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Phnom Penh - Floating Island Guesthouse sucks sucks sucks


View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a big city with some charm but not too much to do. We spent 2 short sejourns in the city, as I had to get my China visa. We were meaning to do 2 days then 2 days, but cut the first stay short short because of a bad experience with the guest house we stayed at. That ended up being for the best, as it allowed it an extra day in Siam Reap (I needed to be back Friday to pick up the passport from the consulate, otherwise we'd have stayed at the fancy hotel even more than 3 days).

Basically it was an ok budget place, but the staff was extremely rude. When we were looking at the place we were told there was wireless internet and hot showers. There was no internet (he told us that night that it's available until 8pm, and the next morning he said it's at a place down the street), and I took a cold shower - Sue only got hot water after asking reception to turn it on. Later on I asked how to get to the China embassy. The guy that runs the place said it's about 5km away. I asked how much transport should cost. He said another guy working there can take me there for $5. I asked if it's available for cheaper, he said no. I then consulted my guide book, as of 2006 it was 50 cents. I asked him about that, he got mad and screamed "you walk then!". One of the guests, a Frenchman, joined in and said there's no way I'll pay less than $5. We left, and after a bit of negociation we paid $1 to someone outside. When we came back, we filled our water bottle at the water cooler, and the same guy says something like "What? You can't afford to buy water??". So we check out after 1 night instead of 2, and go to Siam Reap. Part of the reason this was so upsetting was that people running guest houses are generally extremely friendly (this is our first negative experience in 6 months of budget travel), and this place was recommended by our travel guide. Also this place cost $3.50/night, so the amount he wanted to overcharge on taxi was more than one night's stay.

Anyway, the bus from Laos broke down a couple times (blew a tire), allowing us get out and see the landscape a bit better. The bus was pretty good, a karaoke bus with 20 white people and 2 Lao people. A quarter of the time they were showing a Michael Jackson DVD, and the rest of the time one of the Laos guys was singing along to Lao music.
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Posted by chrisvasil 07:21 Archived in Cambodia Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Krakow - living in luxury in Poland

sunny 27 °C
View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

First off - our place in Krakow was amazing. A Sodispar Apartment Hotel, in the old walled town about 30 sec walk to the town square, with kitchen, laundry, 12 foot ceilings, and huge room. All for 37 Euros. The manager was great too - offered very early checkin and late checkout for no extra charge - we were there 8am to 10pm on one day's fees. Only complaint about the place - the office is 1km away from the old town, so I was cursing them a bit between the train station, the office, and the hotel. Here's the entrance (not really lobby, more of a hallway to a clothing and crafts store. The company's apts are scattered between buildings in the area)
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The square is filled with people hawking handicrafts and souvenirs - a bit touristy, but some of the things were nice.
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We passed by this fountain and the barbican at least a dozen times between the old and new towns. It's a good one - and the wall around the old town is surrounded by greenspace, so it's very parklike.
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A war monument. Europe has a lot of those. Travelling here it's amazing how WWI and especially WWII left a toll on the cityscape and psyche on each part of the continent.
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Krakow castle. The coolest was a museum of war things -
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Posted by chrisvasil 12:35 Archived in Poland Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Bush camp in Jordan desert; Flogging a dead horse

sunny 38 °C

After a day of driving we settled into a bush camp. A bush camp involves just camping outside without facilities - no showers and the washrooms are defined as 'girls on this side, boys on that side, use the shovel to bury anything solid'.
Here is the timeline on a particularly eventful bush camp day:

5pm - almost there; help push truck after it got stuck in the sand; walk a few minutes to join the truck at the site
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5:30 - it's windy and looks like a cold night (even though it was around 40 Celsius during the day); decide to set up a tent. Notice afterward that it's still windy.
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6:30 - someone found a spent mortar shell in the distance. He'll be taking it home and adding it to his trophy case. Removed the detonator as that would make it likely to be taken at customs or airport security.
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7 - playing soccer barefoot. Using very small nets so that no one gets tempted to kick too hard, especially given the wind. I realize what I had forgotten since high school: I'm terrible when I have the ball, but I'm not bad on defense. I sub out after under an hour as a result of having gotten and burst a blister, and now having a big flap of skin (1.5x1 inches) hanging off the ball of my foot; clean, disinfect, and bandage it.
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During soccer, some folks were playing Twister.
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830 - someone saw what seems to be a camel in the distance. We go to it, it's a dead horse. Clearly it's been dead awhile - it barely smells and when someone dropped a pebble on it the sound was like a drum - the skin is now tightly bound leather. It looks like this horse died during childbirth.
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900 - we eat hamburgers tonight, probably the least healthy meal of the trip.
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10pm - a few of the guys can play guitar, one of the guys brought a guitar, so we're crowding around him singing favorites of the 90s mostly. Oasis, Green Day, that type of thing...
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11pm - pretty much everyone is asleep. Some can still be heard near the truck by those that aren't sleeping. One bangs drums outside peoples' tents and sleeping mats, I'm fortunate enough not to hear it.

Posted by chrisvasil 05:24 Archived in Jordan Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Overland tour begins

sunny 30 °C
View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

Today begins our tour of Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt by overland truck. To our surprise (and the guide's) the truck is nearly full, 18 people now and 23 by the time we get to Egypt. It should be fun though - the people there are mostly 20-somethings, either students or otherwise off work, mostly have traveled a lot, and were generally motivated to take this form of travel because it's the cheapest. So all in all it should be good.

This is the truck we'll be living out of,

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The tent on the right will be our home for about half of the next 5 weeks.

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Posted by chrisvasil 15:10 Archived in Turkey Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Istanbul Hotels

sunny 32 °C
View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

We are booked for 2 nights at Hotel Agan, a smallish hotel (5 stories, 4 rooms per floor I think) in a district (Sirkeci) full of hotels, close to all of the tourist attractions (near Spice Bazaar, within 2km of everything), but somehow not too overrun by tourists. Perhaps this is because out of the many, many similar hotels in the area this is the only one on any travel website (we booked through Orbitz for USD50 per night).

The first night it was overbooked and we were transferred to another hotel, Hotel Esen, which was awesome! After walking up 5 flights of stairs with our bags, we got to our room and found a magnificant view of the sea, bridges, and the other side of Istanbul.

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We only booked 2 of 3 nights because our tour leaves at 8AM from a Hostel 1km away in Sultanahmet. So last night we walked there to consider booking a hostel, to be right there when our tour is leaving, and to maybe also save money. The area is loud and full of college kids at bars and pubs (Turkey being largely Muslim, the local culture doesn't really involve drinking and so the bars generally cater to tourists) which didn't really appeal to us. A hostel would have been a bit cheaper than our hotel room (which they said would be 40EUR = 55USD for the third night), but we decided to stay where we were.

Also when we asked Hotel Esen the cost to stay an extra night (We stayed in room 502; rooms 302,402,502,602 should have the same view, x03 almost as good, there are 3 single beds in 502), they said 35EUR. We preferred that hotel but didn't want to move again up 5 flights of stairs so we didn't go back. I told the guy at this Agan they said 30EUR by mistake, I hope the guy at Esen didn't get in trouble....

Here is the contact for Esen, which was great. The rate on Otel.com is 45EUR, but they said the rate is 35EUR when I asked for an extra night.

Hotel Esen
40 Orhaniye Cad.
Sirkeci, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel +90 0212 527 89 49
email hotelesen@hotmail.com
they have a website but I had a Do Not Enter screen from my antivirus, so I wouldn't go to it.

Posted by chrisvasil 12:45 Archived in Turkey Tagged lodging Comments (0)

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