The Cambodian Sojourn, Part One

October 7, 2008

“Man is afraid of change. And for good reason, for in before a change for the better there is a bloody, nightmarish campaign of exterminating the old.”


One week of being in Cambodia as some sort of organized program, I set off on the 28th of September. That was on the day that Code Geass ended(T_t), and I still remember being pretty nervous at the airport. I mean, we were off to Cambodia. It wasn’t helping that the first thing that I thought of when I learned of the destination was “landmine”(After a bit of reading, it seems that it’s still filled with those crater-makers).

I also took it as a bad omen that my name printed on the ticket was “PHUA CHENFEIMS”. No, really. So now, on the last day prior to my one-week cutoff from anime, fate pulls a gender-bender on me?!

The flight, which was at 4.20 pm Singaporean time and with 20 other companions(adults included), was pretty smooth even though the pilot had warned of turbulence. After asking a friend who was sitting in the middle instead of my window seat at the back, I was told that turbulence was the worst when you’re sitting in the middle of the plane. Something new to keep in mind.

We touched down at the Phnom Penh International Airport at 5.00pm+ Cambodian time. The Airport was rather quiet compared to Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

Cool and silent. The staff were a bit like it too...

Cool and silent. The staff were a bit like it too...

The procedures were as fast as lightning too; probably explained by a lack of other passengers at that time. If I recall correctly, our plane was the only one that was letting off passengers…

You would never have guessed that this was the airport's exterior.

You would never have guessed that this was the airport's exterior.

In Cambodia, the sun sets early. By six, the sky is as dark at it is when Singapore is at eight. Of course there was nothing on the list of “to-do” at that time other than eat and get a room to sleep in. So we did exactly that.

What a spread!

What a spread!

If anything, the only reason why I wouldn’t want to eat in Cambodia long-term is a rather conspicuous lack of meat in almost half of their dishes. Sweet and sour pork with only seven pieces of meat is not very group-friendly. But that’s just me.

I remember this being the fourth glass of beer before passing out.

I remember this being the fourth glass of beer before passing out.

I jest. It’s just cooled Chinese tea… well, something close.

The hotel we got to stay in was the Royal Palace Hotel. Small, but nonetheless it was good. Any hotel with a bed that can bounce you to the ceiling and carpeted floors in each room is guranteed an automatic place in my good books. Most of the corridors in the hotel wee barely illuminated thought, giving some corners a really creepy feeling.

Next day, the 29th of September, we had the morning roll call at 6.00am Cambodian time. What got me up and running was that the sun was already shining bright though the windows. In Singapore, the only thing that shone through the windows at this unearthly hour were the street lights.

Breakfast, and then we were off to our area of mission; the city outskirts, near an orphanage called the Riverkids. Makes sense, since it’s just a few hundred meters shy of the shore where three of Cambodia’s rivers meet. It was rather empty, as we were told that the place was not so much of an orphanage as a school for the poor; there were kids staying over, but they were few in number.

We also got a chance to see how the poor lived. Those that really raised my concerns were those that had built their houses on top of the river. Yes, you heard me right.

Creak.... splash.

Rickety-creak... Splash.

As we walked deeper in, we could see that the entire thing was a separate community on its own. Shops, houses, all the people that lived there had all they needed for survival. Our stay was cut short, however, when one of the boards very nearly gave way and went down by a few centimeters; a general retreat back to our tour bus was soon ordered. There was only one layer of wooden boards to constitute a small path through the settlement, in before the water busting my cellphone camera, I sure as hell did not want a dip in the water. Refer to above.

Five seconds before the board decided it had enough.

Five seconds before the board decided it had enough. Well, actually it was further in.


Interior shot of one of the houses. I didn't stay to check if the owner was staring daggers at me. 😛

But the kids there are as happy as can be. No, really, looking at them reminded me of how fortunate I got to be as happy as them back in my childhood, without the risk of living such a precarious life.

Nice Boa- I mean, Nice Dog.

Nice Dog. I swear, the kid was just holding it in place for my friend's photo shoot.


Happy people line up for the farewell shot. 😀

And that’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!

%d bloggers like this: