Thursday, June 14, 2012

Getting here

Airport coffee, socks, Sinagapore, and a view through wires at my guesthouse in Phnom Penh

I'm playing catch up a bit. Because it's easy, I'll go ahead and blame the delay on jet lag, which seems fine given the unfathomable time it took to get where I am now: Siem Reap. The flight to London was a dream--6 hours of unadulterated sleep punctuated by two meals. I forgot how much they feed you on international flights and my vegetarian food continued to arrive first. I'd let it sit on the tray until everyone else got theirs as I thought "is anyone really hungry enough to eat another trayful of food?" So, I picked at the fruit and always drank the orange juice.

In Heathrow, I entertained myself during the three-hour layover by walking around and noticing all the airport shops that reminded me of my time living in Cambridge a few years ago. Mostly, I felt latent sticker shock after blowing so much money that summer when the Euro to dollar ratio held around 2.5: 1.

Everything hit me in Singapore where I faced a 9 hour layover before a measly hour and a half flight to Cambodia's capitol city, Phnom Penh. After debating internally and walking the huge Changi airport a bit, I made the bold decision to take up a free two-hour tour offered by the airport via bus. I needed to get outside and stretch my swollen legs. Plus, I got to add another gratuitous stamp to my passport.

The short tour circled us around most of downtown Singapore, a clean, modern and tiny country made up of skyscrapers, green lawns and water views. For me, the tour guide made the trip--she was a rousing force who hit on points of personal interest to me, telling us about the banking and manufacturing industry that lined the country's coffers, Singapore's renowned government savings plan leading to mass government housing development for most of the country, and about Singaporean's two main hobbies: shopping and eating. Getting out of the bus, I was slammed by staggering heat and humidity. Fashionable Singaporeans strolled by, unaffected by the weather. We viewed the Merlion (picture above) which was that: a towering statue of a lion spewing water, built primarily to provide a symbol for Singapore's tourism industry. I was happy to drive through Little India, where the thriving Indian community sells flowers andnestles tiny cafes and businesses into several blocks in the city center. I'm glad I made the tour but felt happy to move on to Cambodia. The stark cleanliness of the city compelled me to wonder about the Singapore of the past, before the era of Asian tigers, and the financial bubble. How different did the country look when it was the humble fishing village the guide described?

Made it back to the airport for a quick jump to Cambodia and twelve hours at the Top Banana guesthouse where I enjoyed mediocre red wine, curry and about twelve games of Jenga with a bunch of British backpackers.