As I mentioned earlier, I had to make a rather rushed trip to Phnom Penh to obtain a new visa to get a new work permit for Thailand. Phnom Penh was a place I had read plenty about and studied in school, but I had never been there. And what better way to visit the capital city than to have work cover some of your costs?!
I was crashing with Adam (and Nora) when I made the decision late Friday night to go ahead and buy a plane ticket to Cambodia. The ride from Bangkok to Phnom Penh takes upwards of 15 hours, and many times, it’s longer than that. The border town of Poipet, in Cambodia, is far and away the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s a filthy, nasty center for gambling and an international hotspot for sex trafficking and underage prostitution. Scams abound, and as a traveller, you’re pulled every which way by touts, trying to get you pay money for mysterious border fees. I didn’t have a pleasant experience the last time I passed through, on my way to Siem Reap, so I thought I’d be a grown-up and buy a place ticket. Luckily, Southeast Asia (and a few other parts of the world) are serviced by an excellent budget airline, Air Asia.
Border crisis averted! (on the way to Cambodia, that is. The way back to Thailand was a whole different story.)
I had few goals for my time in Cambodia. Really, I only had two (besides getting my visa, of course):
1. Eat a sandwich
2. Go to Tuol Sleng (this will have its own, forthcoming post)
I was successful!
Phnom Penh was a lot of wandering around, sitting in cafes and reading. I set up a Goodreads account at the end of last year and I made the goal to read 30 books in 2012. I was eager to get a jump start on my goal (and I finished one book, started and finished another, and started another).
Here’s a shot of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. I tried to go here multiple times, but they had the wonkiest hours of operation. Upon my last attempt to visit the Palace and its famed Silver Pagoda, I was told it was closed again.
“I always come when it’s closed! Are you sure it’s closed?”
The guard was amused, I think.
“The Royal Palace is closed,” he repeated.
Then he leaned in.
“If you give me ten dollars, I will let you go in now.”
I was a little taken aback.
“But you said it’s closed! Won’t they notice me walking around after it’s closed?”
“You just tell the guards that you left to find a friend and now you’re just getting back in to the Palace.”
I looked around. I looked at the motorcycle driver standing next to him, the driver that we taken my to the Thai Embassy earlier in the day and had recognized me (how did a capital city get so small that motorcycle drivers remember me?). I looked down at the gun of the guard. I looked at the city around me, lit up golden as the sun was beginning to set.
“I don’t think so,” I said. It wasn’t worth $10 to me, and it certainly wasn’t worth getting into trouble with the guards inside.
I catch myself saying things like, “oh, maybe I’ll move to Cambodia someday.”
Cambodia was nice for a visit, but I don’t think I’d like to live there.
I was, indeed, very happy to return to Thailand. So maybe I will not move to Cambodia.