Pipe Creek, TX
It's early in the morning. As I sit her writing this, I am simultaneously making multiple ToDo lists in my head. In just a few short days I will be leaving for Cambodia and there is just so much to prepare for that I sometimes get stuck and find myself doing nothing at all. That has been my “operating mode” since I first started to seriously travel over 40 years ago, so I must keep reminding myself that it WILL all get done.
I did, however, get the most important thing done, “Didn't I?” That was a crew cut to help ward off the bugs and heat that are so common in the tropics. After all I still have that lingering itch from my Suriname trip. Wasn't that over two years ago? I guess I brought home more than terrific pictures from that one? It will be interesting to see what this trip brings.
I bought new camera gear for this trip. A Sony mirror less NEX-6 camera. It is so small and light it looks like it will be a pleasure to travel with. Although my Pentax K-5 is small, the lens that go with it are not. Especially my favorite lens the 16-50mm 2.8. It is a monster! I am hoping that this new system will be just the thing I have been looking for.
Well, so far so good. I left San Antonio with not a problem in the world. My good photography buddy Kimberly dropped me off at the airport. It was great getting a chance to connect with her. Needless to say I have been busy these past few weeks, but now all of that is over and the Cambodian adventure is beginning to spread itself before me.
My four hour flight on a small United Airlines plane was probably one of the best that I have ever had. When I boarded and saw my seat I really couldn't believe my luck. There was so much legroom that if I stretched out my 6 foot legs I could nearly tap on the seat in front of me. “Hey, what gives?”, I said to my beautiful young lady sitting in the window seat. “I don't know. At first I thought it was a mistake, but I'm not complaining!”
It wasn't even an exit row. Directly in front of us was first class, and they didn't have anywhere near the legroom we had. Go figure!
But now I'm in the San Francisco airport with a 6 hour layover, until my 17 hour flight to Taipei. Now that's a ball buster! After I landed it was a short walk to the international building where my flight with EVA Airlines was to take off. There was a heavily accented German guy manning the information booth. He said, “Oh, Eva I tink she have a corner of the United check in counter?”
“Not very big, I asked. “No, I tink not.”
“What's to do here? I have 6 hours.”
He said, “Why don't you go to the Reflection Room.” That's were I went, and it is a nice big quiet room in the middle of all of the hustle of the airport. And, there's no one else in here. It's like no one knows it exists!
Only 5 1/2 more hours to boarding!
Only 5 1/2 more hours to boarding!
In the air, on the way to Phnom Pheyn,
I am sure that many of you have heard this from other international travelers, and maybe you have even experienced it yoursel? God, I am whopped! This is like a indurance/tourture contest. First of all, what the hell day is it? I thought that I was going to go back in time, but in have been catapulted into the future. So much so that I have missed my only accommodation booking on what was going to be my first night in Cambodia. I was sure that I was going to arrive on Friday, and that's what I booked. Oh no, it's Saturday and late when I arrive– with no hotel. My mind is just filled with scattered thoughts and ideas. None of them were particularly good, so instead I am just going to show up at the Atune Hotel and feign ignorance. I'll let you know how that tactic works out.
I wish I had some interesting piece of travel story to report, but the best way I was able to pass the time on just one of the 17 hour flights was by watching 4 feature length films, 2 documentaries, and a cartoon, and yes I still had time to sleep plenty!
Phnom Pheyn, Cambodia
Well the just show up an feign ignorance kinda worked.
You know you hear so many horror stories around people getting scammed that it can really ruin your trip if your not careful. Vowing to not let fear take over my trip I decided to go just “go with the flow..” Or to just follow the John Steinbeck bit of advice, and realize, “You don't take a trip, A trip takes you.” So just relax and enjoy it.
I was told by my guide books to not take a taxi, or even a tuk-tuk right out side the airport, but after what seemed like days of travel, I of course took the first tuk-tuk driver that offered his services.
“Hi, my Name is Seak Sing. Where you wanna go?”
“Hotel Asia Tune.”
“Ok, no problem,” and we were off in a flash. We'll really more like a crawl, because the old motorcycle with rickshaw mounted on the back, moved loudly, but very slowly. That was nice. I was worried about them driving too fast. Like they did in Indonesia. That was however not the problem. It put a smile on my face. I had really arrived!
It didn't take me too long to figure out that Sing didn't know where the hotel was. So we pulled over, and 5 or six phone call later and we were off again. We pulled in front a dumpy looking storefront. Sing removed my bags and I followed him in. I was a little worried that this my hotel, but it was a broker for bus tickets. He wanted to sell me a bus ticket to Kampong Cham for tomorrow. I had only mentioned conversationally to Sing my plans and even with his poor English and all, he had picked up that I needed a ticket. What seemed like ten calls later I handed him ten dollars and he handed me a hand written receipt and said someone would pick me up in the morning. I'm just going with the flow, I though and took the ticket.
The hotel was nice, probably too nice, but it was surround by squalor on all sides. A freshly dressed young boy showed up, smiled, put his hand together as if praying, and bowed. He than lifted my bag out. Kim had told me that they do not tip in Cambodia, but at the last minute I just couldn't not do it. He was so ernest and had worked so hard to get me here. All for $8.00! So I gave him an extra dollar. Big spender, huh!
On the luxurious inside everyone smiled and gave that little prayer bow. I handed the young girl my receipt that I had printed out on the internet, and she asked me to wait in the comfortable lounge chairs while she processed me. A young boy brought me out a tropical fruit punch. It was really delicious and I quickly drank it down.
I could see that the five or six people behind the desk were puzzled by my arrival. Remember that my reservation was for yesterday. After about 15 minutes a man with a suit showed up and explained that my reservation was for yesterday, at that point I fessed up, and said, well why don't you give me a room and I will just pay the extra. Apparently there were no rooms available, but he would personally drive me to another hotel, but unfortunately it would cost me $35. At that point I didn't care. I just wanted to get somewhere I could rest, so I said fine, but what about the driver picking me up in the morning to take me to the bus to Kampong Cham. A dozen or so calls later and he said it was all arranged.
His hotel car picked us up, and drove us to the Town View Hotel, which was if anything even nicer that his. He stood with me the entire time that it took me to check in, apologized for the inconvenience and left.
I later found out that the rooms were more like a hundred, and he had negotiated a special rate for me, so that's what I mean when I said it kinda worked to “feign ignorance.”
I immediately upon reaching my room I logged into the wifi and told Kim that I had arrived. We even Skyped for a while. It was great see her face. Just one more day and we would be together.
I laid down on the enormous bed and just rested my eyes for a minute. Next thing I knew it was dark and 7:30 at night. I had intended to go for a walk to see Phnom Pehn, but now it was dark. Still I reasoned that I could not just go back to bed, so I should go for a walk anyway.
It didn't take me long to realize that it was probably not too safe to be wandering around on the dark streets. First of all there were few sidewalks, and the ones that were there were blocked by cars, or carts or debris. Off in the distance I saw the unmistakable sign for a KFC. What do you think I did?
After a delicious, but ordinary meal I hailed a tuk-tuk to take me back to the motel, where is fell asleep until the morning. There was a free breakfast and then it was off to the bus station.
Kampong Cham, Cambodia
Almost four hours later.
It was late Saturday, hot and there was not many people out on the streets, when it was dropped off in downtown Kampong Cham. I headed for some shade, where I saw a small group of men standing. I showed them the address that Kim had given me. This drew huge conversations in Kamer, in which all participated, except of course me. Guys were showing up from all over just to look at the address on a the piece of paper and express an opinion. Just then I felt a cooling breeze blowing up the crack of my ass.
I haven't worn any underware since I was 25. I felt behind me and could feel a very large rip in my ExOfficio ripstop nylon pants. I looked behind me and could see five or six women laughing and gesturing. I said to one of the guys who was motioning that he never heard of this address, that I had a hole in my pants, but all he answered was that he would take me there for $19.US.
I took out my rain jacket and wrapped it around my waist. Just then a tuk-tuk pulled up. I snatched the piece of paper with the address, and I walked toward him. Handing the young boy the paper I asked, “How much?” Several more tuk-tuk's pulled up and another round of discussion started. I had Kim's phone number and one of the drivers offered to call. To my surprise he got Kim on the phone, got the address and we were off. We did a U turn, pulled a half a block down and I was was in Kim's arms. I had finally arrived!