It’s been long since we started reading and hearing about visa or immigration scams in Cambodia. These scams were run by Cambodian government officials with or without the help of some private parties like road transport operators (including Mekong Express) or others whereby tourists entering or leaving Cambodia through land borders were conned into or even forced to shell out extra sums of money for a visa or even an immigration stamp. Not much seems to have changed since then because I personally experienced something similar in recent years when I was leaving Cambodia via a land border. A friend of mine from India who visited Cambodia also reported some bad experiences due to the misconduct of Cambodian visa/immigration officials. During one of my visits to Cambodia, an immigration official at Phnom Penh International Airport asked me to pay him a “tip”. I said no and was able to leave that counter but it sure was a tense moment.
Before I had this experience, I used to think that visa / immigration scams happen only in Cambodia. But my first trip to Phuket changed that perception. Now I know that Thailand is not immune to visa scams either. I have gone through the visa on arrival formalities several times in Thailand and at different check points so the process at Phuket Airport was not going to be anything new for me. But little did I know. This was the morning of 1st of September 2015 when my Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur landed at Phuket International Airport. Upon entering the visa / immigration hall, I noticed a “No-Photo” sign somewhere and decided to put my camera back into my shoulder bag though I would have loved to take a picture of the hall for my blog. I took one anyway later from the other side after crossing immigration. But before I got there, I had to endure this rather disappointing scam.
Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a former French colony and was once known as the Pearl of Asia. Today, it is the economic, industrial, and cultural center of the country. For tourists, Phnom Penh is the second most important city in Cambodia after Siem Reap. Its most famous landmarks are the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the Independence Monument, the National Museum, the Genocide Museum, and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. A more recent addition to the list of tourist attractions in Phnom Penh is the NagaWorld Integrated Casino & Hotel Complex. The city is connected with Siem Reap via a large number of day and night bus services that cost anywhere between 8 and 15 USD, one way. The buses are generally comfortable and the ride lasts for approximately 8 hours. It is possible to travel by bus between Phnom Penh and Bangkok on a single ticket. There are direct bus services between Siem Reap and Bangkok too, and as such Cambodia becomes a natural and easy extension of a holiday in Thailand. The following information will make your travel to Cambodia and Phnom Penh easier:
Whether you are a first time visitor to Phnom Penh or not, the area you select for your stay in Phnom Penh will have an effect on how well your holiday goes. You may read somewhere that the Riverside hotels are expensive. But are they too expensive? Consider this: hiring a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh even for the shortest distance will set you back by at least 2 US Dollars, that is if you are not scammed by the tuk-tuk driver. Tuk-tuk drivers’ scams in Phnom Penh deserve a separate article and I will write that one soon. But for now, try to estimate how many dollars you will pay to tuk-tuk drivers in a day if the location of your hotel is not where you want to spend your day in Phnom Penh. Add that money to your hotel tariff and recalculate how much your “cheap” hotel is really costing you.
Many budget flights that arrive into Bangkok land at Don Mueang Airport (DMK). This is a smaller airport with limited facilities as compared to the bigger Suvarnabhumi Airport. But fortunately for the passengers looking to buy tourist-specific prepaid SIM cards, the available choice at DMK airport is good, almost as good as at Suvarnabhumi Airport. It is recommended to buy a prepaid SIM at the airport because once you reach Bangkok, Pattaya, or another Thai city, buying a tourist-SIM becomes difficult if not impossible (Where to buy Tourist SIM in Pattaya and Where to buy Tourist SIM in Nana/Asoke Bangkok). The price you pay is also an issue. Mobile companies’ own shops sell tourist-specific SIM cards at official prices, but out on the street, you will pay at least double. A SIM shop in Pattaya once asked me 299 THB for a 50 THB SIM. In this article, I will share all the information on the availability of prepaid SIM cards at DMK airport.
Must Read: Don Mueang Airport To Pattaya
Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most prominent temples of Chiang Mai’s old city. The grounds of this temple are also home to ‘The Sao Inthakin’ or ‘City Pillar’ which, assisted by three Dipterocarp trees planted close to it, is supposed to be protecting the city of Chiang Mai. Wat Chedi itself has a long history. Originally there were three temples here – Wat Ho Tham, Wat Sukmin and Wat Chedi Luang of which now only one ‘Wat Chedi Luang’ remains. ‘Chedi’ literally means ‘pagoda’ and this Buddhist temple got its name from a massive pagoda constructed here that was the largest structure in Chiang Mai when constructed. The building of this Chedi was started by King Saen Muang Ma in the 14th century. The king wanted to bury his father’s ashes at this place. But he could not complete the construction which was later completed in 1475 by King Tilokaraj. The height of the Chedi at that time was 82 meters. The upper 30 meters of the pagoda got destroyed in the year 1545 due to an earthquake. The present-day structure is a UNESCO sponsored reconstruction that was taken up in the 1990s.
Macau today is an expensive place to gamble. This was not so when I went there for the first time in 2010. I could play many table games – Blackjack, Three Card Poker, and Caribbean Stud poker – all at minimum bets of 100 HKD. And I played in the top casinos – Wynn Macau, MGM Macau, Sands Macau, and Venetian. A few years later things changed. In 2015, I could not find any 100 HKD table in Wynn Macau. The minimum was 500 HKD. In just five years, the minimum bet size had increased by 500%. In 2018, the lowest possible bet on a Baccarat table in ‘City of Dreams’ on Cotai Strip was 1000 HKD. And I am only speaking of public gaming areas, not VIP clubs. Finding the situation really tough, I started off on a quest to find gaming tables in Macau where one could play at least Blackjack and Baccarat at bets between 100 HKD and 300 HKD. And to my own surprise, I succeeded in finding quite a few such casinos. In this article, I will share info about casinos in Macau that still accept bets on table games between 100 HKD and 300 HKD.
Also read: Macau Casino Guide
Chiang Mai’s heart is its old city with its many Buddhist temples including the city’s oldest temple Wat Chiang Man, the Three Kings Monument, and a few museums too. The old city is surrounded by a moat which still has water in it. And in the center of the four boundaries of the old city are four original “Gates” – Chiang Mai Gate on the south side, Suan Dok Gate on the west side, Chang Puak Gate on the north side, and Tha Phae Gate on the east side. The Eastside is the one that is closest to Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar area. But Tha Phae Gate is not prominent just because of its proximity to Night Bazaar. Tha Phae Gate dates back to the beginning of Mang Rai Dynasty (1296-1558 A.D.) when King Mang Rai founded the city of Chiang Mai in the year 1296. The gate was originally known as Chiang Ruak Gate named after a nearby village of that name. “Tha Phae” literally means “Raft Landing” which was the name it got over a period of time.
A not to be missed attraction of Chiang Mai’s old city is its oldest Buddhist temple called ‘Wat Chiang Man’ built during the time of Mang Rai dynasty (1296-1558 A.D.) and later partly restored in the year 1571. A new building of a prayer hall called “ubosot” was constructed in 1805. A stone inscription in front of this “ubosot” in this temple complex states that the city of Chiang Mai was founded by King Mang Rai and his friends in the year 1296. The stone inscription also states that during the time of the founding of the Chiang Mai, King Mang Rai stayed in the place where the present day Wat Chiang Man is situated. Certainly, its the most historically important temple of the old city of Chiang Mai. A modern temple building is constructed in the front but some very old buildings are still there in the back. Prepare to spend some time in Wat Chiang Man.