“Kahan jaa rahe ho?” (“Where are you off to?”), asked the Immigration officer at the airport.
“Cambodia!” I replied with a wide grin on my face.
The IO shot another question at me, “Kya karne?” (“What For?”), his eyes focused on me with suspicion.
“Ghoomne” (“To Travel”), I replied excitedly, almost kicking my heels in the air.
“Ye bhi koi jagah hai jaane ki?” (“What kind of a place have you chosen to visit?”), he retorted.
The Immigration officer’s annoyance at my complete disregard for his misplaced concern wasn’t surprising, but I could not understand why he had such disdain for a country I had only heard great things about from the travellers’ community. Ignorance, I concluded sadly. Cambodia had a volatile past that I was very much aware of, but when the Cambodians have moved on, it would be foolish for the rest of us to not enjoy the wonders of this magical land.Tuk Tuk's are a cheap and convenient mode of transport in Cambodia
“Shipra Yadav” read the placard. I had probably never been this happy to see my name on a board. The guesthouse where I had booked my stay had sent a tuk-tuk to pick me up from the Siem Reap International Airport. Considering this was my first solo trip, I suppose I should have planned it like guerrilla war, but I chose to keep it flexible, at least for the most part.
Cambodia Travel Tip # 1: Buy a local SIM at the airport to stay connected. International and local calling is cheap, and you’ll be surprised how good the 3G speed is.
Warm smiles and a fresh fruit drink welcomed me at the guesthouse. I got a lot of attention from the staff when I told them I was visiting from India. “A solo traveler from India!” They had definitely not seen many of my kind around here. “Are you Buddhist?”, asked one. “Oh, you must be Hindu then! You know Shiva?”. I wasn’t surprised to see why they took an instant liking to me. Cambodian (Khmer) culture and traditions have Indian influences and even though Buddhism is the dominant religion here, Cambodians still worship Hindu deities like Shiva and Vishnu. Dreading more questions on Hindu gods, I quickly headed to my room lest my poor knowledge became shockingly evident to my new Cambodian friends.Silhouette of Angkor Wat during sunrise