A Day in the Life

So here's a little overview of a fairly typical day in Phnom Penh

EDIT: I indented each bullet point, which now appears as really weird spacing in each point. I tried to undo it, but it didn't fix it. Sorry!

11:00: Wake up. This also the time that the light gets through my window at the right angle as to   shine on my face. Various faint construction noises can also be heard, but usually I'm good at drowning them out. I chug some water and pack up swimsuit, towel, and change of clothes. 

my little studio apartment. I kind of like it. 

my little studio apartment. I kind of like it. 

11:15: Head out. I'm already starting to sweat as I walk down the staircase, it's a freakin sauna in    there. As soon as I exit I get hailed by the tuk-tuk who is waiting outside, shake my head and        keep walking. Also say no to the tuk tuks on the next corner. And the various other tuk tuks          and motorbikes that go by. It's a never ending process. 

11:25: Get to the hostel pool. They don't care if you use the pool as long as you're paying for         something. I get the mango smoothie almost every time, then find a spot for my towel near the     water. After half an hour I'm way too hot and have to hop in. Sometimes I'll chat up the                   backpackers if there are any already in the pool. There's also a nice shaded enclosure with big      cushions and pillows to chill out. The only downside is the hostel plays the same crappy music      list on repeat every day. Really the worst music. 

Hostel pool. Sadly it gets hardly any sun in the late afternoon

Hostel pool. Sadly it gets hardly any sun in the late afternoon

12:30: Change clothes and head on over to Riverking to get the poker game started. It always     starts around this time, which is pretty damn early for degenerate gamblers! You can keep your    cash in the cashier, which is nice, because I don't like walking around the city with a few years        salary of a poorer Cambodian in my pocket. There's free food and drink, so I'll start off with a        coffee and then order some lunch. The food here is delicious actually. Normally the action is          pretty tight, but sometimes you get the rich Cambodians who are waiting to play Omaha for          much higher stakes and they'll dick around in the Hold'em game and give away some money. 

3:30: The omaha game starts and most of the fish leave the hold'em game to play in that game.     Sometimes I'll leave and sometimes I'll keep playing depending on the lineup. For todays            example I'll head out and go to gym to pump some iron. The gym I normally go to is only a half     block away from Riverking. It's just barebones work out equipment and it looks like a bomb           went off inside, as none of the weights are racked. It's like a treasure hunt finding the matching     barbell! The gym costs $1, and is populated by sweaty shirtless Cambodian guys. Well it's               impossible not be sweaty because there's no AC and no fans. After 15 minutes I'm pretty much     dripping sweat and after 30 I'm going to overheat. So I keep my workouts nice and short these     days!

top notch facility right here

top notch facility right here

lol, i have no clue

lol, i have no clue

4:00: Massage time! My favorite massage place is actually located in the hotel that Riverking         operates from. For $10 you get an oil massage as well as use of the sauna/steam room/hot tub/     cold tub. And it's a legitimately good massage, these girls get in there nice and firm. If you get     a massage in the tourist area it will be $12 for an oil massage, no other amenities, and will suck     about half the time.  

Also some days I feel like switching it up and I go to the Seeing Hand massage place, where           they train the blind people to give massages. This is where I go if I want to bring on the pain.         They don't mess around here. Three out of the last four times I've been here they have given         me this hulk of a woman. Normally I ask for a strong massage, but for her I say medium and she     still has me crying out in pain at least a few times during the massage, which she finds                   amusing. Rather than be like 'sorry sorry!' she just says 'too strong' and chuckles. It's cheap           enough though, at $6/hr for a traditional khmer massage. 

IMG_1313.JPG

5:15: For today's example I'm going to cook dinner for myself so now it's time to head on over to   the local market for some fresh produce. My dinners are usually some forms of stir fry, but I'll         switch it up with a salad, green curry, ramen, or a burrito bowl knock off attempt thrown in             there. If my fridge is empty I'll pick up onions, peppers, tomatoes, chilis, garlic, ginger, cilantro,     bok choy, eggs, chicken breasts, and maybe some fruit like a mango or mangosteens. All of this     probably cost $5-6. If I'm getting ripped off it can't be by much! Plus I can at least ask how           much and know all the numbers in Khmer, so I'm not a total noob. 

the local market

the local market

some prices of western foods are kind of ridiculous

some prices of western foods are kind of ridiculous

5:45: Normally I wouldn't cram this much stuff into one day, but lets say today I'm being super        active and I want to go take some photos before the sun sets. I grab my camera and go down        to riverside around the National Palace and hope to get a few good shots in. There's always a        ton of people sitting around here, eating, selling stuff, monks wandering around etc. It's pretty      cool. 

_MG_7949.jpg
_MG_7738.jpg

6:30: Get back to the apartment, crank that fan and AC and relax for a bit. Maybe go on CNN and other fake news outlets and get annoyed with American politics. 

7:00: Make dinner. Usually just roasting a bunch of veggies, putting on the rice, then doing a nice easy, tasty, chicken stir fry. 

_MG_8285.jpg
rice and pork chops with Mr. Head

rice and pork chops with Mr. Head

8:45: Shower, get ready for more gambling action. Casino time. 

8:55:  Walk down the street and find my motorbike guy. I don't have to bargain the price or tell           him where I'm going, he already knows, Nagaworld!

9:00: Get to the casino, ogle some of the smoking hot girls working there, and make my way up      to the poker room and hop in the action. Some days there are lots of fish, particularly from            China, and the action is great and I will not remove myself from the table until the bad players      lose all their money or the table breaks. These days I'm here until 4-5am usually. Other days          there aren't many fish and it's mostly regulars and then I won't stay as long. I'll either go home      or maybe see if other guys are hitting the bars and try an meet up with them. In that case I'll          stay out till 3 or 4 am, which is when most bars shut down. On a very rare occasion I'll go              Pontoon, which is the big club that stays open until 6 or 7am.

the floor at Naga

the floor at Naga

I got in big trouble for taking this photo! I took two but only deleted one, ha

I got in big trouble for taking this photo! I took two but only deleted one, ha

what kind of casino wouldn't have female dance troupes out on stage every night playing obnoxiously loud music?!

what kind of casino wouldn't have female dance troupes out on stage every night playing obnoxiously loud music?!

So that's more or less what my days are like in Phnom Penh! It's not too bad! 

Ho Chi Minh City

So after a bit of relaxation in the beach town of Mui Ne it was time for the hustle and bustle of big city life in the sprawling Ho Chi Minh City. I hopped on a tourist bus, which nicely puts you right at the tourist district, as opposed to some random bus stop that you have to navigate away from. It just so happened the bus let us out right in front of this large flower market, with people buying bouquets of all sorts for the upcoming Vietnamese New Year, Tet. Well it was dusk at this point and I wanted to wander around and take some photos before the dark set in. I felt kind of silly walking around with both my backpacks on and getting in the way, but oh well.

nice parking spot

nice parking spot

 

After that I found the narrow little hostel street and booked for a few nights. One of cool things about Ho Chi Minh City is all of the little mazelike alleyways in between the main streets. They are fun to explore and easy to get lost in, but never too lost. And there are Vietnamese flags everywhere, even more than in America, which is impressive!

_MG_7239-2.jpg

I ended up going out with some people at the hostel for the Vietnamese staple: Pho (pronounced fuh). I had been eating pho and other noodle soup varieties (bun bo hue, bun cha) basically every night and never get tired of it. Even now that I’m in Cambodia I’m still getting some mad pho cravings, especially now that I’m writings this! It’s weird, I rarely got in the mood for Asian noodle soups at home, but now I’m hooked. The fresh basil and mint and whatever other herbs they give you on the side really round out the dish so well. Mmm. And it’s so cheap. I’m pretty sure I’ve never spent less on food than I did in Vietnam. Vietnamese street food is the bomb.

This isn't Pho, but bun bo hue, which is a pork based broth

This isn't Pho, but bun bo hue, which is a pork based broth

We checked out the main tourist street, which runs for a couple blocks. It has about what you’d expect for SE Asia, lots of bars, cheap beer, bbq places, a few clubs, some girly bar, tons of massage places, and motorbikes everywhere. In HCMC you have to be especially careful on the street with phones, cameras, and purses and whatnot because the motorbike snatch and grab is not uncommon, especially later on at night when tourists are drunk and the streets are empty. I’d met two people on this trip who fell prey to this sort of thing, just walking down the street looking on google maps or whatever, and wham, phone ripped out of their hands and the dudes on the bike are long gone. I’d like to think I’m travel savvy enough to not let it happen to me! We ended up settling on bar with some shisha (or hookah, or whatever you want to call it). The flavoured tobacco industry is going strong in Vietnam, and I’m all for it!

motorbikes everywhere

motorbikes everywhere

So I mentioned Tet before, and now it was only a day away. When walking down the streets, especially outside the tourist area, it was quite strange seeing so many stores closed up, as many people go back to the provinces where they have family for the New Years celebrations. You don’t really want to be traveling around this time, especially South to North, as that’s the direction most of the locals are traveling and all the buses and trains get booked up. I had to do laundry, and the hostel couldn’t do it because their laundry person went home, and it was difficult finding a laundry place that was still open! I did find one though, and thank god, because I put that off for way too long. So anyway, the city was actually kind of quiet compared to normal.

some tet celebrations

some tet celebrations

_MG_7332.jpg

I was originally planning on doing some touristy stuff like the war museum, but that was also closed, so no go. All in all, I was really lazy in Ho Chi Minh City! Mostly just wandering around the alleys and chilling in coffee shops. It was kind of fun walking around near midnight of Tet as people were praying at the temples, lighting off fireworks, and getting drunk. I got invited to drink a few times, but usually nobody knows much English so it gets pretty awkward fast! I appreciate the sentiment though. The next few days it was very common to see people sitting in groups outside drinking and eating all day.

nobody is drunk here

nobody is drunk here

As for me, three days of no activity was making me restless, so I decided it was time to rent another scooter and do some exploring around the Mekong Delta area further south of HCMC.