There is a wave of electricity bills increase in Cambodia right now. First it was the tiny Province of Kep, where increases jumped suddenly in April to 8%, 40% and even 80% in some hotels, even if there were less guests than last year and the weather was the same. At the time, nearby provinces like Kampot and Sihanok did not experiment such event, so different persons went to complain to Kep Power Supply that blamed the weather. Continue reading
- The Cambodian passport is among of the weakest of the planet. Cambodians can enter freely to only 50 countries.
- The strongest Southeast Asian passport is the one of Brunei, entering 150 countries, 100 more than Cambodia.
- The Cambodian passport is the 5th strongest Southeast Asian passport after Brunei, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. Cambodia wins to Vietnam, Burma and even China.
Henley & Partners puts Cambodia in the 50th place on its visa restriction index for 2014. It means that a Cambodian citizen can enter to just 50 countries of the world without a previous visa. The index is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy. Cambodia wins for one place to Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Madagascar, Nigeria and Turkmenistan, whose citizens don’t need previous visa to enter to 49 countries of the planet, and it is behind for one place to Bhutan, Mongolia and Mozambique that do not need visa for 51 countries. Continue reading
The current intention to explain why tropical countries are poorer than those countries in the temperate zone could touch a big variety of proposals, some of them of arguable position. For example, Jeffrey D. Sachs exposes that tropical regions have low agricultural productivity and the burden of tropical diseases:
“As Sachs sees it, tropical regions face two related major ecological handicaps: low agricultural productivity and a high burden of disease. Tropical soils are typically depleted by the effects of heavy rainfall, for example, and tropical crops are beset by pests and parasites that thrive in hot climates without winter frosts. Similarly, warm climates favor the transmission of many tropical diseases that are borne by insects and bacteria.” (Bloomberg, 2001)
- Taking photos of people on public areas without their consent, can be considered espionage.
If you come to Cambodia to take pictures of other foreigners to support campaigns such as the persecution of sexual offenders, you must know that it is considered espionage and thus it is a crime. Working in any organization to prevent or to persecute offenders, does not entitle you to take photos of persons without their consent. A good mission or a great ideal such as protecting children, does not give you the right to commit another crime that could be also abusive like defaming the name of a person that could be mostly innocent. Taking an illegal picture of a man would make him a suspect of a possible undergoing crime. Only the authorities are entitled to proceed in an investigation that includes the production of photographs, videos or audios of possible suspects. Even like that, authorities should respect the privacy of a possible suspect under the assumption that all persons are innocent until the contrary is not proven. It is especially delicate in Cambodia, because in our judicial system, every suspect is guilty until the contrary is not proven. In our Cambodian judicial system, judges and prosecutors keep as a goal to produce a jail sentence. Several Cambodian prosecution cases would not make a case in Japan, Europe and US, as they do in Cambodia and take any example.
- For Cambodians, nudity in public is indecency and it “damages public order”.
- Even to be topless is seen as irrespective.
- Indecent exposure or making naked photos can be criminalized as pornography and public disorder incitement in Cambodia.
Surely the three Frenchmen arrested for taking pictures of themselves completely naked at Banteay Kdei did not know exactly where they were. Westerns see a natural country like Cambodia and feel a fresh air of freedom, a place where they can do “whatever,” far from their strictly ruled nations. The reality is far from that. We live in a very rural and conservative culture that is actually very much intolerant of many things considered “natural” by others. Lastly we have three national scandals: three Europeans were expelled from Cambodia for ridding their bicycles completely naked at the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Then it came the mysterious publication of a naked woman at the very sacred temples of Angkor – the first to be investigated is Apsara Authority itself, because it creates too many questions: how the model and the photographer could follow their production without any notice in places where thousands of people use to visit? It is also probably a Photoshop creation. Then the arrest of three French young men showing up in front to the camera as they came to the world. This shows something special: Cambodia is meeting Globalization and all what it brings. Continue reading
- If you want to contemplate the Mekong Delta, it is the best option: Ha Tien – Saigon by bus.
- The Prek Chak Border Crossing is practical for going from Kampot and Kep provinces to Ha Tien and Koh Tral (Phu Quoc).
- It is under construction.
The Prek Chak International Gate is the best place to cross to Vietnam from the Cambodian provinces of Kep and Kampot. In Vietnam it is known as Xa Xien and it is the access to Ha Tien City in the Kien Gian Province and to Koh Tral Island (in Vietnamese Phu Quoc.) From Ha Tien there are regular public transport to Saigon with different bus companies, most of them with very comfortable vehicles to cross the Mekong Delta to reach the city. It is 322 kilometers far from Ha Tien by QL 80 road, including the crossing of a ferry at Vang Cong.
Here I am, on a real bus bed on my travel to Saigon from Ha Tien. There are also night buses that make the travel in 8 hours through the Mekong Delta. A stunning view. Continue reading
- If you want to come to Cambodia expecting to take your visa Upon Arrival, avoid the Cham Yeam International Border: they will overcharge you more than 100 USD visa.
- If you complain, they will close the window, meaning pay or go back.
- If you don’t have a previous visa, prefer the Poipet border from Thailand.
- If you are a victim of corrupt authorities in Cambodia, don’t speak in English. Use a third language or do as you don’t understand English, it will help you – although it is valid for citizens of Non-English-Speaking countries… it would be unbelievable a Briton saying they can’t speak English :) Still the option to say “I don’t understand your English.”
If you don’t have a previous Cambodian visa (such one taken in an embassy, consulate or e-visa), avoid to enter the country through the Cham Yeam International Border. The authorities there will overcharge you. Citizens from 9 countries of the planet need to take a visa in a Cambodian consulate before traveling. They are not allowed to take e-visa. Those countries are Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Nigeria, this last one was recently included. The rest of the world can come to Cambodia just with a valid passport, two photographs and 30 USD dollars. You can make your visa just Upon Arrival and it is really efficient. But it is not the same in Cham Yeam, the crossing from the Thai province of Trat to the Cambodian province of Koh Kong. If you don’t have a previous visa, the authorities will overcharge you with fees until 100 USD for a visa! The worst is that if you complain, they close the window and you are finished. It is like “pay or go back.” In order to avoid this situation, if you intend to enter Cambodia by land expecting to make your visa upon arrival from Thailand prefer the Poipet International Border.
One strategy that has worked with me before when one meets a corrupt authority in the Cambodian streets is to express that we don’t speak English. Speak in Spanish, French or Arab and they will lost patience and let you go. However, this would not apply for citizens from English-speaking countries. It would be funny to hear an Australian, Irish, English or American saying they can’t speak English. Still the possibility to say “I don’t understand your English”.