandon trips worth describing when I make my way around the country.

That said, I am unable to Continue reading