It has been a massive two weeks for myself after spending the past 7 days in Phnom Penh. A place that is in my top five of Asian cities and at first appears rough and ragged, however similar to my favourite city Bangkok uncovers itself the more time you spend there.

From The Readers:

Firstly, I’ll get my two most asked questions of last week out of the way with a new segment Q&A. These are from the emails I have received over the past two weeks after revealing I’d be travelling to Cambodia in my last post.

Q: What carrier are you flying and how much?

I flew Air Asia from Melbourne’s second airport Avolon connecting through Air Asia major hub Kula Lumpa. Costing return $348AUD or $245USD

Quick Comment:

I had flown Air Asia before between Bangkok and Saigon, however this was my first mid-haul flight with the Malaysian based airliner and to be honest for the price paid I couldn’t fault it. We left and time and arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule and it must be said the staff are young and professional. If given the option of the two most popular budget Airlines operating from Australia to Asia – Air Asia all the way.

You can read more about my last JetStar flight

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/shemozzle-hundreds-stranded-in-bangkok-as-flight-twice-cancelled-20190126-p50tum.html

Of course for many having to fly out of Melbourne second and much smaller airport Avalon would turn many off. But if anything passing through the airports security and customs was relatively easy and although I still had to go through the highly embarrassing full body x-ray that leaves nothing to the imagination of bemused fellow travellers, the staff weren’t aggressive or rude as custom in many other airports.

Q: What’s a good place to stay in Phnom Penh?

I am staying on 130 Street in Phnom Penh at the City Centre Hotel for $30SUSD per night.

Quick Comment:

The hotel is located in the main tourist hub located between 104 and 136 Street. For anyone who has not visited Phnom Penh the streets are all numbered odds one way and evens the next, something I am sure was extremely convenient when determining distances before the invent of google maps. Again, for the price paid the place is very well run and except for a very slow elevator and pesky tuk-tuk drivers that loiter out the front doors (although that can be said of everywhere in the tourist hot spots), it cannot be faulted.

I would have liked to answer some more pertinent questions than hotels and air flights, however these were the questions emailed so these will be the questions answered.

#watchthisspace

The fallout from last weeks Indonesian election has continued with both sides holding press conferences claiming victory in early counting. Joko Widodo reported a large winning margin and claimed 22 state leaders have called him to congratulate a second term. However, Prabowo Subianto at a separate news conference just minutes after Widodo also decalred victory in his claimed his internal party polling showed at 62% popular vote. Official results will be released on the 22 of May.

Prabowo has also been expressing ‘widespread cheating’ throughout the election, alleging missing ballot boxes, delayed opening hours for polling stations and manipulating exit polls. The coming weeks will be closely watched by both sides and whilst violence was largely avoided in the run up to the election, many on the ground are somewhat fearful of  what will happen if Prabowo supporters reject what to many appears the inevitable.

Figures for year-on-year mobile payments show Thailand and Vietnam have been overtaking Singapore and Malaysia in the new age payment methods. This may sound at odds with those who have travelled these countries, especially leaving the capital cities of Bangkok and Saigon. However, whilst only 40% of people in a country of 95 million have bank accounts in Vietnam there are over 120 million mobile subscriptions. With the rapid expansion of 4G and cheap smart phones allowing many in rural communities to open accounts not through traditional bank, but telecommunication companies.

However, whilst both the Thai and Vietnamese governments can see the obvious potential of a cashless society, mobile payments are still in their infancy and are largely unregulated. With large foreign owned companies owning both a countries telecommunications and financial transactions industries, any government should be able to see the obvious issues that would arise.

The Week That Was:

Another year of Thailand’s famous Songkran Water Festival and another seven deadly days (April 11 – April 17) resulted in 386 deaths and 2,807 injured. The term seven deadly days was first coined by the Thai Ministry of Transport in a bid to reduce the carnage on the country’s roads during a time that see many in the cities capital return home for the annual festivities. Thailand currently ranks second in the world for road deaths per 100,000 at 36.2 totalling 24,000 per year.

Every year Thai authorities attribute the high number of road deaths in Thailand to the main factors of speeding, overloading (think the famous image of whole families on bikes), drink driving and high motorcycle use. However when reflecting on these reasons, non of these are exclusive to Thailand with many other countries in South East Asia facing similar issues.

Speaking to those on the ground about the issue many reply to me most Thai’s have such a faith in the Buddhist concept of another life, most don’t truly care about dying on the road and hence drive accordingly. If this is the answer than no matter how many measures are put in place nothing will ever change, driver less cars and motorbikes will be the only solution.

If the figures from the previous story weren’t confronting enough, reports of the staggering number of deaths that have been recorded from vote counters in the Indonesian election has stunned the world. Of course, one has to remember the massive scale of both the Indonesian population and the required counters needed to undertake such a democratic process. However, with figures so far of over 300 deaths and over 2000 illnesses all due to fatigue something has gone seriously wrong.

These are figures well and truly above any statistical percentage seen before for any previous elections held in the nation (or the world). With the only conclusion blaming the combination of both the presidential and legislative election processes. With polling station officials given a short time to prepare election booths and then process ballot papers.

Somehow I feel this story should actually be placed in the #watchthisspace section, because in this commentators opinion such a ‘death cluster’ as it would be called in the West, surely needs a better explanation than an increased workload. Not wanting to make light of the tragic events but has anybody thought about testing the envelope glue? #Seinfeldism

Probably the biggest talk of the town amongst travellers whilst I have been here was the re-connection of the train running between the two Kingdoms and Thailand and Cambodia. With both leaders Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Cambodia’s Premier Hun Sen attending the reopening after connection was ceased 45 years ago due to internal conflicts in the two neighbouring countries. If time is of no issue then personally, there is no better way to travel through Asia then on train – for both the scenery and safety it has to offer.

Week Ahead:

Next weeks post will be a big one and I will be covering my thoughts on my time spent in Phnom Penh whilst also travelling to Sihanoukvilleand and the Island Koh Rong, with reports for them to come the week after that.

Whilst I will always endeavour to be posting weekly with such a big week just gone of exploring Phnom Penh and maintaining paid work commitments, meant I missed last weeks post. I hope this will be the last time that happens but travelling in countries with questionable internet access and general electric supply (will tell all next week) does make it tough.

Harrison White can be contacted at harrisonwhitejournalist@gmail.com