Impressions of Cambodia

Phnom Penh – Capital city of Cambodia

Moving from Battambang to Phnom Penh was like moving from a slow lane to a fast lane. Suddenly I saw tall buildings and international names donning the buildings and retail outlets. There are more cars and other vehicles on the roads. The drivers and riders were less patient with pedestrians. I was nearly knocked down by an on-coming car since I was not used to left-hand drive roads without road dividers. The drivers at Phnom Penh use their vehicle horns more than Battambang.

I felt that Cambodian people are not naturally happy people. The service person at Burger King looked glum and serious while serving me. Another person taking our orders at the Noodle House could not bring herself to smile at us. Not that she could not, she laughed a bit with the local people. The worst case was our driver of the minivan who took us on a bumpy 6-hour ride from Battambang to Phnom Penh. He did not smile at all and did not open his mouth to talk to us!

On the other hand, I also encountered helpful service people of the hostel and water taxi stand. So it is a mixture of people. The past atrocities must have an impact on the personalities. They kept telling us to visit their killing field and genocide museum.

Something Unique about Phnom Penh

What I saw are high walls surrounding buildings in Phnom Penh, some have barb wires resting at the top of these walls. You cannot see inside beyond these walls. There are fears of intruders. We were told by our tour guide to watch out for personal belongings like bags, because there were cases of snatch thiefs on motorbikes snatching carry-on bags. Security is a concern in Phnom Penh.

We had been to Aeon Mall. This shopping mall has mostly international brands. The mall was not like Singapore with many people walking around. The local people generally do not patronise this mall. There is no need to, really. The locals have many markets to go to for their purchases, like the Central Market and it is cheaper.

There are many tuk tuk, motto (motobike taxi) plying the roads. These drivers will always offer their services especially to tourists like us. They tout and this can be really annoying. They were desperate for businesses. Each ride can be US$2-3. This must be good income for them. It would even be better income, if they get to send tourists for a longer ride to far away tourist attractions. They are tour operators as well!

Roads in Phnom Penh are chaotic. Whoever is the bravest gets to cut into other vehicle’s path. There are few traffic lights junctions. Only the major cross road junctions have traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. As for the other smaller roads, one has to be brave to cross these roads! Walking along streets and roads is challenging. Often, we had to get onto the roads since the pavements were not passable.

There are several construction sites near the hostel we stayed in. The roads are perpetually sandy and dusty. Whether we were walking or sitting in the open tuk tuk, we breathed in smokes and dusts. Pollution of the air is a problem.

In Cambodia, almost all goods and services are quoted in US dollars. They accept US dollars readily and one needs not bring Cambodian Riel, their local currency when travelling.

When we came to Cambodia, we did not set expectations as to how the place would be. We just have to accept that Cambodia is still a developing nation. It is a pity. Cambodia had her glorious years with rich history when the Khmer Kings were ruling the country before the civil wars and Khmer Rouge regime ravaged the nation. Cambodia recently celebrated 40 years after Khmer Rouge lost. 40 years had seen progress but not enough to catch up with nations like Vietnam and Thailand. I hope to see a prosperous nation in the years to come.

People of Cambodia

16 million people living in an area of 181,000 square kilometres. Nearly 2 million died during the rule of Khmer Rouge 1975-79. Cambodian people went through a history of wars, both of foreign incursions and Khmer Rouge era. It was colonised by the French in 1860s onwards. The once proud nation of Khmer Kings with rich history went through a lot to become a nation as we know now.

The people of Cambodia would not forget the past. Tourists were reminded of the killing fields and killing caves with skulls and bones displayed for the world to see.

I have been to Siem Reap and Battambang and I found that the people were very courteous towards tourists. They depend on the tourist dollars for building their wealth. People working in the tourist trade try to pick up English Language to connect with us. Though not all can do it well, they get by. I am actually overwhelmed by their courtesy towards us. It reached a stage of being subservient. They would put their palms together and bowed to us every time we walked towards them.

I met this tuk tuk driver who were quite elderly, much older than me. He would want to take us to a theatre and wanted to wait for us until the show (Circus) ended. He was willing to charge us just US$5 for his effort. To him, I think it is good money and appreciates whatever he can earn. For me, I do not feel so keenly about US$5. But it meant so much to them.

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

Means of transporting goods
More than 90% of population are Buddhists. Monks on alms round in the morning.
School girl riding bicycle to school
Khmer greetings
Moto taxi
Barb wires on high walls
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Posted in Travelogue

Trip to Cambodia – 10 to 18 January 2019

We took budget Jetstar for 3 persons cost S$656. Flight time 2 hours 15 minutes to Siem Reap International Airport. Time difference between Cambodia and Singapore is one hour difference. Cambodia is behind Singapore. We gain one hour on reaching Cambodia.

From Airport, we rode on a tuk tuk, a motorbike pulling a carriage for 4 persons. This tuk tuk can take 3 luggages and 3 persons from airport to hotel!

Siem Reap (3 days)
Siem Reap is the city to see the World Heritage sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom with The Bayon temple in the centre of it. Besides these two, we visited Ta Prohm also. We hired a tuk tuk to take us to these three sites. The cost was US$20 for a short tour.

Angkor Wat is well preserved and millions of visitors descended on this Wat (temple). We spent 2 hours in the morning exploring this site. As the heat can be unbearable in late morning onwards, early morning visit is recommended.

Next stop was the walled ancient city of Angkor Thom. In the centre of it is The Bayon temple with four-face towers. Four humongous faces for each tower and there are 54 such towers.

Ta Prohm is the place where the temple is set in a forested area. Gigantic strangler fig trees and Kapok trees wrap round the temple structures and displace slab blocks from them. Scenes of Tomb Raider were shot in this temple. Restoration work is on-going to put these slab blocks back in their places.

You need a day-pass of US$37 per person to see these sites.

Battambang (2 days)
After Siem Reap, we took a car transport to another city, Battambang. This car continued to take us to few sites in Battambang. Hiring this car ride cost us US$140. Sites visited include the Bamboo Train, Wat Banon, Phnom Sampov, the Bat Cave and the Killing Cave.

For the night, we watched the Circus Show at Phare Ponleu Selpak (Brightness of the Arts) training school. This show had an Apsara Dance followed by human acrobatic performances. Cost was US$14 per person.

Phnom Penh (4 days)
The last leg of the trip is Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. We took a 6-hour ride on a minivan that can carry 12 people including the driver. The ride was bumpy with very uneven roads towards the city. The cost was US$13 per person.

We then did a river cruise at 5.15 – 6.10 pm along Tonle Sap River to see the sunset over the riverfront. Cost was US$5 per person.

The next two days were spent on visiting places in the city. First day was market-hopping, Olympic Market, Boeng Keng Kang Market, Central Market. We had been to Independence Monument and Statue of King Norodom Sihanouk nearby. The second day was spent visiting The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda (in the same compound) in the morning. There are two windows in the day to visit them. The morning one starts 7.30 am to 11.00 am. The afternoon one starts 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm. Cost was US$10 per person. Check the opening hours for the day before going there. Other places visited include Wat Phnom and the French designed Post Office nearby.

Accommodations
At Siem Reap, we stayed at Golden Banana Residence (US$112.20 for three nights).
At Battambang, we stayed at Jasmine Hotel & Skybar (US$70 for two nights).
At Phnom Penh, we stayed at Envoy Hostel (US$112.50 for three nights).

Total Costs
S$2,545 or S$850 per person

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

tuk tuk, common transport
Sunset over river front. Background is Royal Palace
The Independence Monument and Statue of King Norodom Sihanouk behind to the right.
Silver Pagoda
Silver Pagoda
Posted in Travelogue

Tips on enjoying Cambodia – 2019

This is my first trip to Cambodia. I have been to Vietnam twice before this trip. One cannot compare Cambodia with Vietnam. They are not the same as regards economic development. Their histories are different too. So we did not set any expectations for the trip.

My family read up information on Cambodia before the trip. There are several excellent guide books written about Cambodia especially the ones written about the world wonder of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. (The Rough Guide to Cambodia and Moon’s Trip of a Lifetime: Angkor Wat)

We planned for 9-day 8-night of trip to three major cities: Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh. 3 nights in Siem Reap, 2 nights in Battambang and 3 nights in Phnom Penh. We flew via Jetstar to Siem Reap and return flight was from Phnom Penh. The connection between cities were by roads.

Siem Reap is the place to be to see the UNESCO world heritage sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. We paid for a day-pass of US$37 per person to visit three temples in one day: Angkor Wat, The Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. We did not want to wake up at 4 am to catch the morning sun over Angkor Wat. Instead, we only set out at 7.30 am taking a tuk tuk to the sites. The trip took us to 2.00 pm to cover all three sites. Be prepared for a hot weather if you are travelling in January.

Battambang is the second largest city after Phnom Penh. It is a quieter city compared to the capital and busy Phnom Penh. We got to experience the way of life of these Cambodian. There wasn’t the rush and impatience shown by the people staying in this city. People living here are generally courteous and not many people can speak English. One has to be more patient with them.

The last stop was Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia. It was a completely different experience. It was fast-paced, somewhat chaotic on the roads. There was so much touting by tuk tuk drivers that it got onto our nerves. We learned to ignore them and got on with our journey. Treat them as their way of making a living and accept it.

We travelled by a minivan from Battambang to Phnom Penh. The experience was not great. For most part of the 6-hour road ride, the road was bumpy. The driver would not speak to us (not able to more likely) and we waited for an hour for him to show up at our hotel. Roads and traffic light system have a long way to go to reach decent standard. Give yourself more than one hour to travel from Phnom Penh city centre to the airport if you do not wish to miss your flight.

Phnom Penh is developing rapidly. There are so many construction sites in the city centre. The place is really dusty and it is difficult to walk along pavements and the roads. Crossing roads and at road junctions were challenging. It took guts and brave hearts to do so. After a while, we managed to walk like the locals.

We were flexible with our itinerary. We went with the flow as we moved from city to city. We had some general ideas of what we wanted to see and do at the start. Some ideas came from the driver cum guide and some from the hotel/hostel staff. Some came from reading the map of the area and google search of the place. We did not plan to the last details. We simply took what experiences that came with each day.

Cambodia is rich culturally and full of history. We can experience this first hand. What I have learned about enjoying Cambodia is not to use Singapore standards to judge the country. Appreciate what her people had been through and accept their way of lives. We look back at the trip and it was an experience difficult to forget!

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

The Royal Palace

Angkor Wat

The Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

Ta Prohm

Posted in Travelogue | Tagged , , , ,

Taking a break

I will be taking a break from writing. Hope to come back to it in 2 weeks’ time.

Best Regards

Posted in Uncategorized

Too Much Screen Time

Apple iPhone has this thing called “Screen Time” that tracks time spent on my iPhone each day. Over a period of past 7 days, my screen time was 1 hour per day on average. It also tells me which program I used the most. It turned out to be WhatsApp.

At the start of this year, I decided to watch my time on using my iPhone. My social networking activities (such as WhatsApp, Facebook) on my phone took up far too much time.

WhatsApp is a time stealer. Somehow, one is compelled to react to messages coming through. If one belongs to several groups in WhatsApp, the problem gets multiplied.

Therefore if I were able to control my actions on WhatsApp, usage of my phone would drop significantly. Less use of WhatsApp would become my New Year Resolution. Same goes with use of Facebook.

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

Posted in Living Tips

Interest income on CPF balances – 2018

Interest income on CPF balances for the year-end of 2018 was already updated.

Interest income on my CPF balances (OA + Medisave + RA) averaged 3.77% per annum for 2018.

Year Interest rates
2013 3.20%
2014 3.19%
2015 3.13%
2016 3.65%
2017 3.68%
2018 3.77%

This is a good return to keep funds in CPF. If one does not withdraw the interest of the year, the compounding effect of interest on interest will enhance our savings.

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

The material presented is intended to be general and written in layman’s language as much as it is possible. The author shall not be liable for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of material written. Please seek professional advice from your financial advisor or financial institutions on material written covering financial matters.

Posted in Retirement Planning

Investing in 2019

Will there be a perfect storm in 2019?

What if US and China continue with their trade wars? There is no deal Brexit. Oil prices continue to decline. There is slowdown in global economic growth starting with China. There is gridlock in US politics with Democrats controlling the Congress against Donald Trump. All these do not give me confidence in investing in the New Year.

One year is a long time for investments. As an illustration, 2018 started with so much optimism but it ended the year with gloom. No one can predict how 2019 will play out.

As I see it, US would not want a severe economic slowdown in her hand and so is China. It is quite likely that US and China would not escalate the trade war. Then again I cannot read what Donald Trump’s behaviour would be like. It can be erratic and stubborn.

The above uncertainties aside, I would be going back to fundamentals to see the signs of global economic growth and Singapore GDP numbers. From macro level, I then read the company level data. The fourth quarter financial results of 2018 would be important. Buy, sell and hold investment decisions would be dependent on these readings.

It would still be risk off for me in 2019. However, staying invested is still important for streams of income from investments. I would go for lower returns but safer investments.

Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment

The material presented is intended to be general and written in layman’s language as much as it is possible. The author shall not be liable for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of material written. Please seek professional advice from your financial advisor or financial institutions on material written covering financial matters.

Posted in Financial Management