My flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh is in the early evening of Sunday. I proceed smoothly and I arrive in Phnom Penh in the evening. I spend the rest of the day along the river side, oberving the somewhat muted New Year celebrations.
I am already familiar with the way to the airport. I leave to the airport well in advance of my departure.
I spend some time in the airport with eating, having a cocktail and checking my email.
I take a picture of one of these notorious smoking booths in the Bangkok airport. If you want to smoke, you do so in one of these boxes with at least a dozen of other addicts and with hardly any ventilation. I guess this is an educational measure.
The airport I board then is not very big and many of the seats remain empty. I enjoy looking out of the window first at Bangkok, than the clouds and sky and finally Cambodian land and Phnom Penh.
It is getting dark by the time we get closer to Phnom Penh.
Filling all the paper work and buying a visa takes me a long time. Then I wait at the passport control where many people stand in a cue. In the end it is only about 40 minutes after we touched down that I leave the airport.
I get a taxi and we drive to the Amok guesthouse, where I booked a room and where I have stayed before for a number of months.
It is a moving experience to arrive at the Amok guesthouse. Many of the former employees are still here and I am pleased to meet them again and spend some time talking to them. It is good to be here again, in an environment which I am already familiar with and with people whose company I value.
I get the same room that I occupied before, interesting experience. It is almost two years ago that I arrived here the first time and moved into this very same room. By then I had only vague ideas of what the coming months would be like and what would follow. Now I am here again, after I finished research in Cambodia, my final thesis based on the findings, final examinations, graduation and a six months internship in the ILO’s PRO 169 Project all of which were based on my earlier assignment in Cambodia. This time round I come with more specific assignments and already significant experience stemming from my earlier work here and elsewhere.
Just like when I arrived here for the first time, almost two years ago.
I have a shower. Today is the last day of the Khmer Happy New Year which is celebrated in a way not fundamentally different from the Thai New Year in Thailand (and the Lao New Year in Lao, for that matter). So I take my camera and go to the riverside with a moto taxi.
There are many people on the road and on the roadside and occasionally I witness somebody throwing water at somebody else. However, much more moderate than what I have seen in Thailand. I read the other day in the newspaper that the government has restricted New Year celebration and tried to enforce a ban on the cusdom of splashing water at people. I heard that policies tried to implement the ban by forcing those not respecting it to drink an amount of water equal to the amount that fits into the bottle or whatever they are using the splash the water. As a result, New Year celebrations were muted and there where fewer casulties of celebrations turning violent than in previous years.
I arrive at the riverside and walk down the road for some time, getting a fair share of water splashed at me. Later I walk back and enter the Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC) which has a nice view over the riverside.
I take some pictures here.
There are only few people involved in splashing water and they do so very occasionally. I also note that almost exclusively Cambodians are involved, not foreigners unlike in Chiang Mai.
In the background is the mighty Mekong River.
I meet a young couple from Canada. He is ethnic Chinese who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge when the nightmare began. It is very interesting talking to him, as he has witnessed some of the darkest times of this place and now returns as a visitor on such a peaceful and enlightening point in time and at a place which seems to proof considerable development in the country.
Later I walk over to an area close by at the river, in front of the royal palace, where on weekends and holidays many Cambodians come to enjoy picnic. At this time the area is already pretty dark. A number of youngsters along the road splash modest amounts of water at people on motorbikes. I do not see any foreigners.
One of the bystanders walks up to me and puts powder in my face. This is the other important custom on Happy New Year, besides splashing water.
After some time I take a moto taxi and ride home. I am very happy to be in Cambodia again.