Back to Phnom Penh

We actually slept in a bit this morning, then had time for an average breakfast, and got in a minivan that took us to the airport. Waited an hour or so and got on a plane for the short flight down to Phnom Penh, then went through a bit of bureaucracy and a few queues pretty quickly to get our Cambodian visas (we didn’t need the photos after all) and were waved through customs (despite never having been given a customs form on the plane).

Cambodia was noticeably warmer and more humid, but not too bad. We were met by a driver who drove for us for over an hour through gridlocked traffic back to the White Mansion, where we were greeted warmly by the staff.

We’re up on the fourth floor this time; a  sort of half floor they’ve converted from what were originally  attic rooms. We have a rooftop balcony but the door outside is very low and I’ve already bashed my head once. I also have some kind of itchy rash on the back of my neck. All signs that the trip is coming to an end perhaps!

After organising our packing, having a couple of drinks, and thoroughly cleaning the dried mud from our shoes (I ducked out and bought a toilet brush from a nearby service station for the purpose), we headed out for dinner, walking about ten minutes or so to the Friends restaurant where we had the first meal of our holiday. It’s noticeable how much more relaxed we are on the very busy streets of Phnom Penh, now we’ve been travelling three weeks! We bought some gifts from the affiliated charity shop next door, then walked back in the balmy evening, weaving around parked cars and traffic, nimbly negotiating the uneven terrain of the sidewalk, and generally enjoying the house, smog, smells and sights of the streets. We’re going to miss all these things when we return to our usual safe, clean, somewhat sterile surroundings.

We were both a bit uninterested in travelling to Southeast Asia a few years ago, and now we’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and found ourselves fascinated by the distinct character of each country, moved by their tragic histories, and interested in how they interact today. Over all of them looms the business giant China, and it will be a challenge for them to keep their character and autonomy in the future—especially underdeveloped Laos. For both of us, it’s wonderful to finally have some small insights into these places, and to have met friendly people who we’ve really connected with (after experiences in both Vietnam and Laos, we’ve felt a particular link with the Hmong people).

Another incredible trip comes to a close. Until next time … and India?

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