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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Palm Garden Lodge Siem Reap Review: Cheapest Comforts

How about an air-conditioned double room with free pick up from the airport, free breakfast, free wifi, and free tea/coffee all day, all for 15 USD per night for two persons? Well it all happens here at Palm Garden Lodge (No. 132, St. Tepvong, Next to Phsar Gné. Phone: 012687372) in Siem Reap (Cambodia). If you can manage without an air-conditioner, the rate comes down to 10 USD with a fan and other perks still included. No wonder  this hotel is popular even though every thing about it is just basic. The free pick up from the airport or the bus station is worth USD 2 or 3. The free breakfast is eggs, bread, butter, jam, and black coffee. The free wifi is only for name sake, never works. Free tea/coffee all day is usually cold and without cream or milk. The room is basic but ok. A mini fridge, a CRT TV, two queen beds, and an almost clean bathroom with an instant water heater. The AC or a fan in the room will depend on how much luxury you want. If you decide to stay here, just don't miss the free pick up, either from the airport or your bus stop. Tell them the name of the bus company and they will know from where to pick you up. There are problems too, apart from the non-working wifi. Keep reading...




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dosa Corner Indian Restaurant Phnom Penh

Dosa Corner at 5E, Street 51, Wat Lanka (Near Independence Monument, Phone: 012 673 276) is one of the places where one can have Indian food in Phnom Penh. Dosa Corner has South Indian favourites like Dosa/Idli/Uttapa/Wada as also North Indian food in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The restaurant opens everyday from 8.30am to 2.00pm for breakfast & lunch and 5.00pm to 10.00pm for dinner. Timings are liberal except that lunch ends early at 2.00pm. Pricing is easy as plain dosa starts at just USD 1 and a masala dosa costs USD 2.50 (with ghee USD 3.00). Dosa can be ordered with different fillings such as eggs, tomato, spinach, mint, drumstick leaves, cauliflower, all priced between USD 1.50 and 3.00. Uttapam (dosa pancakes) cost between USD 1.00 (plain) and 3.00 (7 mini uttapams with different flavours). A mini meal consisting of four Idli (steamed rice cakes) and one Vada (salted deep fried lentil donut) with chutney and lentil curry at USD 2.50 is a nice deal. Keep reading...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hotel Luxury World Phnom Penh Review

The first time I stayed in Hotel Luxury World (No. 35, Street 200), it was purely for the sake of staying close to a vegetarian restaurant called "The Vegetarian". Later this restaurant shifted to 158, Street 19, South of Botum Pagoda, Off Sihanouk Blvd but I still decided to stay there one more time because I wanted to write a review of this hotel. Actually, its not a bad place to stay. A good sized and clean standard room here with free buffet breakfast costs approximately USD 30 which is not at all expensive. Yes, its a bit far from the river front, and NagaWorld Casino etc. (USD 3 by tuk tuk). It would roughly take a 15-20 minute walk to get to the independence monument from Luxury World. Apart from the free breakfast (really good for non-vegetarians), another facility here is the in-room massage which in my experience was not up to the mark. But perhaps that brings guests to Hotel Luxury World. There is a rooftop cafe too for that evening tea and an open-air dinner. Keep reading...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mekong Express Bus Between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

It was like getting third time lucky when I was finally able to get a Mekong Express Bus ticket for my road trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. On the earlier two occasions I was forced to take a "Paramount" bus, either because my hotel staff misguided me or because I could just not find the Mekong Express office in Phnom Penh. I finally found it and would like to share it all with my fellow travellers so that every one gets the option to take this superior ride for road trips in and around Cambodia. In this page I will also share the complete service time table of Mekong Express on all their routes. A quick note on why I would not recommend "Paramount". First, they never start on time and second, they just stop anywhere en route when they spot a passenger willing to board their bus. As a result, the trip between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on a "Paramount" bus will take an additional one to two hours. Mekong Express bus, on the other hand, starts on time and does not make any unscheduled stops on the way. Some free snacks are served in the bus and there is always a clean toilet inside the Mekong Bus. Keep reading...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cambodia Visa on Arrival vs Online Visa (e-Visa)

Cambodia offers visa on arrival for tourists as also a facility for obtaining tourist visa online (e-Visa) before arriving into Cambodia. e-Visa is what the government of Cambodia seems to be pushing because any Google search for Cambodia tourist visa takes you to their e-Visa site. One unique feature of e-Visa is that it is costlier by USD 7 which is the e-Visa processing fee. So, for obtaining an e-Visa for Cambodia you need to make an online payment of USD 37 as compared to the usual fee of USD 30 that is applicable for Cambodia visa on arrival. Both types of visa allow you to stay in Cambodia for 30 days. Is it really worth paying that extra USD 7, particularly when a process of filling an online form, uploading a digital photo and making an online payment and waiting for up to three business days is involved and you still have to stand in the immigration queue upon arriving in Cambodia? In this page, you will read about the e-Visa and visa on arrival processes so that you can make an appropriate choice. Keep reading...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Best Tourist Prepaid Sim Card in Cambodia

As you walk out of the Phnom Penh or Siem Reap International Airports in Cambodia, you will come across booths from telecom companies giving away free prepaid sim cards for tourists. At the Phnom Penh Airport, I saw such booths from four different telecom companies - "Smart", "Beeline", "qb", and "Cellcard". They all had Free Sim offers and special rates for international calls starting at 3 cents (US currency) per minute. The special IDD rates applied to a list of countries that tourists call the most from Cambodia. Of course, what I realised later that these special IDD rates came with a rider that made local calls within Cambodia more expensive (double or even three times of the special IDD rate). Another lesson I learnt later was that the "Free Sim" at the airport was actually more expensive than the USD 5 Sim on offer from one of the four companies. I made the wrong choice but this article will help you make the right one. Keep reading to know which is the best prepaid sim card for tourists coming to Cambodia...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hot Stone Spa at Sukhumvit Soi 11 Nana BTS Bangkok

Bai Po Massage at Soi 11/1, near Nana BTS Station has been my long time favourite massage shop in Sukhumvit. Bai Po consistently offers real good massage  and because of that its pricing has also been above the average, like 350 THB for a 60-minute foot (+back & shoulder) massage. So when Bai Po's owner told me about their new "premium" spa at Soi 11, it sounded like "super premium" because to me, Bai Po was already "premium". Anyway the new spa is called "Hot Stone Spa" which is located opposite "The Aloft" at 24, Sukhumvit Soi 11 (see directional map below). There phone numbers are 02-255-8849 and 089-886-5349 and the spa is open daily from 10.00am to midnight. Hot Stone Spa is super premium alright. Its a kind of a "boutique" operation, excellent service with personal attention unlike the factory-like operation one gets to see at Health Land. Pricing-wise, and for comparison sake, a 60-minute foot (+head & shoulder) massage at "Hot Stone" would cost you 450 THB. Not just a plain foot massage, here you can also have an aromatic foot massage (550 THB) or even a four hand foot massage (900 THB). Of course, hot stone massage is available here at 2200 THB for 90 minutes and 2700 THB for 120 minutes which includes aromatic oil massage. Keep reading and see complete massage menu of Hot Stone Spa below...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gardens By The Bay: Partly Free Attraction in Singapore

Sands Marina Bay is one of the two casinos in Singapore (the other one being at Resorts World Sentosa). As it is customary for large casinos to have some tourist attractions in their vicinity where the families (read wife and kids) can have a "good time" while the bread-winner of the family gambles his money away in the casino, both the Singapore casinos have them too. Resorts World Sentosa has the already developed and popular Sentosa Resort in its vicinity and also the more recent Universal Studios which is really popular too. Sands Marina Bay is not so fortunate. All they have so far to show the families around the casino is a layout called "Gardens by the Bay". Its yet to become popular but knowing that this attraction is outdoor, partly free, and almost fun, is a relief. It has some "natural" gardens, some huge artificial trees assembled in an area called Supertree Grove and a high bridge called OCBC Skyway that connects some of those huge trees. The families are supposed to buy tickets to climb up the Skyway and take a walk in the "sky". To add a touch of nature in the Gardens, they have thrown in two conservatories: A cool-dry conservatory called "Flower Dome" and a cool-moist conservatory called "Cloud Forest". Both require entry tickets.The outdoor (free) areas of the Gardens are open daily from 5.00am to 2.00am. Keep reading...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Singapore Merlion Park: Nice Views, a Little Sunshine and a River Cruise

No other image symbolises Singapore more than the Merlion statue. This half lion, half fish icon can be found at the Merlion Park near Raffles Place MRT Station. Merlion Park is one of the free attractions in Singapore. The statue created by a local craftsman Lim Nang Seng was unveiled in 1972 and brought to its present location in 2002. Its 8.6 meters tall and weighs 70 tonnes. The body of the Merlion represents the origin of Singapore as a fishing village and its head signifies Singapore's original name: Singapura or lion city. This water spouting marvel makes for a perfect background for a memorable picture that will serve as an excellent reminder of your trip. The views of the marina bay, the sands' towers and the sky scrapers of Singapore's central business district are all there for you to capture. Just wear a good sunscreen to protect your skin from the sunlight. After taking in the views and all those pictures, you can also hop on to a restored bum boat from here for a river cruise. Keep reading for more...
Blog by: Narinder Singh