Hot Cambodia, a social view of the Tropics

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)

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Don’t take illegal pictures of people

  • 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.

spy-camera

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What is indecent exposure in Cambodia

  • 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

To Saigon through Prek Chak

  • 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

Cham Yeam not recommended for Upon Arrival Visa

  • 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.

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The routes between Cambodia and Thailand using the Cham Yeam International Gate. It is very practical if you go from Bangkok to Sihanoukville, however, use it only if you have a previous visa already. Taking an Upon Arrival visa this point makes you victim of overcharge, especially during the high season.

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”.

Vietnamese and Chinese, main visitors to Cambodia

  • Between December and April 2014 Cambodia welcomed 3.59 million foreign tourists.
  • The Ministry of Tourism expects 5 million visitors in 2015. 
  • Vietnamese and Chinese citizens are the first foreign visitors to the Kingdom of Cambodia. 
  • Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and coastal provinces, main destinations. 

If agencies are too hurry to prepare staff to speak English thinking in Westerns, it is the time to include Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Laotian and Japanese in their lists, because they are the languages of their main clients. Vietnam makes the 16%, China 12%, South Korea 12%, Laos 7%, Japan 5%, United States 4.7%, Thailand 4.4 %, Russia 4%, France 3.7 % and United Kingdom 3.3%. Continue reading

Internet Providers without Customer Service

  • The Cambodian Internet Providers lack a real sense for Customer Service.
  • You could be disconnected for days and your calls for an urgent attention is unheard. They are always “busy” and the company would send somebody when it wants, not when you need. 

Although the technological development of Internet in Cambodia, the business still dominated by incompetence and lack of customer service. You can change your Internet Provider as many times as you want, but at the end you will feel the same disappointment when something goes wrong and you have to call to the “Customer Service” to listen the same words: “Yes, sir, we are going to attend you” but you don’t know when; “we are now too much busy, sorry, sir” even if you have an Internet Cafe and your own customers will go away.

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The Metfone Complain page has links to “Services”, “Support”and a form to write a complain as we did. By clicking “Send”, the page got stucked. Filling the complain form leads to nothing in this Cambodian Internet Provider, as most of others do in the country.

Do you recommend a Cambodian Internet Provider? Let your experience be known to others, to choose the best one and to crush mediocre companies with a lack of sense for customer service. Let your comment in this page or rate the companies in our poll.

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