Posts Tagged With: currency

2nd June – Day 14 – Planes, Cyclos and Sunsets

Today was our last flight of the tour – after this it’s busses, tuktuks and our own bookings. The timing was odd today, since our flight route (Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh) is an infrequent one – we actually ended up booked onto Qatar Airways who do a two leg flight between Doha and PP – stopping in Ho Chi Minh. This had one great advantage for us which was that the plane was a Boeing 787-800 – a ridiculously over-specified plane for the 25 minute flight! It was huge, and almost empty – I had my own row in the cabin, as did most of the group!

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Empty plane

Our flight was actually at 15:30, so the whole morning was lost to hotel time and currency exchange – I took my remaining Vietnamese dong to the local currency exchange and swapped to USD, which is the main currency in Cambodia. It was nice to have a lazy morning in the hotel after so many early starts and I made use of it to buy a Vietnam t-shirt as well as some postcards.

Once we made it to the airport, leaving Vietnam was easy – just a stamp in the passport – and we had a ton of time to kill. I had a small meal and a coffee, and still made it to the gate before the plane had even landed from Doha. Shortly after it landed, we were ready for boarding – and after what seemed like no time at all, we were in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian visa process was a little more complicated – there were 3 forms to fill out and we had to queue up for our visa on arrival, in a chaotic system which involved handing over your passport and photo as well as one of the forms and then waiting for your name to be called out (or your passport held up, if they couldn’t say your name) before going up and paying the $30 visa fee and collecting your passport. The system worked, but it was slow and a little stressful compared to the other immigration processes in the trip. Still, my passport is filling up nicely now!

After we regrouped in the airport, we headed to our bus transfer to the hotel – which was a pretty large bus considering we’re a group of 9 people! Our hotel in Phnom Penh is our most basic of the tour, and Dek had warned us not to expect huge luxury – thankfully he warned us because the hotel was really fairly basic. My room had 3 beds in it, and a huge shower room, but that’s about the only good things – the air conditioning never really got the room cool (until 2am, when I would wake up freezing)!

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3 beds to myself

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Swimming pool

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Beer ‘fridge’

By now we were all getting desperate for our washing to be done, and this hotel offered washing at $3 for half a bag, or $6 for a whole bag. The bags were huge, so I threw all my dirty stuff in there and handed it in – we’re here 2 nights so there’s time to get it back before we leave.

At 5pm we met up for another Cyclo tour (noticing a theme here yet??) where we were lucky enough to catch Sunset hour. I love taking photos at sunset.

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Another cyclo tour

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Kiwi mart

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The sunset was beautiful

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Sun setting over the US embassy

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A famous nun

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More sunset

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The central market

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Proud of this photo

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The king of Cambodia, Nordom Sihamoni

 

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More celebrations of the new king

 

This cyclo tour was supported by an NGO which runs the scheme to encourage underprivileged Cambodians into work and it took us past some of the major sites of Phenom Penh. The city actually has quite a few sites, but they’re spread out which means that a tuktuk or cyclo is definitely required to get between them. The hotel is surprisingly close to the Royal Palace and National Museum of Cambodia however, so both of those could be on the hit list if we have time (they’re not on our tour however).

The Cyclos dropped us off in front of the Royal Palace and Dek showed us a big monument to the new King who was crowned a little while ago. He told us that the Cambodian people are a little worried about this King, because he is unmarried and really likes ballet…

The Royal Palace is located on the edge of the river, and we walked up the riverfront which had a really nice vibe to it – a few tourists but also a lot of locals just hanging out by the water and relaxing. Dek had booked us a table at another training restaurant, where locals are taught to be chefs and waiting staff. The food here was okay, although they were unable to cook my first or second choice so I ended up with steamed vegetables and rice – a little disappointing but extremely cheap! Even with a starter and 2 beers, the whole meal came to $9!

After the meal, we walked back to the hotel and to bed – in a room which I couldn’t get cool. Hmm, see you tomorrow… One way or another.

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Categories: South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Countdown… T minus 48 hours!

Okay, it’s super exciting now! Sorry for the lack of updates recently, work has been pretty busy and then I got absorbed with you know, actually prepping for the trip instead of procrastinating and writing in the blog!  Here’s a quick update…

My bag is packed!

I was shocked when I weighed it that it’s only 11kg! I normally end up with a suitcase quite close to 20kg for a normal business trip, so how I’ve managed to pack for 3 weeks in 11kg is beyond me! Just crossing fingers I haven’t forgotten anything significant.

Foreign currency has arrived! 
I decided to go for a mix of Thai Baht and US Dollars, so that I can change to the other countries as I go. I got a good deal on the Post Office website and £3 cash back with Quidco!

I called Gadventures

I initially called to check up on the baggage allowances for the flights which they’re booking – 15kg is what they advised.  But I also managed to find out that on the trip are 8 people (including me) with an age range of 21 to 50, and people from USA, Canada, UK and Europe – so it sounds like a pretty mixed bunch and I’m right in the middle of the group which will hopefully work well.  I can’t wait to meet all my new travel friends soon!

I joined Parkrun!

If you don’t know what Parkrun is, it’s a nationwide (worldwide?) scheme for running a 5km run every Saturday at 9am. It’s a free, volunteer run thing and it’s designed to encourage healthy lifestyles. I set it up and went along to the first run in Crystal Palace park and managed to knock out a 27:06… Pretty great ūüôā

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Currency Conundrum

On the Discover South East Asia tour we will visit 4 different countries in the space of 18 days, which is really exciting. ¬†But one thing I hadn’t factored in yet was currency – each country has it’s own distinct currency and as such, money is going to be quite a complication.

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Hopefully I won’t be hung out to dry at the foreign exchange!

The currencies i’m dealing with are:

  • Thailand – Thai Baht –¬†¬£1 is roughly 50 baht
  • Laos – Lao Kip – ¬£1 is roughly 11,500 kip
  • Vietnam – Vietnamese Dong – ¬£1 is roughly 32,000 dong
  • Cambodia – Cambodian Riel – ¬£1 is roughly 5,600 riel

When dealing with so many currencies on a single trip, the question arises as to how to best handle the exchange. As I see it, i’ve got two options:

  1. Exchange money from GBP into all 4 currencies and carry them all through the journey. ¬†This runs the risk of having an imbalance of the wrong currency, and being left with quite a bit of extra at the end in a mixture of currencies which I won’t be able to use.
  2. Exchange money from GBP to Baht, then after we finish in Thailand, exchange the remainder into Kip, before entering Laos.  This involves a lot of on-the-ground foreign exchange which can be a rip off and involves paying compounded transaction fees.

I’m actually not sure which would be the better solution yet – perhaps a mix of the two. ¬†The gAdventures advice on this is to bring all cash in USD, but i’m not sure that applies to those of us where USD isn’t our native currency.

Any advice?

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TransferWise – smart money?

The other day I needed to transfer some money from England to Sweden. I decided to try out the new service i’ve been hearing about – TransferWise. It’s a payment method which skips out the banks international transfer fees – instead matching payments between local currencies to transfer the money at mid-market rates.

It works like this:
-You setup the transaction via their website (or app)
-You make a payment in your local currency, to a local bank account (or via bank card)
-Transferwise match your payment with one in your destination currency
-Transferwise pays out from a bank in your destination currency to your destination bank

Basically – you pay them in your currency, they pay your person in their local currency, and you pay a really small fee.

It really is as simple as that… and it works! 3 days after the initial transaction my money was in my bank in Sweden. That, and the first transaction is free!

Definitely going to be using this service again.

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Peruvian Sol Searching

Peruvian SolsSo, who knew it could be difficult to get hold of Peruvian money in Sweden on a rainy Saturday?!

Turns out the foreign exchange company don’t hold a lot of it in stock. ¬†But, luck was in that the office I went to had a small amount of Peruvian Sols in stock. ¬†So i’m now the proud owner of 200 Peruvian Sols, and will obtain the rest by converting¬†my US Dollars once I arrive in Peru.

Still can’t believe it’s less than a week to go!

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