After two transfers, three flights and over twenty-four hours, I have finally made it safe and sound to Phnom Penh. Although I don’t know if I can eat so much airplane food ever again, the flights were fairly painless. Luckily, I did not have to spend my first moments in this country looking for a cab since the firm was kind enough to send a driver to pick me up. He was extremely sweet, and at first it seemed like he understood English---but, I slowly realized that he just answered “yes” to anything I asked. I began to wonder was whether his yes meant “Miss American, please stop talking and let me navigate these crazy streets” so I shut my mouth after the first 10 minutes of the ride. Shutting my mouth also seemed like a good idea since my heart nearly jumped out of my throat at every turn he made.
To be clear, Cambodia has roads, and the roads I have seen are not even as bad as some roads I have been painfully familiar with in Brooklyn. The problem is that many of those roads don’t have dividers or traffic signs of any sort. In addition, the vehicles are a weird mix of cars, scooters and tuk tuks. For those of you wondering what a tuk tuk is, have no fear. A tuk tuk is a motor bike with a passenger cart attached and seves as a type of taxi here. There are real taxis as well, but these are cheaper. I have yet to ride one but I will give a full review as soon as I do! Anyway, back to the roads. As I mentioned, the roads don’t have a lot of stop signs or traffic signals. Unless there is a big intersection the drivers pretty much do what they want. Picture a four way stop, without any stop signs: that’s how it works here. The drivers all seem to have an innate knowledge of when to move forward, when to stop and who to challenge on the road, but that is not something I was privy too so when we passed an intersection I just closed my eyes (brave I know). The side streets are also pretty narrow and my driver seemed pretty talented at navigating those. He made a u-turn on what I thought could only pass for a one-way street and we survived; I closed my eyes then too.
After conquering the traffic I finally arrived in my hotel. Since the three of us decided to save our money for traveling on our weekends off, we are in a small single room with three beds. It will be a tight fit but there is air conditioning, internet and TV so I can’t complain. The one weird thing about our room is the bathroom. When you walk in there is a one inch raised portion and a shower curtain. Past the curtain is the shower and the bathroom (see the picture below). They gave us slippers and you basically have to wear those to go to the bathroom since the floor would be wet from the showers. I have to figure out how to make the water cold since it tends to run hot and that is the last thing I currently need.
Cambodia is HOT. Today the temperature is about 90 degrees, but according to The Weather Channel, it feels like 96. I have to say the Weather Channel is off. It feels like a million. The humidity here is insane, and my curly hair has already begun a rebellion that I believe will only be quelled by low grade, super glue strength hair products. I noticed on the car ride to my hotel (when I was not closing my eyes) that not a single woman was wearing a tank top. During my research before coming here I did learn that women generally covered their shoulders, but I expected that in the heat at least some would succumb to tank tops, or at least the ex-pats would break the mold. Unfortunately that is not the case. As a result most of my tank tops are useless until I can buy some short sleeved sweaters. I am sure no one would make a big deal about me revealing my shoulders, but I generally make it a policy not to offend the cultural norms of a country that I am visiting.
Thus far, I have explored a bit around our hotel and bough a case of water to keep hydrated. Although the people here are very nice, there is a clear feeling that a woman shouldn’t generally be walking around alone. Luckily, when getting an iced coffee and people watching at a small café I made friends with a Dutch girl named Karoline who is a recent law-grad. She is taking a world tour before beginning at her firm in Amsterdam, but has been stuck in Phnom Penh for an extra week because her bag and passport was stolen. (Lesson learned: when walking on the river side hold your bag tight and no side bags that can be cut.) Since we are both alone in Phnom Penh we have decided to have dinner together tonight and avoid any strange looks.
That is about all for now. I will seek to make my future blogs more law-centered, but as this is my first day in the city and I don’t start work till Monday, that wasn’t possible today.
Check out the pictures below and I will be sure to update you all soon!