Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vietnam, Cambodia upgrade two border gates

Two border gates in the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang and the Cambodian province of Kampot will be upgraded to become national border gates.

The People’s Committee of Kien Giang province and the Administrative Committee of Kampot province held a ceremony on May 29 to launch the work for Giang Thanh border gate of Kien Giang and Ton Hon border gate of Kampot. They also inaugurated border landmark No 302.

These efforts aim to satisfy the daily needs of people from both countries and give a new impetus to bilateral trade and import-export activities.

Apart from the Giang Thanh border gate, Kien Giang province also has another border gate at Ha Tien, which has become one of the busiest international border gates in the Mekong Delta region over the past three years. Exports through this border gate reached nearly US$30 million in the first five months of this year, an annual rise of 30 percent.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

South Korean man charged over Cambodian marriage fraud

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian court on Tuesday charged a South Korean man with falsifying official documents as part of an alleged scheme to broker marriages between Cambodian women and South Korean men, national media reported Wednesday.

   Police arrested Lee Kyung Jun, 40, Monday in Phnom Penh after another South Korean man accused him of supplying false marriage certificates, the Cambodian Daily reported.

   An Interior Ministry official said Lee was accused of supplying at least 14 false marriage certificates to the man, who owns a marriage agency, at a cost of 500 dollars per person.

   The official said the certificates carried the signature of a provincial administrator but were proven to be falsified after the recipient checked their authenticity with the administrator.

   The ministry did not say whether the complainant's marriage service was a legal business.

   Lee was detained by the Interior Ministry while officials decided whether to release him on bail.

   The government in November enforced a temporary ban on marriages between Cambodians and foreigners after an International Organization for Migration report claimed a high number of local women were being married to South Korean men through illegal agencies.

   The ban was lifted in January.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

China provides preferential loan for Cambodia's road development

  PHNOM PENH, May 19 (Xinhua ) -- China on Tuesday provided about 73 million U.S. dollars of a concessional loan to Cambodia to build a part of main road in the northeastern part of the country to develop that area into a newly potential economic zone.

    The fund will be used for building a 121km-long road, a part of national road 78 from Stung Treng province to Ratanakiri province, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Economics and Finance.

    The road will be used for border-crossing trade activities, transport, and tourism with the neighboring countries in the framework of triangle development in the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS), Keat Chhon, deputy prime minister and minister of economics and finance, said at the signing ceremony with Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

    The project will be contributed to integrate the internal road system in the country and linking the road to regional road networks, he said, adding that it will connect the northeastern part of the country with central Vietnam.

    The road is a blood vessel for northeastern areas, Keat Chhon said. He also thanked the Chinese government for its persistent support to Cambodia's social and economic development.

    Ambassador Zhang expressed confidence that the road will be sure to help the poverty reduction in Cambodia's northeastern area and to play an important role in promoting the economic development there.

German Jens Joester found floating in Cambodian river

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police on Monday found the body of a 26-year-old German man floating in river, local media reported Tuesday.

   Police said Jens Joester had been missing since Saturday and was found under a bridge in the southern resort town of Kampot, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

   Police suspected the Joester died as a result of a fall and said they found no signs of foul play.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Flu fears, rains buoy Cambodia rat exports to Vietnam

By Ek Madra

CHREY THOM, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - Stir-fried or grilled, Vietnamese can't seem to get enough of Cambodian rat meat, and the global influenza outbreak as well as recent heavy rains have proven a boon for both consumers and exporters.

In Chrey Thom, a Cambodian town on the border with Vietnam, motorbike after motorbike carries wooden cages full of hundreds of the plump, furry, brown rats.

The rains in the Mekong Delta area have helped boost the Cambodian trappers' catch, as more rats rush out from their flooded holes and into waiting cages.

"There were so many rodents we just can't eat them all, so we need to export lots more to Vietnam," Cambodian rat trader Kang Chanthan told Reuters. "It's good business."

"If you prepare them well and fry the meat with garlic and put some mint on it, they're tastier than chickens," he added.

Worries about swine flu, as the H1N1 influenza virus was first called, may have also spurred demand. The spread of H1N1 flu was not caused by pigs and pork, but many people and governments have reacted to the name.

"Rat meat substitutes well for pork these days," said Khe Le, adding that her family exported up to a tonne of live rats across the border on good days.

Rat meat was eaten in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and for some time afterwards when little else was available. The poor took to rat meat last year when the price of other meat soared, but younger Cambodians tend to avoid it.

In Vietnam, rat meat is something of a delicacy.

Online Vietnamese newspaper, VietNamNet Bridge, said more than 35 tonnes of rat meat a day was imported from Cambodia.

Cambodian officials said they did not keep records of this aspect of bilateral trade but reckoned the figure was realistic.

"The high season for catching rats has returned for the farmers in my district, where I see several thousand kilos of live rats transported every day to Vietnam," said Ly Marong, an agriculture official in Koh Thom district on the border.

Live rats sold for $1 per kilo and dead ones -- used for feeding crocodiles in Vietnam -- went for $0.37, officials said.

"Some rats are as big as piglets, 2 kilos, and that has intrigued the Vietnamese. They see them as wild animals and they find them tasty," Marong said.

Bun Tuon Simona, a Cambodian official in the southern province of Kandal, said the Vietnamese appetite for rat meat has helped a government campaign to get rid of the rodents that were destroying rice fields.

"Before, we rewarded farmers with milled rice in exchange for a rat's tail after they killed one. Now it's not a problem. They catch the rat and can sell it to make some money on top of what they get from farming," he said.

Cambodian farmer Chan Pakdeiratha, whose family has rather taken to the meat, said the rats gave birth three times a month and had about 15 babies each time.

"If we don't catch them this year, they'll destroy our crops next harvest," he said.

(Additional reporting by Lach Chantha and Chor Sokunthea)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Visitors to Cambodia down

The number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia dropped in the first quarter of 2009 as the global economic crisis cuts the number of people travelling.

Visitors from South Korea and Japan are down sharply.

Presenter: Robert Carmichael
Speakers: Ell Lavy, Siem Reap tuk tuk driver; Dr Thong Khon, Cambodian Minister for Tourism
Listen: Windows Media
CARMICHAEL: Leave the famous jungle temple - known as Ta Phrom - outside Cambodia's tourism capital of Siem Reap and - as you can hear - you are surrounded by vendors selling cold drinks, musical instruments and postcards. Cambodia has relied for a decade on the expanding tourist trade as one of its pillars for economic growth. A record 2.1 million people visited the country last year.

So the news that tourism numbers have dropped in the first quarter of 2009 from the same period last year is not good. Overall the number is down just three and a half percent to 622,000 which is better than the government had feared. But the headline figure tells only one part of the story. Tourists from richer countries such as Japan and South Korea have dropped by a third, with short-term visitors from neighbouring Vietnam making up the numbers.

And that is why tourism worker Ell Lavy - a 25-year-old driver of a motorised rickshaw around the temples of Angkor Wat - has seen his monthly earnings drop from one hundred US dollars to just seventy. Previously he would get two or three tourists a week - now he is lucky to have one.

LAVY: You know last year when I recommend them to another place they say no problem for them. But this year when I invite them to somewhere they say they that no - they have no money to pay everything. [CARMICHAEL: So you have noticed they are spending less money, and there are less tourists?] Yes, less tourists also.

CARMICHAEL: Government figures show the number of visitors from South Korea and Japan, which last year provided the largest and third-largest number of foreign visitors respectively, dropped by one-third to around 100,000 in the first quarter of this year.

Gregory Anderson is the general manager of the upmarket Le Meridien Angkor hotel in Siem Reap. He has noticed there are fewer Japanese tourists in town, and says occupancy rates are down 20 percent for Siem Reap's upmarket hotels. He blames the global economic situation, as well as political volatility in Thailand and an ongoing border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

So in the face of lower spending on travel and tourism in the current global downturn, what can Cambodia do to boost visitor numbers? Tourism Minister Dr Thong Khon says he is targeting countries that are less affected by the global slump. And he is optimistic that 2009 could yet prove better than last year. But he says Cambodia is not helped by problems in Thailand.

KHON: Because you know Thailand is a main gate to Cambodia. Thirty three percent of total arrivals to Cambodia come from Thailand by air, by water, by land. When Thailand is affected, so it affects Cambodia too.

CARMICHAEL: To minimize that problem, the ministry is trying to boost short-haul flights from within the ten-member ASEAN nation and China, Japan and South Korea. Cambodia has already scrapped visa requirements for nationals within a number of ASEAN states. And he says the private sector must work to make the country more attractive - including using discounts for hotels and restaurants.

But making Cambodia more attractive isn't helped by the trickle of reported crimes against foreign tourists, some of them serious. The most high-profile was that a friend of Britain's Princess Eugenie had her handbag stolen in Phnom Penh recently. What does he think of the incident?

KHON: In Cambodia the whole country is completely safe and secure. But the thing that happened is not everywhere. Sometimes like this or like that. But the case of the princess - we checked with the police, we checked everywhere - they have no information. If the case really happened, why did they not report it to the police?

CARMICHAEL: Dr Thong Khon says the global crisis has seen Cambodia downgrade its estimate of tourist arrivals for 2015 by around one-fifth to 4 million visitors. So what message will he take to the region to try and boost visitor numbers?

KHON: Many tourists come to stay in home-stay, in the countryside, on some islands, for one month, for two weeks with the family. From Scandinavia, from Australia. They come from everywhere. No problem. Come. Come to stay in Cambodia.

No sand crisis after Cambodia bans exports

CAMBODIA’S abrupt ban on sand exports is hitting some local building material suppliers hard, but construction companies are expected to emerge relatively unscathed from the sudden embargo.

The country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a total ban on the export of sand last Friday, citing the detrimental effect of sand dredging on the kingdom’s rivers and marine areas.

The move mirrors Indonesia’s 2007 overnight ban on sand exports, which caused a ’sand crisis’ in Singapore given its heavy reliance on sand for construction and land reclamation.

The ban saw raw material costs rocket on the back of a booming property market, pushing up concrete prices from $70 to $200 per cubic metre in the months after the ban. Sand is used along with granite to make concrete, which is used extensively in local construction.

At the time of the Indonesian ban, contractors faced huge losses, with fixed contracts forcing them to absorb the price increases. However, since the 2007 crisis, the building industry has diversified its sand supply lines, making the latest ban less likely to hit Singapore, say experts.

Dr Sujit Ghosh, president of the Ready Mixed Concrete Association, estimates that less than 20 per cent of Singapore’s current supply comes from Cambodia.

‘We’ve not seen a big impact as our sources now are quite diversified,’ said Dr Ghosh, who is also chief executive of cement firm Holcim Singapore.

In the aftermath of the Indonesian crisis, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) relaxed rules to allow quarry dust to be used as a sand substitute. Quarry dust, imported from Malaysia and Indonesia, is a by-product of the production of concrete aggregates and created during the crushing of rocks, he added.

Such moves mean that building contractors here are likely to lose little sleep over Cambodia’s ban. When contacted, the BCA told The Straits Times that the construction industry no longer imported ‘concreting sand’ from Cambodia.

‘As for reclamation sand, we import it through private contractors who source from various countries, not just Cambodia. Hence, we do not expect this sand ban to have a major impact on our existing projects,’ added the BCA.

But sand suppliers are feeling the brunt of the ban.

Local sand supplier Anthony Seet, who declined to disclose the name of his company, told The Straits Times that the firm’s operations had to shut down overnight because most of its supplies were Cambodian.

Mr Seet, who entered the sand supply business following the 2007 Indonesian ban, when demand for the raw material was booming, added: ‘We won’t do anything illegal, so we’ve stopped our business. We’ll start looking for other sources soon.’

Ms Linda Teo, who works for another supplier, said it was business as usual given that her employer relied on various sources, including those based in Myanmar.

Recent reports in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Post – which cite Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore as major destinations for Cambodia’s sand barges – claim that sand dredging frequently causes riverbanks and houses to collapse along the Mekong River and Tonle Bassac River.

Despite the ban, an official based in the south-western province of Koh Kong said companies were still dredging sand, but had postponed exports.

They were said to be waiting for government experts to assess the dredging sites for environmental damage.

However, local boatmen said ships were transporting sand for onward export regardless.

A spokesman from the Singapore Contractors Association told The Straits Times that contractors were still being offered supplies of sand from Cambodia.

The association does not expect an ‘immediate increase in prices as we are getting supply from various nearby countries’, it said.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Trade Ministry is reportedly re-thinking its continuing 2007 ban on the export of sand to Singapore.


‘We won’t do anything illegal, so we’ve stopped our business. We’ll start looking for other sources soon.’ – Local sand supplier Anthony See

Source : Straits Times – 14 May 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

RoK's largest bank launches in Cambodia

Phnom Penh May 09, May 09, 2009 (Asia Pulse) --Kookmin Bank, the biggest lender in the Republic of Korea (RoK), opens first outlet in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to boost regional presence, a local newspaper said on May 9.

"Kookmin Bank Cambodia is the fifth commercial bank from the RoK [in Cambodia], whose total share capital is 100 percent held by Korean shareholders," Chea Chanto, governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, was quoted by the Phnom Penh post as saying at the launch on May 7.

He added that Kookmin's entrance reflects returning confidence in Cambodia's banking sector among Korean investors.

"We are the lender in Korea, and we plan to extend the unit's customer base from local companies to Cambodian investors by introducing private banking and other retail services," Sohn Young Hwan, senior executive vice president of Kookmin Bank, was quoted as saying.

"We'll focus our loans on small and medium enterprises," he said, adding that Kookmin Bank Cambodia is a joint-venture between Kookmin Bank Korea and Khmer Union Bank of Cambodia, with Kookmin holding a 51-percent stake. The venture was set up in July last year and changed its name to Kookmin Bank Cambodia. The rest of the shares are held by the Republic of Korean manufacturers including KTC Kyung An Cable, Taihan Electric Wire and Posco Engineering and Construction.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

'Flags of convenience' harming Cambodia's image

Written by Kay Kimsong   

MORE and more foreign ships are registering in Cambodia for a fee to avoid taxes in their own countries, but opposition lawmakers say flag of convenience licensing policies damage the Kingdom's reputation, saying that ship owners are smuggling drugs or weapons under the Cambodian flag.

"Registering these ships does not only damage Cambodia's reputation, but it is dangerous if some of those ship operators use Cambodia's flag to commit international crimes," said Sam Rainsy Party member Son Chhay.

There are currently about 1,000 ships registered in Cambodia, according to Seng Lum Nov, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, and global activity of Cambodian-registered appears to be rising.

In 1999, there were 190 port calls  to Japan's island of Hokkaido by vessels registered in Cambodia, which climbed tenfold to 1,900 port calls last year, Kyodo news reported. 

During the same time period, Russian port calls to the island declined from 9,200 to 1,400, even though Russia continues to import much of its marine produce from the port. Kyodo reported.

Lax regulations
Ships are obligated to adhere to the laws of countries in which they are registered. That means that changing the registry to Cambodia, where the laws are relatively lax, could lower safety requirements and wages. 

Japanese media has reported that "aged secondhand ships" are being used.

But Seng Lum Nov says the private company running the flag of convenience licensing in Cambodia has "good experience and working skills in the registration process". 

"Our role is to act like a vehicle checker," he said. 

"We have to make sure that a vehicle or ship is safe and secure. It has to have a pilot and comply with full equipment services... It needs to have radio contact and all of the required ship equipment."

He said that the ships registered in Cambodia were not necessarily Cambodian, but that the Kingdom still has the power to take away their local licences.

He added that the government has revoked licences midway through their registration agreements.

"If they commit a serious infraction, we have the right to withdraw their licence... It is like having a driving licence. If you break the traffic law, you will be arrested," Seng Lum Nov said.

Seng Lum Nov also claimed that Cambodia's flag registration fee was lower than in many developed nations, but it was by no means the world's cheapest, describing the fee as "between cheap and high".

He refused to disclose how much the government has collected in fees, the amount that authorities charge, or the name of the private company that has been contracted to run the flag registration. 

He only said that the company charges a fee based on the size and weight of the ship and then shares that money with the government.

Ship registration had previously been handled by the South Korean-based International Ship Registry of Cambodia (ISROC), which re-launched flag-of-convenience operations in 2003 after it had been suspended amid concerns that the registration process was mismanaged and that Cambodian-flagged ships were being used illegally.

Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker and former head of the committee in charge of transport and communication, said that Russian, Chinese and South Korean ships are using Cambodian flags because they are cheaper and that ships that violate the law are harming Cambodia's international reputation.

"To get a flag from us, it is cheap. If they face problems, it won't damage the reputation of their countries. We need to take more measures to screen these ships and review the policy on flag registration," he told the Post. 

"If there is a shipping accident such as an oil spill or a collision at sea, they will hold Cambodia responsible," said Son Chhay. 

Thailand-Cambodia trade declines by over 25 percent

Written by Nguon Sovan and May Kunmakara   

Global economic crisis blamed for fall in trade with neighbouring Thailand, rather than ongoing border tension over disputed Preah Vihear temples

Workers unload a bag of Siam cement at the Thai company’s warehouse at the Phnom Penh train station in this file photo.
TRADE volume between Cambodia and Thailand dropped by more than a quarter in the first two months of this year, according to the latest statistics from the Thai customs department. A Thai official said that trade was likely to continue to fall, predicting a 30 percent decline for the year.

"In January and February of 2009, Cambodia-Thailand trade volume was worth US$239.8 million - if compared to the same period last year, it dropped 26.24 percent," the Thai customs report said.

Cambodian exports to Thailand amounted to US$7.6 million during January and February, primarily in agricultural products, secondhand garments, fish and recyclable metal, while Thailand's exports to Cambodia - which include petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics - totalled more than $232 million. 

Jiranan Wongmongkol, the director of the Thai embassy's Foreign Trade Promotion Office in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that the economic crisis has reduced consumer demand, and that the border dispute near the Preah Vihear temple complex had nothing to do with the decline in trade.

"The drop is not due to the border dispute, but the global financial crisis that cut consumer demand," she said. "The drop is mainly due to less demand in building materials, consumer products and petroleum," she said.

She forecasted that exports to Cambodia for the whole year would drop by up to "30 percent".

The drop is not due to the border dispute, but the global financial crisis.

Thailand's exports to Cambodia totalled around $2 billion last year, but Jiranan expects that number to fall to just $1.6 billion in 2009.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that Cambodia had not yet tallied the trade figure between Cambodia and Thailand, but said they expected a sharp drop due to the construction slump.
"It is likely that there has been a fall in consumer demand for construction materials," he said.

Taing Bouy Leang, owner of BLT company, a CD and DVD importer, said that people were simply buying less in Cambodia. He said he was importing 40 percent fewer products from Thailand to match a 40 percent decline in sales. 

"In the first quarter of last year, sales were 3,000 to 4,000 cases of compact discs per month - a case contains 1,000 discs," he said. "But for the first three months of this year, our sales are down 40 percent."

Bin Many Mialia, marketing manager at Thai oil company PTT, said Wednesday that PTT petroleum sales to Cambodia in the first quarter of 2009 were similar to the same period in 2008. "I don't think the amount of my petroleum [sold to Cambodia] has dropped even with a border conflict and political unrest in Thailand," he said.

Despite avoiding a decline in 2009, he predicts that sales over the year will fall slightly as Cambodia feels the full impact of the crisis.

Dr. Frazier Rides Cambodia

Dr. Gregory Frazier
Dr. Gregory Frazier
Contributing EditorArticles|RSS

Having made multiple runs across the globe, round-the-world adventurer Dr. Frazier imparts some of his motorcycle traveling wisdom in his monthly Dr. Frazier Rides column.

Thursday, May 07, 2009When a large displacement motorcycle stopped it always attracted a crowd because they were seldom seen in Cambodia.
When a large displacement motorcycle stopped it always attracted a crowd because they were seldom seen in Cambodia.
Dog eye soup, vine entwined jungle temples and warnings about staying on the roads and paths, never stepping off them, spelled adventure not far from the urban jungles of Bangkok. A short airline flight and a hand full of dollars had me adventuring far away from the millions of people, smog and humidity for which Bangkok was infamous. 

Cambodia had a reputation for being underdeveloped while at the same time accommodating to travelers and adventure seekers. The country, with Vietnam on the east, Laos to the north and Thailand to the west, was a cultural mix reflecting the cultures that had marched through over the last 100 years. The French had been there, leaving behind French architecture and cooking. The Vietnamese had occupied Cambodia after the Vietnam War. There was also a strong Chinese link, but the people and language remain 90% Khmer, with roughly 95% of the estimated 13,000,000 residents Buddhists. Khmer is the primary language, with English and French passing if enough people were around to try both. 

Cambodia is slightly smaller in size than the American state of Oklahoma. With 275 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand and 66% of the country forest or woodlands, also known as jungle, there was room for exploring. 

A visa was purchased upon arrival at the border, or airport in Phnom Penh, for $20 US and a passport size photograph. To secure the visa and pass through immigration at the airport took less time than it did for the luggage to be offloaded from the airplane. A 20-minute shuttle ride had me at a central hotel checking in, thankful I did not have to manage the chaos and mania of driving on the main road to the center of the city. 

A motorcycle taxi  also called a tuk-tuk  in Phnom Penh  was waiting for passengers.
A motorcycle taxi, also called a tuk-tuk, in Phnom Penh, was waiting for passengers.
I had come to Cambodia before, both by flying in from Bangkok and overland riding a Thailand-registered motorcycle. This time I took the tourist option of airplane-hotel shuttle-with a hotel reservation. To fly into Phnom Penh was more cost effective than spending the three days of overland travel time and associated costs of riding my own motorcycle, thereby giving me four extra ground days and more funds to explore Cambodia. 

Arriving in Phnom Penh, the first thing I again noticed was the large number of small motorcycles on the road. It was like arriving in Hanoi: thousands of 100-125cc motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic like ants. A good motorcycle guide book, The Ultimate Cambodia Travel Guide (ISBN 978-99950-918-0-4) by motorcyclist/author Matt Jacobson, best described the traffic as follows: 

“Traffic in Cambodia, and especially in Phnom Penh, is crazy and unpredictable, with vehicles and motorcycles coming at you from all directions, including what is supposed to be your lane of traffic. People turn into your lane at full speed without looking for traffic and don’t give a second thought to cutting right out in front of you if they want to drive across the street. There are lanes within lanes, as it’s common practice for people to drive down the street the wrong way.” 

Phnom Penh, with a population of over 1,200,000, was the best entry point for finding a motorcycle to purchase or rent, as well as acclimate to the culture and environment. The town was tourist friendly, sleeping and eating ranging from backpacker lodges to upscale four star hotels. 

A combination motorcycle-bus-trailer was carrying goods and people to the market.
A combination motorcycle-bus-trailer was carrying goods and people to the market.
To get around town there were several inexpensive options versus the seeming foolishness of renting a car. The most numerous were the moto-taxis which were small motorcycles that charged a minimum of $1 to let me ride pillion. I used my own helmet and often prayed as the pilots wove in and out of traffic, sometimes going in the opposite direction on one-way streets and seldom slowing for a stop sign or stop light unless a policeman was directing traffic. 

Surviving a moto-taxi ride in Phnom Penh is an adventure in itself. I tried to tell myself not to worry, the moto-taxi drivers knew what they were doing, but after seeing several accidents that were clearly pilot error and resulted in major pain and suffering for the pillion, I learned to yell at my drivers when I thought they were exceeding my adventure envelope. Twice I made drivers stop, paid them $1 and changed moto-taxis, once because my driver was drunk when he picked me up, and once when I realized my driver very badly needed glasses. 

The next step up for local transport are the tuk-tuks. These are twice as expensive as the moto-taxis, but because they are a small motorcycle pulling a four-seat trailer behind, they are slower and less prone to weave in and out of traffic. 

The least expensive and slowest way to get around the capital of Cambodia was by cyclo  here a broken one and the owner being carried to a repair shop.
The least expensive and slowest way to get around the capital of Cambodia was by cyclo, here a broken one and the owner being carried to a repair shop.
The slowest, cheapest and the safest way to get around town are the rickshaws or cyclos - three-wheel bicycles with the driver in the back, and a two-seat bench in the front. A downside to the cyclo was the driver seldom spoke English or French and unless I knew where I was going and could direct him I would find him aimlessly peddling until I sorted out some destination he knew or some passing moto-taxi driver could suggest to him. 

I allowed three days in Phnom Penh to find a solid motorcycle. There are numerous rental agencies and depending on my mechanical knowledge of the brand, model and luck, it easily took that long to find a rental that could hold up for the time I wanted to use it. Most of the rental motorcycles are in the 250cc range and had come into Cambodia either as parts or well-used motorcycles out of Japan. A majority of the rentals were dual-purpose models that came with few accessories, some without speedometers or electrics that worked. 

The rental agencies required I leave my passport with them as security against loss or damage to the motorcycle, which was a bit unnerving. I made copies of my passport and visa pages before handing over the passport for security. 

2009 was my fourth time renting motorcycles in Cambodia, so I had the advantage of having learned from previous experiences that I needed to bring everything I might need with me because besides the rental motorcycle and rental agreement little else came with it, such as a tool kit or tire repair kit. Several rental motorcycles I looked at did not have ignition keys or fork locks. It was rumored that some rental agencies gave the unknowing renter a padlock to secure the motorcycle which was easily cut or unlocked by the rental agency associates and stolen. 

There were some of the items I learned to bring with me: 

1. My own helmet and riding gear. While some rental agencies had helmets, they were as fragile as eggshells and needed a microwave cleaning. 
2. A large tool and spare parts kit that included tire repair tools, a hand air pump and spare inner tubes. 
3. Bungee cords or tie downs. 
This rental Honda 250 cc Baja was a common rental option. It was about twice as large as the average motorcycle in Cambodia.
This rental Honda 250 cc Baja was a common rental option. It was about twice as large as the average motorcycle in Cambodia.
4. Soft sided bags and a tank bag. 
5. A small handlebar windscreen for longer trips, one that clamped to the handlebars. 
6. A seat pad, later an inflatable one, but minimally a sheep skin with rubber backing. 
7. Helmet lock and chain and lock for the motorcycle. 

I set-up the motorcycle and took a day ride to see what needed adjustment, how much oil it burned, and how it handled both on and off-road. Twice I returned motorcycles to the rental agencies and exchanged them for other models because of either poor running or poor handling. One agency installed a new rear tire, chain and sprockets before I left for a 10-day trip. 

The main roads, while paved, required full attention due to potholes, errant drivers of other vehicles, free roaming animals and breakage. A safe speed was 45-60 mph when the road was wide open and vision good. In villages and towns common sense would slow me down to a speed that was similar to other traffic. 

Once I got away from the larger towns like Siem Reap or Sihanoukkville, eating and sleeping was always an adventure. 
 25.00 would get a clean room near a beach with parking for the motorcycle in the hotel lobby for security for the night.
$25.00 would get a clean room near a beach with parking for the motorcycle in the hotel lobby for security for the night.
A village might have a hotel or guesthouse where someone spoke English, but even when they did not I could negotiate a room or a meal by pointing and using simple hand language. US dollars were accepted everywhere and preferred, however often I would get a hand full of the Cambodian currency (riels) as change. There were few ATMs and although some hotels would take a credit card, there was a service charge for doing so. US dollars, in small denominations ($1, $5, $10 and $20) were the best way to pay the way. Money changers were in larger cities and towns and I usually tried to keep a combination of riels and dollars ready to pay bills. At a restaurant or small hotel pulling out a $100 US bill or travelers check was a way to lose travel time while I had to hunt for a money changer. Sometimes, if I could not pay the fare with US dollars or did not have enough Cambodian riels, the shop, restaurant or gas stop owner would accept Thai baht, but again in smaller denominations. I concluded that someone used to traveling on credit or debit cards was not going to get very far outside of Phnom Penh, maybe less than half a tank of gas, before they realized Cambodia was far different than Oklahoma. 

One of the attractions to Cambodia is the vast network of unpaved roads and tracks, many not shown on maps. Often these would end at a small village where residents would point onward and make an X sign with their hands or arms, meaning either the track ended or it was unsafe due to unexploded ordinance. 

During the wet or rainy season many of these tracks are impassable, with bridges washed out or water running too deep to cross. Returning to the same track during the dry season, six months later, the same bridge would be ten feet above a barely trickling creek. 

The best travel times to Cambodia are November through February. The wettest season is September and October. During the high travel season hotel space is difficult to find in tourist destinations like Siem Ream, where thousands of tourists arrived each day to explore the temples of Angkor. As with hotels, motorcycle rentals are less of a renters market during the high season. 

Internet cafes are plentiful and inexpensive in major tourist destinations, although some of the equipment was old and the speed often slow. Numerous hotels in the major cities offer WIFI for the traveler who wishes to be tethered to the Internet on a daily basis. 
This was a local tire repair shop  quite common to be found operating on streets and sidewalks. Often a flat tire would be patched without removing the wheel from the motorcycle  one advantage of having a small motorcycle.
This was a local tire repair shop, quite common to be found operating on streets and sidewalks. Often a flat tire would be patched without removing the wheel from the motorcycle, one advantage of having a small motorcycle.

My adventures have had some ups and downs. The ups were usually associated with being away from the general tourist flow, off in remote areas, often only reachable by off-road motorcycles or four-wheel drive vehicles. Here I found there were still places on the planet where people were living without electricity or running water, and although poor, were generous with what they had to offer, from help repairing a flat tire to a place to sleep on the floor in their house for the night when no hotels or guesthouses were available. 

Other ups were seeing some of the temples, sometimes overgrown by lush jungle and bush. There were locations where a footpath or small track would bring me to a village or temple setting that could have been out of an Indiana Jones adventure, except these were real with no buttered popcorn smells. 

The downs usually involved failed equipment, traffic or my failing to understand some of the local road etiquette. Once I was waved over at a police check point and asked to produce my papers for myself and the motorcycle. All I could show them for myself were copies of my passport. The senior officer, after consultation with the one who had waved me over, decided I should pay $5 for not having my original passport with me. I spent a hot 20-30 minutes in the 90-degree temperature trying to argue my way out of the ticket, which was my mistake. 

I later learned an average monthly salary for a traffic policeman was around $20 per month, which was close to the average monthly wage of many Cambodian workers. To supplement this meager income to pay for his motorcycle and its maintenance, the policeman was merely taxing those who he thought could afford it. My roadside adventure found me finally caving in and paying the $5 “road tax” after the police threatened to confiscate my rented motorcycle. I learned to carry some small money to pay these taxes in the future after the local motorcycle expats enlightened me to how the system worked. I reminded myself it was not much different from how I had been “taxed” by a policeman for speeding in Florida some years before after having passed a hidden slower speed limit sign. 

Globalization was creeping into Cambodia  typified here by a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant opened in 2009. Pizza Hut was not far behind.
Globalization was creeping into Cambodia, typified here by a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant opened in 2009. Pizza Hut was not far behind.
Likely I will return to Cambodia. To see how one of my earlier travels there found me touristing you can read “Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters – Cambodia. ” The country still had not become so globalized that Mickey D had planted golden arches, and it was challenging enough to be more than a credit card tourist adventure destination. A $15-$20 per day motorcycle rental, hotel rooms that were clean and air conditioned for $20 - $30 per night, and food, swill and chill averaging a comfortable $100 per day made the time one of the more economical adventure packages I could put together for two to three weeks. I was able to explore some memorable places, well away from crowds and loud pipes saving lives, test my personal adventure envelope and meet some very interesting people seeking the same. 

Cambodia was not the end of the earth for motorcycle adventure, but it was a nice adventure towards that end.
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