Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Update 1

I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at around 11 PM local time on Sunday May, 31, after nearly 30 hours of travel time. I left the United States from Los Angeles and had a quick layover in Seoul, South Korea. Flying time was approximately 12 hours, the longest single flight I had ever been on. The weirdest thing about it all was that since I was flying west over the International Dateline it never got dark outside even though I left on Saturday and arrived on Sunday. The airport in Seoul was very new and high tech. It was a beautiful building; very clean, and the restrooms had LED lights to disinfect your hands as you blow dried them. Another perk is that there were free wireless internet areas in the airport with laptops for the travelers to use. Something apparently much too innovative and traveler friendly for the U.S. to do... Due to the H1N1 epidemic I had to fill out a special health form before I landed describing any sort of flu symptoms I may have had during the seven days prior to traveling, and which countries I had been to in that time. As I got off the plane I was met by medical personnel checking everyone's temperature with a laser thermometer. Once I passed through that mess it was a breeze through passport checks and I was off to my gate.

Once on my plane to Phnom Penh I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the flight was only five hours long, much shorter than the nine hours that was estimated in my flying itinerary. The flight was quick and I was able to catch up on some sleep since I did not get much on my flight to Seoul. When I landed in Phnom Penh I went through the same H1N1 temperature check and proceeded on to purchase my visa and go through customs, all of which went much quicker than I've ever seen. Immediately outside of the airport I saw a man with a sign for a nine dollar taxi to the city center which was something I was willing to pay and was too tired to shop for better prices. The driver knew where my hotel was and was willing to take me there (further than the city center from the airport) and on this ride were my first glimpses of Cambodia from the ground.

I was surprised at how busy the streets were for how late it was at night, most of the traffic being small mopeds called motos that had anywhere from one to four people on them. There was no stopping at any intersection and traffic was moving both ways on either side of the street. Most buildings were closed up for the night but there was the familiar lit up kiosk on various street corners selling all sorts of goodies which are seen all over the developing world. Check in at the hotel went smoothly and my first night's sleep was very short as I was only beginning to recover from jet lag.

My first full day in the city involved mobile phone purchases and the bargaining involved there, a four hour, unplanned, mid-afternoon nap, and then an evening walk around this district of the city where my hotel is located. On this walk I learned how to navigate across a street full of cars and motos driving every which way, not paying attention to any pedestrians. You sort of have to go at any time and stop in between cars as they pass by in the middle of the street. I walked past the Independence Monument (a major rotary) through some public green spaces to where the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet. Cambodians were out in full force in the evening hours, exercising, dancing, and playing hackey sack type games all over the place. The night ended with a scrumptious meal at a Thai place very close to my hotel.

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