Thursday, 25 January 2007

Welcome to Phnom Penh

It's my second trip to Cambodia. Last year I was well organised and had arranged my visa in advance with the Cambodian embassy in Berlin. This time I thought I'd get it at the airport.

With no special "VISA" signs and no one really speaking English I figured I'd stand in line with most of the other foreigners... A grim looking officer took my passport and pointed towards the left... I was not quite sure what he was trying to tell me or what I was supposed to do, so I waited with a few other startled tourists... five minutes later and 20 meters further down another officer suddenly waved my passport into the air with one hand, holding the other one out in return for cash. Still no spoken word.

At the passport control same speechless procedure. The purpose of my trip is to research tourism development in Cambodia. The welcome at the airport has certainly room for improvement. But having picked up my luggage and made it past another round of grumpy customs officials - I saw a huge sign saying GRUBER and my driver "James Bond" boasting the biggest smile. Welcome to the land of the smile!

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