After leaving Denpasar airport at 9pm I flew to Kuala Lumpur for a six and a half hour stopover. There’s nothing to do in the LCCT but the shuttle to the main terminal had already finished and I wasn’t going to pay the exorbitant after-midnight taxi fare to get there and back.
Eventually I arrived in Siem Reap and was lucky enough to be one of the first people off the plane so my visa was done in a flash.
I was greeted by a chubby tuk tuk driver named Randy who had one of those cute faces you just want to squeeze. It was raining and he apologized profusely for the wet seat in his tuk tuk (which had seen better days). I asked him how long it would take to get to the hostel. “Thirteen minutes” he replied.
He zipped up the partition between us to save me from the wind and rain, but this meant that I was forced to look madly from side to side to see what was going on. And a lot was going on.
Red-brown mud covered everything, and parts of the road had turned into small rivers. That’s what I get for traveling in the rainy season.
The streets were an eclectic mix of old and new, with huge hotels situated next to tiny shacks. Randy was singing in Cambodian and as I watched the cows ambling along the road and the children waving to me with huge smiles, I felt a huge wave of relief that I was actually finally here.
I remember when I started training to be a travel agent and we were asked to describe travel in one word. Obviously everyone chose something different, since travel means something different to all of us. I chose the word freedom, and in that moment as I sat in the back of a tuk tuk, exhausted and overtired with my bag balanced between my legs I felt my eyes well up at the pure joy of it.
By the time I arrived at the hostel I was already infatuated with Cambodia. Thirteen minutes in Siem Reap was all it took. I’m not really a “sit on the fence” kind of girl and Siem Reap makes a brilliant first impression.