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As you may have gleaned from my recent photos of the day, I was in Vietnam last week, as I had to renew my visa for Cambodia again, and used it as an excuse to see some friends and breathe some cool mountain air. The photo album, which includes Saigon and Dalat, is online and ready for viewing. You can find it here. Enjoy!

ABC Bakery snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ABC Bakery snack, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I found a new bus company to go to Saigon with this time around. And while you might think I love them for their ‘finest gentle taste’ (this is the breakfast they give you—basically a sweeter hot-dog-bun-type bread with some sweet green bean paste at the bottom) or their wide comfy seats with only three across the aisle so if you sit on right, as I did for both legs of the trip, you get to sit by yourself.

No. What I love most about RAC Express Bus is that when I forgot something at home in the morning and was asking if I would have enough time to hop on a moto and go home, get it and come back, and was in negotiations with two fellow passengers to watch my backpack and not let the bus leave without me (it was ten minutes until departure time but the bus was nowhere in sight, so I was sure I would have enough time), the uniformed bus company employee—the one whom I’d assumed was the bus driver and who’d given us the gentle bread and water upon arrival at the sidewalk booth (no bus stations here)—insisted on driving me himself. In the company minivan. He actually came over and got me as I was about to get on a moto, opened the passenger side door for me and that was that. Now that is above-and-beyond customer service I dare you to match…anywhere!

The upshot: We were gone not more than 10 minutes, but when we arrived almost everyone was already on the bus—everyone Except the young couple faithfully watching my backpack on the sidewalk. And I learned I wasn’t with the bus driver at all (which I’d seen as my safety valve). But…a happy ending.

(Please note I am refraining from commenting on the ad on the sidewalk cafe table on which the gentle bread was placed, but have no doubt I placed it there on purpose.)

First of all, thanks to those who gave me such positive feedback on ‘Dear motodup driver,’ and for sharing their own absurb Asian transport tales with me. I was especially gratified by these responses because, frankly, I had hesitated to post that piece, as I was concerned I came off sounding mean and/or condescending. The other thing these exchanges did was remind me of some things I should have included in the original post. Therefore, and herewith, an addendum: Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to strong and convenient internet connections (thank you, Vietnam) and time ‘off’ (thank you, Khmer New Year), I’ve put some more albums online:

Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, where I did a three-day jungle trek;

some more Phnom Penh fun;

and, yes, rice mysteriously laid out to dry on the street.

A full listing of photo albums can be found by clicking here or on the ‘Photos’ link above.

Also, if you look at the menu above, you’ll see I’ve added a new page I’m calling ‘Post archive for the lazy.’ There you’ll find links to all past posts.

I may not have seen any sites in Dalat yet, but at least I’ve improved the blog!

Menu, Guitar D'amour Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Menu, Guitar D'amour Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Fried crap with curry, anyone? It’s actually quite expensive by Cambodian standards! And, come to think of it, it’s kind of boldly honest of them, given that at some places whatever you order ends up being crap anyway.

A bit of background for you:

Motodups are motorbike taxis, and they are everywhere in Phnom Penh—and I mean everywhere. Except when you actually need one. Only then will they not materialize out of thin air before you’ve even closed your front door. Only then will they appear to disappear from the face of the earth. Only then will you actually have to stand in the street looking for one to flag down.

My plan was to write ‘Ode to a Motodup’ to explain to the uninitiated the intricacies of how this system works. But I’ve opted instead for the simple, direct, time-tested epistolary form, which I think will convey all you really need to know.

Read the rest of this entry »