Day 1, I came and I was mesmerized; Day 5, I fell in love; Day 12, I can’t wait to come back again.
|Good start to my adventure!|
It started a little like the end for me. I strode purposefully across the hallways in KLIA 2, feeling every bit like a backpacker with my big red backpack and buckles clipped on my waist. I remember the sudden wave of loneliness I felt when I was waiting and the equally sudden wave of elation when it’s finally time to board the plane. It somewhat feels different than all the other times I’ve travelled. I am going on an adventure alone this time. No one to depend on, no one to die with me if the plane crashes. The uncertainty excited me and frightened me at the same time.
I was in awe before the plane even landed. The view that my tiny plane pothole allowed me was gorgeous. It came like such a surprise to me because honestly, I still believed that I would see heaps of garbage piling up in the brown muddy river. That’s when I knew, it’s going to be perfect. The immigration officers were nothing but nice to me, although some would say otherwise, but for me, it’s a perfect start.
|Hasty snap turned out gorgeous|
Essentially, I did everything I was supposed to. I saw Angkor Wat; I went to the museum; I got scammed by some tuk tuk; I ate insects. But, I didn’t fall in love with Cambodia because of these experiences. I was very taken aback by the marvels, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t fall in love. It’s like a casual one night stand; I only know what I need, then milk the hell out of it.
Instead, I fell in love with the simple Cambodian people. They live in bare necessities and still they could offer me something with a smile. In my travels, except in Phnom Penh, it’s so difficult to find a scowling Cambodian. Sure, there are a few odd inquiring stares, especially when they can’t make out what am I. But they always smiled back at me even though I meant nothing to them. They are interested and asked questions about myself and my country. I love how I could made my young tuk-tuk driver blush when I asked him about himself. I love how I could know no one in Cambodia, but still feels at home.
|First friendly Cambodia I’ve met. My motorcyclist from the airport, Rith!|
Interestingly, I felt different in every Cambodian city I’ve been to. Siem Reap is so busy, there’s always some activity or another going on. It’s like a festival that doesn’t quite end. Phnom Penh felt like I was shrouded in a sense of deep sadness and guardedness. People doesn’t feel welcoming to me. Kampot, on the other hand, felt completely opposite from Phnom Penh. People are curious about me. They are willing to help me, even though it might cost them.
This trip marks the beginning of a long soul-searching journey. Through this, I learnt so much about myself and the world it’s unbelievable. In fact, it still feels a little surreal to me. Cambodia represents all the places I’m not supposed to go- backwards and bloody. But the people are the warmest bunch of people I’ve even meet. I’ve been back for three weeks now and needless to say, I suffered from a bad case of post-travel depression. It’s justifiable- I missed everything about Cambodia from the grand structures to the tiny people walking in the streets that I’ll never know. Cambodia became my first love, and for that I will never forget the time I had here.
|Hurrying monk from Angkor Wat|
|Overlooking the Bayon|
|Broken ornaments from a temple I’ve lost track on|