First impressions of Cambodia

I got my first impressions of Cambodia on the plane; I think that the view from above really does give a pretty good sense of a place. For example: Bangkok is ordered but is speckled with the odd building or attraction of gold. Delhi is more of a huge sprawling city; it is surrounded by smaller sprawls and dryness. Manila looks like a mini-America with skyscrapers rising out of a haze. England on the other hand mostly looks like a green patchwork blanket if you are not over a city.

Cambodia looked like nowhere I have ever been before, and it was very contradictory. The first part I saw looked rather dry, as the soil is red and orange, but it had lots of green trees as well. As I was wondering whether it was the dry season we flew over some rice paddies and places with red and orange manmade pools, they looked more like paint or mud than water. Then suddenly everything was flooded and there were really huge rivers. I took some pictures but missed allot of the flooded parts. This is as we were over the capital.

Phnom Penh itself looked pretty strange to me. For a capital city it is very flat and empty, like suburbs usually are. The houses are very big and very square and many looked really grand. I did spot a handful that looked rather handmade, so I wonder if this is a place with some very wealthy people and some who are very poor. Honestly I don’t really know yet, it looks like many of the larger places are government buildings and suchlike. When I got in the taxi to my hotel I was really surprised by how much sky I could see (it not being blocked out by skyscrapers, though I did see a couple) how big the roads are and how empty it seems, it’s really hard to remember that you are in a capital city.

It was also really strange on the ground. It is a bit like a lot of places, but overall it’s really different. The buildings are really even and regular but they are all different to each other. It feels most like Vietnam with the motorbikes and the type of shops, but it’s much less crowded and the buildings are totally different. The buildings are more like the ones in Brunei, but Bruneians tend to build clusters of matching houses. There are small shrines and golden decorations on the buildings, like in Thailand. It also makes me think of Malaysia quite a bit too, bit I’m not totally sure why. It also uses two currency’s American dollars and Cambodian Riel

I almost bolted from my hotel, thinking it was the wrong place, mainly because some of the fixtures (including electrical) were sliding down the wall, and there are remarkably few walls themselves. I had to do a little Google to double check that this place really is the one I booked with the great reputation. It is. The staff are lovely and really make up for the under abundance of walls, it is also very clean, but it took a while for me to notice. There are motorbikes in reception, but that was the same in Vietnam too. This place is nice.

It Phnom Penh might actually end up being one of my favourite capitals, just for its uniqueness. I hope it doesn’t end up getting taken over by skyscrapers and loosing that.

Everything seemed to go wrong for me in the airport. All of the machines hated me and chose to mock and distain me in particular, printers and ATM’s mostly. I was by far the last person on my flight to leave. The airport personnel were helpful though.

I also want to say a word about cake. The Bangkok airlines cake I had previously was lovely. I particularly liked the whimsical flavour (carrot and raisin muffin) so naturally I was excited to try their next offering. I had been hoping for unicorn and rainbow, or cherry and pixie dust. Instead on flight number one, I received what I thought was a dry chocolate/chocolate chip muffin, which saddened me. Perhaps I was wrong and it was actually a cool ‘zombie and grave rocks’ flavour one, but if so I would suggest clearly labelling them in future. The airline redeemed themselves on the next flight with a strawberry and almond cake, which may even have had some rainbow in it. So it was okay in the end.

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