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Trip Report Lcuy's 2011 Cambodian Odyssey

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The Fast Summary

Sept 12: Fly Honolulu-LA-Tokyo- Bangkok ($1600)

Sept 14: Sleep at the Bangkok Airport Novotel ($160)

Sept 15: Fly Bangkok Airways to Siem Reap, Cambodia ($222)

Sept 15- Oct 2: Stay at 7 Candles Guesthouse ($20/night)
Teach art classes most days to the kids in Khnar Village

Oct 2: Fly on Air Asia to Singapore, via Kuala Lumpur ($95)
Stay at the Studio M Hotel at Clarke Quay in Singapore ($152)

Oct 3: Switch to The Albert Court Village in Singapore ($148)

Oct 4: Fly back to Honolulu, again stopping in Tokyo and LA.

The Full Story

When one of my daughters began attending Boston University in 2005, my first parent visit happily coincided with the big Boston Fodor’s GTG. I returned each year, even after she graduated, and would often have some pretty far-flung “side trips” based on my haunting looking for cheap add-ons.

One year my husband and I went to Singapore and a Tokyo GTG “for only $400 more”. Another year I added on NYC, a wedding in Las Vegas, and San Diego for “only $200 more”. Last year I flew from Boston to Cambodia, where I met up with my daughter and we taught English with the Ponheary Ly Foundation for a few weeks. It was an amazing experience:

This year, after the death of Boston GTG Co-founder GPanda, Bob and Karen decided to defer this year’s GTG. While I fully agreed with their decision, it left me without my regular excuse to jet off around the world. I decided that I would go back to Cambodia again, this time on my own.

I had planned to be in Asia for six weeks from late September to early November. I wanted to volunteer with the for two weeks, visit Laos for a week in the middle, then return for another two weeks of teaching in Siem Reap.

However, my plans were squelched when the woman who essentially runs our office got pregnant with a due date of October 8. Each month, from the 5th through the 10th, we have to disburse about 200 checks to owners and vendors from the property management side of our business. Only she and I are familiar with the software and procedures, so I rescheduled my trip from September 12 to October 4.

I knew I would now run into the rainy season, but was happy to discover that Cambodian schools are on summer break during this period, so I could do less formal classes with kids who would come on their own time. I was very excited as the hardest part of teaching last year was squeezing in all we wanted to do in the strictly one hour classes.

I collected craft supplies – including 50 shirts for tie dying, vitamins, medical items, school backpacks and other items to donate. I arrived at Honolulu airport with a 70 lb bag, 35 lb bag, and a 20 lb wheeled carryon. As I normally travel very light, I felt somewhat embarrassed to look so burdened down. Luckily, I checked in the two monster bags (free with my status on Continental) and would not see them again till Bangkok.

Continental usually upgrades Platinum members to biz/first when there are available seats, but does not do so on the long-haul flights over the Pacific. I was very pleased to have my boarding pass replaced with a first class assignment as I boarded my first flight, especially as it was a night flight.

LA, and my United flights to Narita and Bangkok all passed in a blur. I was disappointed to note the there were tons of Biz class seats on both those flights that remained empty while I sat just out of reach in the front economy section. ☹ At least I had an empty seat next to me on both flights.

I chose not to go into the city in Bangkok, mainly due to my huge amount of luggage. I had booked a room on at the Bangkok Airport Novotel for $160, including taxes. When I exited the airport at about midnight, their free shuttle was right outside the airport door. I was checked in and in my very comfortable bed about 20 minutes later!

My flight to Siem Reap the next day wasn’t till 5 pm, so I slept in till about 10 am. I had the hotel’s breakfast buffet, and then lounged at the pool the rest of the day. The Novotel is nice in that your room rate is not based on calendar days, but instead is good for 24 hours from the time you arrive.

As the bellman hoisted my 70 lb suitcase onto the shuttle, CRACK, the handle broke! He felt terrible, but it was a very old bag, so no big loss. Luckily, it had two permanent web straps that provided an awkward, but workable handle.

After a very rough flight, we arrived in Siem Reap at about 6:30 pm. I was the first one off the plane and in line for a visa. It took only 5 or 6 minutes from when I handed over my photo and $20 till I was given back my passport with the visa.

I knew someone from 7 Candles would be picking me up, but I wasn’t sure who it would be. Last year, my daughter and I had become very attached to our tuk tuk driver, Sovann, but I’d found out he was now attending cooking school instead of driving a tuk tuk. However, it was really wonderful to find Sovann there when I came outside! We piled my stuff onto his tuk tuk and headed into town as the sky changed from day to night.

Siem Reap has a very distinct aroma. They use wood fires for cooking, so the smoke, the rice fields, temple incense, and animal smells all blend into a pleasant smell that instantly triggers a certain portion of your memory. That, plus the sultry evening warmth, just washed over me and I felt like I had arrived home again.

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