Don’t worry, I won’t be able to keep up this rate of blog posts. I’m partly blogging now to keep me awake prior to our group trip rendezvous in an hour or so. I feel like I’ve been awake for ever. I’m too scared to lie down as I wouldn’t wake up. Once I was dropped at the hotel and checked in, I did a quick scout of the room. It’s fine, good even. I’m high up so views down on all sorts of activities, building work, washing, some sort of gathering going on behind the hotel. The place is heaving. See, I have a room with a view:
The room itself is good too. Clean, and better appointed than expected – a telly even. All of the available electrical sockets fizz though and the windows rattle, but it’s a good standard. Air conditioning too and an internet connection too, albeit a ropy one. The photos make it look a bit more classy than it is, but why not. I’m happy.
Once I’d showered and rinsed through my smalls, and debated whether or not it was culturally appropriate to festoon them from my window to dry (I decided not too, mainly because I feared they’d blow away as I couldn’t secure them) I headed out in search of bottled water (2 times 1.5 litre bottles for $1, I thought that was fair enough, the woman selling spoke good English). I failed to find the supermarket where I was heading in search of a sim card, but it doesn’t matter too much. It’ll get sorted eventually, by CWF if not by me. The important thing is to step outside and soak it up. It’s the only way to build confidence. It is scary in an unknown city at the best of times on your own, more so if you don’t know the language or quite where you are. I’m not game to go exploring ‘proper’ when I’m so exhausted, but just to step out and breathe it in is good. It is always better to step out the door and smile than hide away on the whole, but it is tiring too. So far, Phnom Penh, so far as the area around the hotel is concerned, feels safe, less over-whelming than arriving in Vietnam though the motorbikes and tuk tuks take some negotiating. I did some road crossing straight off, which was not something I did for several days on arrival in Hanoi! The pavements here are all massively parked up, and so you dodge the traffic to get to where you want to be. As I wasn’t particularly going anywhere it didn’t matter too much, and I didn’t go far as I didn’t want to get disoriented. It is an assault on the senses, exciting too. The heat hits you, though mercifully it isn’t quite as humid as I feared and there seems to be a breeze. The roads are mucky and the street stalls varied. I crashed into a display of caged birds, and waved away tuktuk drivers. To be fair they weren’t persistent, I just smiled, waved and marched onward and no-one bothered me. It’s weird, wandering around and contemplating whether or not I’ll be making this my home, or whether it’s just a case of ‘well, that was an experience!’ I’m more excited than not, but this is tempered by exhaustion, and an anxiety because I really want to do a good job.
Back, I’m now in the hotel foyer trying out the iced coffee. Honestly, a bit disappointing. (also pricey $2.75!). I’ve been longing to taste again the Vietnamese style iced coffee with boiling water dripped through ground coffee onto thick condensed milk. Ought to be disgusting, but is wonderful. Here it is just coffee on ice, with ordinary milk added after. Oh well, it’s probably just as well, that sugar and caffeine hit was never going to be a healthy addiction! The air conditioning in the foyer is fabulous though!
So first impressions, excited, tired, feel safer than expected, glad to be here. The city is under construction everywhere. Grand new buildings are juxtaposed to sites of rubble or old dilapidated shops and dwellings. 4 million people live here according to my taxi driver. I wonder how many of them I’ll get to meet.
I wish I had access to my google mail and that I hadn’t broken my passport/cash secure bag. I had a bit of a wobble at Bangkok airport, wondered if I’m too old to be adaptable anymore. It was hearing the unfamiliar language and I remembered how challenging it was being the only English speaker for a lot of the time in Vung Tau. Good, but exhausting. Now I’m clean and settled in the hotel I feel optimistic again. It will be challenging, but I think I’ll have a lot more support too.
Right, I’d love to sit and chat, but I need to get myself sorted for this 6pm rendezvous. Places to go, people to see! It’s 5.30 and suddenly getting dark outside. I always forget how sun sets with a crash rather than a gentle curtsey as you near the equator.