Monday, November 23, 2009

An Eventful Trip to Cambodia

My wife attended a Bankers' Conference in Phnom Pehn and I tagged along for our first visit to the capital city of Cambodia.
It was not a great holiday; but definitely it had its share of memorable incidents.
When we arrived at the airport, there was a welcoming committee that garlanded each of us with a Cambodian shawl.
We were met by the airport immigration chief who took our passports and breezed us through the immigration formalities - we got back the passports at the conference hotel, the Inter-Continental.
One of the welcoming staff then followed us through Customs and we were then ushered into a government registered car. We were seated right at the back of the Silkair flight and seeing no one else around, my wife assumed that we were the last to get out of airport. During the 15-minute from the airport, I remarked to my wife that something was not quite right as I expected us to be transferred by bus and not a private vehicle.
Still, it was a moment to enjoy - being treated with such VIP status. We managed to check into the hotel without the passports and spent a few hours resting in our room. Then my wife decided to check for our passports at the front desk and sure enough, it had been delivered there. She also discovered that she had been mistaken for another ASEAN bankers' official who bore only the slightest resemblance to my dear wife. The reception committee had decided the person had put on some weight to morph into my wife! The person is actually 2 to 3 inches shorter than my wife.
One of the sight-seeing tours they arranged for a visit to the Torture Museum where thousands were tortured before they were sent to the Killing Fields. Of course many did not survive the months of torture.
It is not an enjoyable place to visit and the atmosphere of death still prevails. I will not bring children below 12 years to visit this place. I had to skip the rest of the tour as I had a severe bout of food poisoning and rushed back to the hotel just in time to unload. That was a worrying 10-minute ride using a "tut-tut and cost me US$2 - the greenback is almost an official currency here.
We spent 2 nights at the Inter-Continental for the conference and decided to book a room at the Sunway Hotel which is much closer to the riverside, the main happenings place.
I booked a room using AGODA but made a mistake in the check-in date. For some unknown reason, the date I chose was one week later than the date I needed.
When I realised the mistake, I tried to amend the date but according to Agoda, they could not change the date as the hotel policy on the special room rate was to charge the full booking payment - that is for US$95.
So I made another booking with the correct date and paid another US$95. When we checked into the Sunway, they advised me they also had another booking for the later date. My wife did not know of the mistake so while she was napping in our room, I sneaked out and went down to the reception to inquire about the extra booking and the penalty for a cancellation with one week's notice.
The duty manager saw me and advised that she would check with AGODA to find out about the mistake. She assured me that the hotel would not charge me but there could be an administrative fee charged by AGODA.
Sunway Hotel is commended for contacting AGODA and not imposing any penalty. I also received an email from AGODA advising that I will get a full refund.
We also requested a late check-out on Saturday and the hotel obliged, allowing us to stay in our room untill 2pm.
On our last night in Phnom Penh, we went for a walk along the Riverside and I tripped and twisted my left ankle at the start of the 2km walk. At the time it was OK but when we got back, the foot was hurting. Perhaps the hour-long foot reflexology did not help matters.
At the airport for the flight back to Singapore, my wife requested for a wheel-chair for me and that was also arranged back in Changi. That was my first experience as a wheel-chair passenger. Both sides took good care and SilkAir is thanked for their caring service. One stewardess also gave me her arm to hold on as I hobbled into and out of the plane.
Cambodia is making speedy progress to catch up with the rest of ASEAN and being a young country, they have the capacity to develop at a faster rate although the economic crisis has also affected their annual growth.
I will be seeing the doctor today and hopefully by tomorrow, I will not need to hobble around. Spending long hours in bed is definitely not my cup of tea.

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