Monday, October 29, 2012

Holiday in Cambodia

This past Friday was a public holiday here in Singapore. Prior to my recess week, I knew about it and had planned to travel somewhere, preferably solo. I finally decided on Cambodia, one of the countries on my to-visit list.

My outbound flight departed from Singapore at 6:30 AM Thursday morning. Since taking the first MRT wouldn't get me to the airport on-time and I didn't wanna pay for a cab ride, I took the last MRT to the airport Wednesday night and camped there until the morning came. First experience camping at Changi Airport wasn't all too bad, considering I finally had my first doze of Dunkin Donuts coffee after 3 months.

I took a tuktuk right away from the Phnom Penh airport to a bus company's office and headed to Siem Reap, which was 6 hours away. Some parts of the ride was quite bumpy, and the villages in between looked more like wastelands; impoverished and very under-developed. Anyhow, I took a tuktuk as I arrived there to go up north of Siem Reap where the Angkor Wat and the other temples are. It was quite breathtaking especially during sunset.

After sunset, I was all set to go to Channa and Thomas' home. This Khmer-Danish couple owns a beautiful villa hidden in the heart of Angkor Archeological Park and often hosts guests to stay with the family. I somehow overlooked what Thomas said in the booking e-mail about the impossibility of me finding their home on my own. After a phone call by the tuktuk driver, Thomas finally came on a motorbike and took me to his family's home. I was welcomed like a family as Channa showed me my room: a peaceful little pavilion in the beautiful yard. I quickly showered, then enjoyed a Khmer home-cooked dinner with the family as we got to know one another better. To end the nice evening, I had a chance to help Amanda, their 8 year-old, with her Math homework as I thought to myself "What a true homestay experience!" I didn't have the chance  to take any picture due to the rush in the morning to get the bus back to Phnom Penh, but I would highly recommend Channa's Homestay to anyone visiting Siem Reap.

While waiting for the bus, a quite respectable-looking mid-age man approached me and asked where I came from. As I answered, a glimpse of excitement shown on his face and he started to tell stories. Stories about the good old days of his youth spent in a refugee camp in Pulau Galang, Riau, Indonesia, of how well fed and treated he was, and how he came to Christ during those times. He's pretty up-to-date with the Indonesian current news, maybe more than I am. He really wish he could come and visit Indonesia again one day.

Arriving back in Phnom Penh, I walked my way by the river towards National Museum, Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the Independence Monument. The late King Norodoum Sihanouk has just passed away 2 weeks ago, and people are still mourning. The Royal Palace was closed to public as crowd still gathered and prayed in front of its gate.

Feeling exhausted, I chose to save Wat Phnom and Central Market for Saturday just before I head to the airport. I tried to visit the night market by the river, yet it was really mediocre since I've had experienced much better night markets before. Chilling out at Mad Monkey, the hostel that I stayed in Phnom Penh, I met another exchange from NTU. I guess it kinda became common by now meeting a fellow exchange everywhere I travel :)

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