I have to admit that travelling alone is not as easy as it seems to be. It takes a lot of courage, braveness and lucks. The journey started when I had to go to KL Sentral right before midnight to take the 3.00a.m. bus. It was Wednesday’s night. I dare not ask any of my friends to stay late just to send me to the airport, or KL Sentral. They had to work the next day after. Of all friends, Bob without much thought, agreed to send me to KL Sentral on the very night.
He dropped me at KL Sentral at about 1a.m. and I waited at the entrance of KL Sentral for the shuttle bus to resume business, and forced my eyes to open by finishing the last chapter of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray & Love. At times, I rested my head and arms on my backpack. I hopped on the bus the moment it opened its door to passengers. The fastest I could get on the bus, the longest I could take a nap. I slept all the way to LCCT, Sepang.
The flight took off to Siem Reap at 7.00a.m. Excitement over sleepiness. I seriously did not know what to expect out of my Cambodian trip. Would the trip full of adventures? Could halal food be easily accessible? Could I survive a week without reliable family and friends? Would I meet interesting people? Many questions lingered in my mind as I launched my first solo backpacking trip. Though I could not stop questioning the 1001 questions, I did not make any conclusion there and then. My questions would all be answered within the 7 days journey.
The flight AK280 landed in Siem Reap International Airport at 8.00a.m. After getting my clearance from Immigration Office and what nots, the first thing I did in Siem Reap was to be a pillion rider and enjoyed myself on the bike through the barren land of Siem Reap. I purposely took the bike instead of the tuk tuk to the bus station from which, I was leaving to Phnom Penh. It cost USD4.00 for perhaps 5kilometres ride.
Language barrier is prevalent in most part of Cambodia. At the bus station itself, I was misled to buy a bus ticket which I thought would leave at 9a.m. Not only the bus left at 10.30a.m., there was not a single person on that bus who could actually speak English. What a torturing bus ride of 8 hours to Phnom Penh. The guy who sat next to me had a skin disease I myself was afraid to look at. Now, I don’t want to go in depth into cleanliness. You can never expect a positive remark when you are talking about cleanliness in a developing country.
At 4.30p.m. I reached Phnom Penh. It took me awhile to register the lack of infrastructure, streets full of dust and rubbish, risky and confusing traffic in the city. Yes, I was in Phnom Penh. Being a strange Asian looking girl with a backpack half of my size, I was the victim of prowling tuktuk drivers. I tell you, they are just like predators. I smiled and I turned them away.
I wandered around the Sorya Mall in search of a local simcard as I had to call my CS host. Otherwise I had to worry of a place of shelter for that night. They refused to my request for a local sim card because I was not a Cambodian. After playing begging games with the locals, I got myself a USD2 starter simcard and uploaded USD5. I gave my host a call and surprisingly, she came within 7 minutes in a lexus car (lexus is commonly used by the well-off people in Cambodia).*
As they said, expect the unexpected. Who knew I could possibly dip my smelly-dusty-stinky body in a bathtub in a spa in Phnom Penh within 30 minutes of my arrival. It happened that my CS host owns a SPA in the town. She is a kind woman who has shown tremendous and limitless kindness to human beings as much as to animals.
We were off to a CS Phnom Penh gathering, which did not leave much impact on me. On the very night itself, we went to watch an Italian movie in a cultural centre in Phnom Penh.
The place where my host hosted me was not her own mansion house but an apartment which she rented for her niece. For someone who are used to a well-lighted city like Kuala Lumpur, the dark staircase up to the apartment really gave me a chill in the stomach. But all went well, and in fact, I slept well on my first night in Phnom Penh.
Footnote: Phnom Penh is your truly Cambodian flavour. It is full of characters, mostly of people desperate for survival. But these people are happy people. They smiled non-stop to me even when I refused to use their tuktuk service or did not want to buy their khmer silk scarfs for an obvious expensive price. They might be poor in property but they are rich in happiness and contentment.