Monday, March 7, 2011

Long, long flight

Paris to Hanoi is almost 11 hours. Paul and I decided that with almost 40 years of marriage behind us, we do not have to sit together. We couldn't get aisle seats opposite one another so I sat several rows behind. We each had an aisle seat; that's what we wanted. The plane was packed. My video system had no audio, so I actually managed to snooze a bit. Still, we arrived bleary-eyed in Hanoi at just past 6 a.m. The advantage of arriving so early is that we were whisked into the transit lounge for our flight to Phnom Penh. It was in the transit lounge we found the other couple in our tiny group, Georges and Marie-Hélène, from Switzerland. Introductions, small talk, and a short wait for the flight, which was direct, via Vientiane, Laos. There, we had to disembark and wait a few minutes at the boarding gate before continuing on. We remarked at how shiny and clean the Hanoi airport is, how tiny the Vientiane airport is, and how warm it was waiting for our guide at the Phnom Penh airport. Arianetours let us down, there. We were supposed to be met by our guide on arrival. After waiting about half an hour, the man selling SIM cards very kindly phoned the travel agency for us to ask what was up. He told us our guide would be another 10 minutes. It was more like another half an hour. We were not very happy. It turns out he was expecting us on the flight from Ho-Chi-Minh-City (HCMC or Saigon, from now on, depending on my mood or the references) still later. In fact, in the catalog description of our trip, it is the flight from HCMC, but one would have thought that since the agency in Paris booked us through Hanoi, they would have informed their agency in Phnom Penh.

After a couple hours rest, Paul and I set out on foot. Our aim was to go to the big central market -- on foot. Walking in Phnom Penh is a challenge. The shops spill out onto the sidewalks and food stalls set themselves up for business; cars park and take up the full width of the sidewalk, so the only recourse is to walk in the street with the bicycles and cars and moto-taxis and velo-taxis. The vehicles do not stop for anything; they slalom around you. The moto and velo-taxis all wanted to take us for a ride, but we really wanted to walk a bit after having spent so much time sitting on planes. They were very insistent and we were just as politely insistent in refusing. But it was a difficult walk there and back and we were the only people walking anywhere! I guess we won't do that again.
At least walking gives you a chance to see the shops. As in China (and for that matter, in Paris until the last 30 or 40 years) shops of a kind stick together, so if you want a haircut, there's a stretch of Kampuchea Road for that and if you need rice-milling equipment, there's a stretch for that, too. There's also a stretch of everything you need to perform Buddist rites, a patch of jewelry, street tailors, and so on. 
On the way back, we passed by a school complex that takes up a full city block. It said "university" on the sign, but judging from the age of the kids, I think it's a loose use of the word. Our hotel is near the Olympic Stadium (I don't recall any Olympic games held here, so maybe it's a reference to the size. I should look that up.)

2 comments:

Christiane D. said...

Hi or whatever they say where you are.

Hope you are fine now. Looking forward to reading your next posts and seeing your photos.

Cheers,

Christiane

Christiane D. said...

Hi or whatever they say where you are.

Hope you are fine now. Looking forward to reading your next posts and seeing your photos.

Cheers,

Christiane