Monday, 21 February 2011

I-to-I day three: Two visa's down … one to go

Monday 21st February 2011

MP3 track of the day: Archery – The Young Victoria

Weather: Humid and cloudy

I had slept well considering, when I got back to my room last night, a cockroach was scurrying around the floor. Unable to trap it, said cockroach crawled through a small gap within the wooden side panel, of the spare bed, within my room. I nicknamed him Albert and we made a deal. I wouldn't kill him if he didn't rear his ugly head whilst I was in the room. I think he agreed; as a precaution I filled said gap with the bathroom mat. Like I said, I got quite a lot of sleep last night, however I still had to be up at 6:45am to leave my guesthouse by 7:30am. I did a quick search for Albert, however he could not be found. I then went for a cold shower (hating that already) before heading downstairs and out into Phnom Penh. Once in reception I met a few ladies on the voluntary programme; I wished them a good morning and off I went.

Before reaching the Chinese embassy I went to my favorite coffee shop for a hot chocolate and a slice of cake. I arrived at the Chinese embassy, got scanned by the metal detector purchased from 'Toys 'R' Us', and was allowed through (This time I had left my camera at the guesthouse). Once inside I joined the queue to pick up my passport. I waited and I waited; it took a good fifteen minutes for someone to serve our queue, which at that time had grown to seven people. Luckily for me I was third in the queue; the guy in front of me was just picking up his own passport however the guy at the front must have been a 'visa agent' as he was picking up loads of passports. He took quite a while. I paid the $45.00 fee and, in return, I received my passport. I checked it to make sure the visa was correct;

  • date of issue ... correct,

  • multiple entry … correct,

  • my details … correct.

A surprising benefit was that the Chinese visa didn't specify a date of entry, only that I had to enter China before May. Originally I had planned to enter China on the 2nd April however, if I was to enter on the 4th April, then I could extend my visa once and cover the date of my return flight. I then put my passport away and headed back to my guesthouse. On the way back I had decided, while I had a spare day, I would get my Cambodian visa extended. I did wonder about not bothering extending my visa at all; my Cambodian visa runs out on the 8th March and my voluntary work finishes on the 11th. I would be heading to Vietnam on the 12th March and so I would only go over my Cambodian stay by four days. My guidebook stated that it would cost me $5 per day for overstaying making it $20 compared to $45 for the visa extension. However I didn't fancy the aggravation on the Cambodian border plus I'm sure the guards could think of some way of squeezing more money out of me. I went to the receptionist, at my guesthouse, and inquired into the procedure. I was shocked to find that, letting my guesthouse deal with the paperwork was the same cost as me doing it myself. I didn't want to miss anymore teaching time and so I agreed; I was just about to hand over my passport when the receptionist said that I would need a passport photo (I had just used my last one at the Chinese embassy). I asked him if he knew anywhere to get some passport photos from and he gave me directions to a local photo shop.

Now I'm sure you would forgive me for being quite stunned with what I saw. I was under the impression that I would go into one of those machines, with a curtain as a door, press 'English' for language and away I went. In fact, once in the photo shop, I was escorted into a room where a guy, with a very expensive Nikon camera, took a very close up photo of me against a white background. The memory card was then passed onto a lady on a computer. As I looked at the four ladies in front of me they were all editing photos (wedding photos mainly) using the software 'photoshop' with great speed and skill. My photo got the same treatment as the others; I saw the lady put the memory card into the computer, find my face, and edit it. As I peered over her shoulder I wondered if I did indeed look like the photo in front of me; yes my hair has grown quite a bit, yes I hadn't shaved for a while and yes I was a bit sweaty … but I thought I looked better than that.

Once edited my photos were then passed onto another lady who cut them into little squares with great care. All in all I had been in the shop around fifteen minutes, being passed between four people and ended up spending $3 for four photos. Quite expensive I thought. Never mind, I now had said photos so I surrendered my passport to my guesthouse receptionist, with a passport photo. I will pick my passport up in two days time.

At this point I went for another cold shower (no sign of Albert) and then chilled in the reception area wondering what to do next. Eventually I headed out, firstly to get some lunch and secondly to go in search of the 'Blue Pumpkin'. I had been informed that the 'Blue Pumpkin' was located back on the west side of the city. It was a hot and sticky day, however chocolate cake was worth the sweat and so I headed across the city passing through streets I had seen a hundred times. I eventually found the 'Blue Pumpkin' only to read that it was closed for renovations until the 22nd February. A little gutted I promised myself some chocolate when I returned to the guesthouse. Once back I first of all headed for my third shower of the day before reading my Vietnam guidebook awaiting for the rest of the group to return.

Slightly odd; I was reading my guidebook, in full view in reception, when the group arrived from their first day at work. After saying hello all five went to their rooms, I presumed, to shower and change. I continued reading and Ricky was the first down with his girlfriend. They both went out for something to eat (at 5pm!). Three girls came down and they also went out to the west side of the city. This left one Aussie woman who I found out was asleep. With the whole group out I decided to keep on reading. I had almost read all about Vietnam (and planned a logical, but flexible, route up the country) before I was tired of reading. I decided to head up to my room, put my book away, and see what was on the TV. I don't normally watch TV, I mainly watch it if it's on and it's normally always in the local language (which is okay as I get to experience the country's favorite programmes). However I was informed that the TV here had eighty channels (more than I get at home!) most of which were in English. I scoured through the usual 'tat' until I found the film channels. Would you believe it but 'A Bridge too Far' was on and it had only just started. I watched it for about thirty minutes, deciding whether I should watch the whole film, or go and have something to eat (as I was hungry). As a compromise I decided to eat in the guesthouse's restaurant so that I could return to my room quickly. I never eat food within my room as the crumbs attract unwanted visitors (I already had Albert). I ate quickly and then returned to the film, right in the middle of the action. The film finished at 9pm so, after another shower, I headed straight to sleep, preparing myself for tomorrow. Finally I will get to teach.

So, all in all, the last few weeks have been pretty expensive. In Siam Reap I had used a tuk-tuk to see the temples of Angkor, purchased two new camera memory cards and got my souvenirs. In Phnom Penh I had paid $135.00 for three visas. I think I've finished spending stupid amounts of money; I have loads of spare room on my camera memory cards and I am now legal to travel within Vietnam, and China, until the end of April. I could now, at last, try to save a bit of money.

Toodle Pip!

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