I made it to Cambodia! It has been such an incredible trip so far and I have so much to share with you! Let me start with my experience getting here 🙂
The trip over was long, especially doing it alone, but it was exciting. After driving to LAX and returning my rental car, I had three planes to ride on my journey, Los Angeles to San Fransisco to Seoul to Phnom Penh. The first flight was short. I slept through from the safety demonstration until the wheels touched the ground- getting up at 3am tends to have that affect on me. I made my way to the international terminal in San Fransisco and all of a sudden this feeling rushed over me because the trip was getting real. I found this small japanese restaurant and had a delicious lunch even if it was only 8am. It was interesting to people watch there and see what kinds of people were in the terminal, it definitely had a higher Asian population than other terminals of the airport, and a lot of white middle aged businessmen, and a few young guys traveling alone getting ready to explore like I was. I was super lucky on the plane to get two open seats next to me, always a fantastic perk especially on a 12 hour flight! I watched a few movies and tried to sleep as much as I could, but unfortunately wasn’t able to much considering how long the flight was. I flew with United and sat in economy plus, it was interesting how few women were in that section of the plane, only 5 out of 70. That made me feel kind of cool. Having status with an airline really makes a difference with traveling. I felt ready to take on the next step when we touched down in Seoul despite how tired I was. The airport was really neat – super crowded, huge, clean, tons of shopping places.
I had to take a cramped train to another terminal and go through security again, then walked a long way to find my new gate. I was happy to have free wifi there because my layover was a few hours. The gate area felt super comfortable, spacious, well designed, full of windows. I sat comfortably there and even found some amazing chocolate ice cream. I’m kind of an ice cream fanatic (maybe that’s an understatement). As the gate began to fill up with more people making their way to Cambodia, a guy named Vince sat next to me asking why I was going there and about my story. He was born in Cambodia but lives in LA now. He was kind enough to give me lots of advice, even some I didn’t need, but it helped me relax and smile a little. It’s always nice when a stranger is kind or cares – gives me some faith in people or something. He was glad to hear I wasn’t going by myself and said I would get overwhelmed by people when I arrived as a blonde girl – he wasn’t wrong, traveling alone or not.
The flight to Phnom Penh was with Asiana airlines and it was truly great. It was about 5.5 hours, but I slept on and off majority of it. I was surrounded by this American group traveling together with college students and some middle aged group leaders. The students looked a little nervous and struggled filling out the immigration forms, which made me glad to have so much experience with traveling because those forms can be confusing at times.
The next two hours were nuts. We arrived late close to midnight. There were lots of crowds and lines of people and it was often unclear where to go amongst the chaos. I had filed for a visa in advance and was happy to avoid a very long and slow moving line to receive one, but passport control was easy enough. I grabbed my suitcase and went through the final step of immigration and took a deep breath because I made it to Cambodia! It’s always important to stop and remember where you are and how amazing it is. I felt very relieved to find Emily quickly, she was waiting towards the front of a ton of people. It felt good to see a familiar face after such a long journey. We found a tuktuk and made our way to the hotel. It was after 1am so not much traffic existed. My first impression was wow what a city. Definitely dirty and dusty, lots of trash everywhere. We passed strip clubs and homeless people, a woman digging through trash, and tons of closed shops. I was so excited to be there though. We stayed at the skypark guesthouse, which is cheap and close to many places in the city. Emily says the peace corps puts the volunteers up there often when they have meetings or reason to be in the city. The room had two big beds, fresh towels, air conditioning, and a clean bathroom – all a relief after the long trip. We both went straight to sleep because we were going to start an adventure together first thing in the morning.