When I first took the decision to go ahead with my travel plans to Cambodia, even when I couldn’t find suitable travel companions, I spent hours and hours reading about solo traveling. I found great advice from various stellar travelers but almost all of them were westerners. There are just so many blogs narrating the stories of girls from the west traveling the world solo! But I could hardly find any Indian women among them. And rightfully so! A girl in the prime of her youth traveling alone to unknown places is unheard of in the society where I come from. “It’s a big bad world out there for girls, so never go out alone” was a mantra which was constantly chanted while growing up. With the heavily publicized recent Indian happenings, it does look like a sound advice to give young Indian girls. Or does it?
When I was in Cambodia and ever since I got back, a number of curious souls have asked me whether Cambodia is the same as India. The question isn’t flawed since many ancient Cambodian kings were of Indian origin and you can see Indian influence spread across Cambodian architecture and traditions. Plus, you don’t have a lot of Indians around here for people to really “know” about India, so naturally I become a scapegoat and had to answer this question atleast 15 times 😛 But it was a good food for thought for me as well, and it led me to ponder more about the similarities and differences. Travelling solo pushed me to interact with the local Khmers from whom I tried to understand the life style and culture to my best, so that I could make a fair comparison of the two countries.
Wonder what I am talking about here? Yes, I flew (the monkey way 😉 ) in the “Flight of the Gibbon” – an amazing zip-lining experience in my recent trip to Cambodia. When it comes to Siem Reap or Angkor, all that everyone talk about are the temples, but this incredible zip-lining experience in the middle of a tasking temple exploration itinerary is so refreshing that it is an absolute must-do!! I took a long time to decide on the booking since it was a tad expensive for my student budget. But now, I can vouch for a completely satisfying experience which will leave you with not regretting the $79 for sure 😉
Having spent most of my 3 days at Siem Reap visiting temples, I wanted to do something different before leaving for Battambang today afternoon. That’s when I heard of Chong Khneas – a whole village floating on the waters of Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in South East Asia. So, how did I miss this in my itinerary?!? I went back to my Lonely Planet guide, and after much searching I saw a tiny paragraph quoting that the visit to the floating village had become too touristic and over-priced. Still, I was not satisfied with the other alternatives and decided to take the trip! It turns out that Lonely Planet was indeed right but I did enjoy some parts of the trip, so let me share them with you 🙂
By far, this is the longest I’ve spent in a bus travel! So how did this happen?! Allow me to explain 😀
The original plan was a 12 hour ride from Ho Chi Minh City with a one hour stop over at Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The ultimate destination is Siem Reap, which is the base city for visiting the Angkor temples. With all enthusiasm, I boarded the Mekong Express Limousine Bus at 7 AM. Everything was smooth until we started from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Then the trouble began! I’ve never seen such crazy traffic before in my life. Coming from an Indian, it sure does mean a lot. We were stuck for almost 4 hours, scarcely moving and covering just 20 km in that span of time. Apparently, the reason for the congestion was Chinese new year! I ditched travelling in Vietnam during this time for the very same reason 😛
This Sunday was my 2 week anniversary of moving to Vietnam and I celebrated it by spending a quiet afternoon near the Saigon River with a copy of my Lord of the Rings. The cool breeze caressing my face and the presence of many couples-in-love reminded me of the Marina beach in Chennai! 😉 So of course it has entered into my list of favorite places in Ho Chi Minh City. When you move to a different country, there is always a culture shock. For me, it was immense when I moved to Europe but not so much here in Vietnam.
It’s been a week since my big move to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and so far I’m loving it! The sense of pride and accomplishment in settling down in a foreign land all by yourself can only be experienced and cannot be translated into words. Your first-times will always stay special and here is my list of “first-times” in HCMC :