A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Cambodia with a friend. I’ve finally found some time to write about the trip, while the memories are – just about – still fresh in the mind. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in east and south-east Asia but Cambodia was a country I knew very little about, so I was excited about the prospect of discovering somewhere new.Because there were no direct flights from London, there had to be a stop off in Bangkok along the way. That was an adventure in itself, as I got to experience a buzzing, vibrant city with a market stall on every spare bit of ground and a bewildering array of sights, sounds and smells. The humidity was something I’d not experienced since Manila, the heat making the air feel heavy, at times almost suffocatingly so. But there was much to enjoy. For a start, those of you who followed my travels in Tokyo will realise how thrilled I was to discover that the city has branches of MOS Burger.
It was also an opportunity to meet up with an old friend, Den, who I hadn’t seen for 13 – THIRTEEN! – years. She kindly acted as our tour guide for the day, taking us on a trip along the Chao Phraya to visit Wat Arun and Wat Pho, before sitting down in the backpackers’ mecca of Khao San Road where we nostalgically reminisced about good ol’ Baguio City and the theatre production we worked on together at the University of the Philippines.It was a good time to be in Thailand, after the initial protests had died down but before the military coup and curfews. Still, one taxi driver tried to tell us that he had to go on a long and expensive route because a rally (which didn’t exist) was in the way. Once he realised that we knew what he was doing, rather than accept it and take us for the normal rate, he turfed us out and went off in search of some more gullible victims.
At midnight, the market stalls along Sukhumvit would suddenly disappear, with curbside bars magically taking their place. It was quite a thing to be sitting at a bar on the side of the road on a warm night, especially one magnificently well-stocked bar on the back of a small truck owned by an old man who took great pride in his disco ball, laser light show and smoke machine.
But anyway, Bangkok was just the appetiser – Cambodia would be the main event and the first stop would be the country’s most popular tourist destination. No sleep ’til Siem Reap…