My trip to Cambodia was always on the cards – but I never thought it would happen in the Summer of 2014 – thanks to my Company who decided to shut down its operations in Bangalore in March the same year. Cambodia, like I said, was someday bound to happen because of my friend Sharath and his brother Niran who have been working in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, for more than a couple of years. So my best chance at spending a couple of weeks outside India in economy-mode was always Cambodia :). And take my point here – visit places when you have got your friends there – its awesome especially if you never really belonged to the authentic back-packer lineage (I don’t think I did). And after planning out a 10 day trip on paper, I booked my Tiger Air tickets and finally set out for the Kingdom of Wonder. After spending a 4 hour streak in Changi Airport, Singapore I reached Phnom Penh on 11th April and it was afternoon 3:00 PM. Sharath was not joking when he said I have managed to get the intermittent Kerala rains along with me – it rained in Phnom Penh that day pretty heavily and more importantly very unusually.
The officer at the Airport definitely seemed to be pissed off that I had preferred an e-Visa over the usual Visa-on-arrival – Visa-on-arrival, I read on blogs, is one way they try to get some bribe in hand. My well-mannered english was not very well recieved by the grumbling and mumbling by the officer. And gradually the reality started seeping in – “You are no longer at home. You are in Cambodia and these people don’t speak your language”. Very fortunately Sharath was waiting outside the Airport in his Moto (gearless 2-wheelers you will find in abundance in Cambodia – we will touch that topic later). With the same easiness that I have experienced while unboarding the Gareeb Rath Yeshwantpur-Kochuveli Express train and walking toward the Auto-stand in Aluva Railway Station, I got out of the small International Airport and walked towards the parking lot. And there I met Sharath after almost a year. “Welcome to Cambodia machaane!”
More of Khmer than Cambodian
“What? K’mai? How do you even pronounce that?” “Just like you pronounce P’num Pen” “What? I always thought it was pronounced as No-am Pen” “So did I when I came here”. These folks really don’t buy the concept of silent letters at that start of a word I thought. P’num Pen here if referring to their Capital Province Phnom Penh and k’mai is Khmer which means Camdodian in every sense. People in Cambodia primarily speak Khmer and very few localites speak English. So if you really want to enjoy your stay in Cambodia, make some good friends with the locals who can translate Khmer for you. To my advantage both my hosts could boast of Semi-Pro level in Khmer proficiency and that really helped! (Okay, lets admit that Sharath was more like a Padawan who is yet to test the real waters).
Written by Matthew John