Given the excitement of my first few weeks back in Cambodia, time with visitors and unplanned accidents, I was ready for some R&R in Kampot, oh wait I was meant to be working. Still, I had a place to unpack my bag, make new friends, reconnect with the old and settle myself, at least for the time being. My settling was taking place at Banteay Srey Women's Spa where I'd be the new resident Yoga/English teacher, sound perfect? You're right.
Upon settling myself in Kampot I had mixed feelings about my new placement, sure I had friends, a place to unpack my bag and a room to call my own, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to stay. I toyed with the idea of breaking my contract and leaving early but decided that it was just my first-week jitters and that I should really try to stick it out. As I arrived the previous volunteer was saying her goodbyes and I could see tears forming in her eyes, I gave the situation a slight eye roll and thought that won't be me. The whole time my focus was on the yoga classes I'd be teaching while I gave little thought to the English lessons that would soon fill my days. The English lessons which gave me countless hours of bonding time with the girls, time I would learn to cherish.
While making plans for my Brothers visit to Cambodia I was pretty certain I would not be joining them for a day at Angkor Wat, after all, I had just been there a year before, I highly doubted much had changed in that time. After their arrival however, I realized that my time with my visitors was short and seeing these sights with someone would be a bit different from doing it alone. My only good reason for not joining was the $20 price tag on the admission ticket but I decided to suck it up and fork it over. While at it I decided we should pay Dara the extra costs and utilize his skills as a tour guide, something I wasn't able to do last year and would ensure a slightly different experience.
After visiting and falling in love with this country a year ago I couldn't wait to share it with people close to me. My brother and his girlfriend Katie were willing to endure the 14+ hour plane journey to come to see me (okay, Angkor Watt and the country itself may have had something to do with their visit). The only downside to their visit was that they only had a week to spare (stupid American jobs and vacation rules) but I was determined to help them make the most of it. As much as I wanted to take them to Kampot, the city where I'd be teaching yoga, or visiting my friend Dara's hometown in Kampong Cham, I knew they'd really only be able to fit in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. As I was eager for their visit I spent some time brainstorming what we must do, see, and most importantly eat, I wanted them to leave with a good impression of the country, as I had a year before.
A few weeks ago I was thinking about one of the questions everyone LOVES to ask, "What's your favorite place in the world?". While this question is generally proposed by other travelers and referring to a specific country or city, I began thinking about it on a much wider, yet simpler scale. As any traveler will know it's near impossible to pick one location as our favorite place so I realized I had to think of this question as something I could take with me, a place I could always be. Of course, I still wasn't able to narrow it down to just one but I did a good job of finding a few answers, four to be exact.
1. Seat 24A in an airplane, okay it doesn't have to be 24A but window over the wing, up in the clouds, disconnected from the world is a.l.r.i.g.h.t. with me.
There are countless articles online promoting, bashing, critiquing and otherwise inspecting all that Facebook has to offer, it's often a topic of conversation between both young and old. The opinions critiquing the good and bad of Facebook could fuel the fire for many heated debates and arguments; there are those that absolutely despise the site and refuse to ever sign up, but then there are the so-called 'Facebook addicts'. I myself fall somewhere in the middle of the road, seeing valid arguments from each side. Sure, it can suck up a majority of your time while providing little in return, other than pangs of jealousy or resentment at your friends pictures. But if you use it correctly, Facebook can also provide you with some great information, connections, and if you're lucky some awesome experiences.
After a few days I was beyond ready to get out of the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and so I set my sights on the smaller city of Kampong Cham. I didn't know much about what there would be fore me to do there but I figured if it was anything like Kampot I wouldn't have any problems. The bus ride was bearable but would have been nicer if they let me put my big backpack under the bus, instead of stuffing it in between my feet. Also I've decided that no matter where your traveling to or from in Cambodia the estimated travel time is 5 hours.
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.