It’s been nearly five months since I up and left the U.S. and landed in Cambodia. Can you believe it? I certainly can’t. I did decide to extend my stay in the country past the initial four months. That’s a good sign, right? I think so, though I’m not going to deny that some days I crave the ease and comfort of the U.S.
Let’s take a look at the good and bad, shall we?
-I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to report on a few stories, relax at the pool and try out massages at random places. The trip was nice. I’d been to Thailand before but not Chiang Mai, which seemed far less hectic to me than Phnom Penh and had a lot of nice vegetation and hills, which I often miss. I met up with a friend who had been living in Cambodia but moved to Chiang Mai, so that made the trip a lot more fun. As for the massages, only two had been planned (read about my massage at a women’s prison facility for NBC News here), but then when I was walking back to my guest house one day, I came across a sign for a massage at a wat (temple) for about $5. How could I pass that up?
A massage for $5? Yes, please!
Chiang Mai is full of spectacular wats like this one.
-I also spent a little over a week exploring Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, and Siem Reap. I’d already been to Siem Reap before to explore the Angkor temples with students from the Cambodian Women’s Development Agency, but this time I was able to go and explore a little more of the actual city and relax by the pool. (Yes, aside from massages my favorite activity is to relax by the pool.) I was reporting on Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organization that runs a circus school, and got to see a show. I highly recommend the show for anyone visiting either Battambang or Siem Reap.
-I’m really enjoying the street food. I was a bit hestitant at first to try some of it, but now I absolutely love buying meals off the street. I’ve discovereed that I love num pang pate, a sandwich that can be found on nearly every street corner and similar to Vietnam’s banh mi but with some mystery meat inside. And of course, the 50 cent iced coffees can’t be beat every morning.
-I said goodbye to two good friends recently. Katie, one of my housemates, left to go backpacking for a month before heading on to South Africa. Kelsey, a fellow American, left to head back to teaching in China. Goodbyes are always hard no matter where you are, but here they are also a reminder that expat life is constantly changing and fluid.
-The heat. I said it before but I’ll say it again: DUDE, THE HEAT. It can be downright excruciating at times. I thought I knew heat in Oklahoma, but it’s on another level here. I’ve heard that this year is especially bad. It’s often 100 degrees during the day and we try not to use air con in the house to save money, which means I’m basically sweating ALL.THE.TIME.
-I find myself getting annoyed at times by certain things here. The constant barrage of question about transportation (lady, tuk-tuk? is said to me at least 30 times a day – no exaggeration) and haggling all the time can be downright exhausting. But maybe that’s the heat taking over?
-I have plans to go to Mondulkiri, a province in the northeast of Cambodia, and Myanmar next month!