Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Apr 08, 2006

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Flag of Cambodia  , KH.16,
Sunday, December 18, 2005

It was a pleasant five hour bus journey yesterday afternoon to one of my favourite places in Cambodia, Siem Reap. However, there was something significantly different about this trip. No, it wasn't the fact that my previous four journeys up the NH6 had been undertaken in the first half of the day. It was that I had everything with me, because there was to be no return to Phnom Penh this time.

My final two weeks in Phnom Penh were hectic and stressful, but also two of the most enjoyable weeks I've had all year. Having to decide the fate of over a hundred students, packing up my life of the last ten months, squeezing in a few last minute sites and saying goodbye to all of the wonderful friends I've made this year left me without a second to spare. Just a month ago I was bored, restless, and counting down the days until my departure. But as that day came closer, I began to feel very nostalgic, and came to the realisation that I would miss a number of things about Cambodia. As strange as it might sound, these things are the typically mundane, routine things that go with a monday-friday (and saturday morning in my case) job. Getting a moto after my 6am class to The Shop, where 9 times out of 10 I'd order their perfected scrambled eggs with toast and a creamy iced coffee with almond syrup. I'd then settle with a copy of the Cambodia Daily which I'd bought off one of the five or so kids all rushing to the moto as soon as they saw me.

I guess the social life in Phnom Penh was one of the things that made it so livible for me, along with the simplicity of it all. Surely there won't be too many places I'll live where I can go out for breakfast, lunch and dinner with friends and have a fantastic feed for so little. That's something I'll miss, along with everything else that goes with it. The waiters I know at all of my favourite haunts. The motodops outside my apartment and ACE who always seemed to know where I wanted to go. Not surprisingly, I was a little emotional as my bus rounded central market amidst the lunch time rush, knowing that it would probably be quite some time before I returned.

All said and done, there was no turning back. The afternoon ride to Siem Reap was really relaxing. As the sun set, the view from my window was spectacular, with the low rays of light giving bold colour to the stilt houses and rice fields, ready for harvest. Upon arrival, I was a little disappointed to find my favourite guesthouse full, however it didn't take long to find another one.

This morning I met my friend Chhorng, and went with him back to his now fiances house. This was the same place I went during Phchum Ben, where I helped the three daughters prepare food to offer the monks who'd come to give a blessing. The girls thought it was the funniest thing in the world to see me return, and the language barrier was certainly no obstacle to there being plenty of laughs. After they went to the market, Chhorng showed me around the area a little, and then we chilled out on some hammocks for a while. This was more for him, as he'd badly injured his shoulder in a motorbike accident the previous day. It felt a little strange to think that I was dozing in the middle of the Cambodian countryside, in a place very few tourists would ever visit (if any), and in exactly one weeks time I'd be at home in Tassie enjoying a christmas lunch with my family!

I'm only spending a day in Siem Reap, before heading onto Sisophon tomorrow. A day gives me enough time to relax, gather my thoughts, see Chhorng and give his future in-laws some photos, and catch one last sunset over the magnificent Angkor Wat. I aim to be in Sisophon by 11am, which will hopefully give me ample time to tackle the 55km road north to Banteay Chhmar temple. Another monument of Jayavarman VII's greatness, and once visited it means I'll have seen every major temple complex in the country (with the exception of the remote pile of rubble that is Preah Khan). What a finale!
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