Flashpacking

My first days in Asia were more about socializing and gluttony than any kind of worldly exploration, but I’ve allowed myself some indulgences - although it really doesn’t feel like it, this is still the Christmas season after all.  As planned, I quickly met up with one of my oldest friends and most catalyzing companions.  And as per usual, our time together was mainly focused on late nights and large local beers.  My camera sat mostly idle, batteries fully charged.

We had nights out in Bangkok, then helped energize a wedding in a resort town called Hua Hin.  I’m pretty sure that me showing up as my friend’s ‘plus one’ stretched the intent of the wedding invitation, but after a few nights of boisterous celebration I’m hoping that any potential imposition was soon forgotten. 

We then hopped on a short flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where my friend has been living for the last 5 years, and had plans to meet some friends for Christmas at their usual rural weekend retreat.  This lead to more expat celebrations, relaxing, mulled wine, big meals, and socializing.   As for exploring the wonders of Cambodia, again it wasn’t really on the agenda.  It’s actually quite surreal going to such a culturally unique region, yet experiencing it exclusively through an air-conditioned expat bubble; literally and figuratively watching the madness of the country through the closed windows of a Land Cruiser.  You certainly wouldn’t want to let any of that refreshing air-conditioning out…

The short time I spent in the booming capital, Phnom Penh was pretty shocking though.  I have been through this city a few times over the years, the first time as far back as 1999.  When I compare what is there now to what I remembered from that first trip there is literally almost nothing recognizable, it has changed absolutely.  In 1999 there were only dirt roads, no cars at all, and maybe the occasional motorbike.  The tallest buildings were crumbling three storey relics, markets were dirty and dusty, sheltered only by worn overlapping tarps.   Now you can have over-priced cocktails in exclusive skyscraper rooftop bars, browse boutique jewelry shops, and sip on a latte – if you can navigate the congested mess of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Unreal. 

Currently, I’m on a flight to Columbo, Sri Lanka.  Now that all regions of the island are open and safe to travel I’m eager to explore the island in its entirety…