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April 1st, 1AM, almost arriving from Venice, Italy
On the flight I’m thinking “Life is a video game”, but not quite sure what made me think that.
2AM, Doha, Qatar
Talking about Zaha Hadid today in Venice. Landed in Doha, read the news…
April 2nd, a little before 1 AM
Just came from Dubai and it’s raining, I’m freezing here in Doha and it’s windy, so I booked for Cambodia and off I go with my geisha shoes, black turban and elephant key chain.
Yes, this has been the week of visas and paperwork and I’ve been running after them like crazy. As I am running now to my gate, the furthest ever, almost the same that took me to Zanzibar in September last year. But I guess I should run not write…this is only until they start the airport bus that they’re testing now. Because HIA is awesome!
As usual, I get excellent treatment at the airport and get 3 seats for myself. I cover myself in 3 blankets plus my huge wool blue scarf with a story, fasten my seat belt and sleep. I have chills, but I manage to sleep.
9 AM Doha time, 1 PM Saigon time
“Saigon, I’m back in fucking Saigon” – Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, the movie, yes, the old one, 1979 with Marlon Brando. Watched it not long ago when trying to write about my experience in Vietnam and Saigon in order to learn more about the war. Finally, I changed my plans of seeing Petra in the days off to flying to Cambodia.
So, Saigon, but I’m not here to stay more than 60 minutes, as my colleagues announce that transit lasts for. I almost feel excited for them and their stay. On the left, through the oval windows of the airplane I see the buildings of Ho Chi Minh City. Touchdown!
Vodafone welcomes me to Vietnam – these small things make me happy.
Starting to recover with a glass of Chardonnay from the zombie state I was in when leaving Doha.
We have just landed in Tan Son Nhat International Airport – Terminal 2. Well this sounds familiar, I have been here one month ago. The temperature is 33 degrees. Yey! – I love when the thermometer reads over 30 degrees Celsius.
Slept almost the whole time and was lucky enough – or should I call it differently? – to get three seats just for myself, as it happens most of the time.
I spot a Vietnam Airlines plane, blue with the yellow lotus flower on the tail. This reminds me of the most beautiful aircraft design I have ever seen – Batik Airlines, from Jakarta, where I’m returning this April, in a new setting/hotel.
Not sure whether it is snobbish or fine to talk about exotic destinations with this ease.
After all, it is my job. Oh well, passion.
Flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. Again! I remember when I was doing this for the first time (February 27th) and thinking: “Gosh, where am I? Flying from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, places I can barely pronounce”.
Day 1, 14:55, not one minute less…
And up we go to Phnom Penh passing by many Vietnam Airlines planes. I see the repetition as a pattern of my life. Sao Paolo/ Argentina twice in two consecutive months, Zanzibar same, Madrid same, Beirut same and now Ho Chi Minh City/Phnom Penh. Interesting, though I noticed that once I’m done, I’m done – proof that whatever you have not processed the way you were supposed to, what you did not learn, where you still have work to do, debts to pay (don’t think of money, but that could be the case, too) will follow you over and over until the lesson is learned, may it be positive or less appealing.
Here I am a solo travel girl in Cambodia. Is it safe? Who cares? I’m a Queen of Contrasts. Internet and solo female traveler blogs say yes, but there was an announcement in the flight to be careful with the jewelry and valuables at all times.
We’ll see! By now I’ve been in a lot of so-called dangerous places – alone – and had a great time. Let’s put it this way, if it’s not a bit rare or dangerous, I’m not in.
Captain made the announcement and we’re arriving 10 minutes earlier.
Plains and big inundated low lands of irregular shapes. Brown – the water and dark green – the vegetation. No roads, no houses, no skyscrapers. As I read this later, I’m thinking how naive I had been before visiting Cambodia, the Land of Wonder. Finally some houses and huge Mekong River, with an island in the middle. Same tones on my oval window as we descend to the best holidays I’ve ever had.
Welcome to Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Outside – some Bassaka Air airplanes, a Cambodian carrier and some of Bangkok Air.
Most of the people in my flight queue for the visa on arrival for which you only need to pay around $30, fill in a form and have a photo. I had applied online for it – it is true I paid $80, but you can find other websites where it is only $30.
I don’t have any check-in luggage so I’m the first one to leave the airport as the whole queue is staring at me when the officials tell me to proceed. This is easy and much better than I expected, I’m thinking. The airport looks new. First thing I notice if a Japanese Newspaper, free Japanese newspaper. Inevitably I think of the free Japanese newspaper in Yangon and some distorted truths I read there.
As I had read online, you can get a Pink Ticket from the official service of the airport. They provide transportation to the city and it costs $9 for one tuk-tuk ride (a little over 30 minutes depending on traffic), as it is written of the ticket. I chose tuk-tuk over taxi – I don’t know how much this costs – because you can get a better feel of the city from an early stage. Just be careful with your belongings, put it flat on the ground of the tuk-tuk and your backpack/purse between your legs. Most probably you’ll be using Street 110 – it already started – Russian Federation.
In Phnom Penh I chose Harmony Hotel and for $50 – one of the most expensive around – it’s more than I need. I had taken shampoo and a towel with me just in case, but both the hotels I stayed in offered great amenities and services. I get a welcome drink and I have to deposit $50 dollars as guarantee. In Cambodia there’s free wi-fi everywhere.
My hotel is on Street 148, neighboring a day market and at 2 streets away from the main nightlife area in Phnom Penh, the restaurants and cafes by the Mekong River on the Sisowath Quay, and less than 10 minutes tuk-tuk ride to The National Museum and Silver Pagoda and around 15 minutes by tuk-tuk to Tuol Sleng Museum (S21).
It’s almost getting dark, so after I take some pictures from the 10th floor window of my room and check out the bar by the 2 level rooftop pool of the hotel, I go out to check the surroundings.
Cambodian People’s Party signs are pretty much everywhere and as I got to see during the 10 hours (return) trip to Siem Reap, where the biggest, tallest and most luxurious house/mini palace was, it was for sure the office of the party.
People seem so warm and nice. I’m obviously odd in my short leather pants, green polo shirt and light green bag with an elephant hanging from its handle. I step in the dirty water puddles of the market.
They sell alive hens and chicken, fish which have been in this 35 degrees head all day/days, clothes – I got myself a $7 long green flower print dress, vegetables, fruit, tens of kinds of leaves, fresh juices and shakes (all $1), gifts for gods – mini gold ingots, toy Range Rovers and other such extreme kitsch stuff.
To my surprise, I don’t see any tourists and the reason might be that, as myself, they’re only in transit here, in their way to Siem Reap. At one table by the river what seems to be an American/British/Australian puts some wet towels on the forehead of what looks like his pregnant Cambodian wife, sited next to their other child.
Now my dream is to have in the bank that much that produces interest 70$ a day, ok, then 100$ and live happily around the world, running away from life.
In case you’re wondering which currency is used in Cambodia, it is the US Dollar, meaning you can pay in $$$ even to but water from the street merchants. $1=4000 Cambodian Riels. Prices? Small water $0,5/$1, mainly any small thing you buy in the street is $1. Happy hour runs from 10AM to 10PM in some places or the whole day actually. Nice cocktails for $4 (1+1, meaning $2 per cocktail). Beer for $0.5. Cheap, in a word. My suggestion would be to go with small banknotes of $20 and $10 and as many of $1.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Let the crazy days and weird food festival begin! Where am I?