23.03.2012 - 25.04.2012 35 °C
Landing in Abu Dhabi we touched down on a dry runway after flying in over the Grand Prix circuit and the very obvious "Ferrari World" theme park. The airport itself was clean to the point of seeming almost computer-generated, but for a few stalls selling shisha arrays and mountains of confectionery. There was even "The Pub" next to the obligatory McDonalds, but it looked more like a movie set than a real Local. Making my way through a sea of interesting headdresses and face coverings (one of which even had a sort of attachable gold beak - quite imposing!) your-favourite-infidel trudged to the next Etihad flight, looking out on the loading bays where a new Evoque was being casually loaded on to a cargo plane and the "bendy" looking crescent-shaped ATC tower seemed to defy gravity. Onboard the next flight, I only remember taxiing past the Manchester City 757, Emirati Diplo. jets and an old C130 before slipping into dreamland once again.
If Abu Dhabi was overly polished and contrived, the noise and bustle of Bangkok definitely made up for it! No sooner had my foot touched down outside the plane door than a Thai SIM card was thrust into my unsuspecting hands with a twangy "thank you sar" (sic) by a woman small enough to fit in my hand luggage. Still half asleep and a little bewildered I blindly followed my fellow fliers like a little backpack-wearing lamb to the kebab shop. Once past security, I was struck by the huge current of human diversity pushing through the huge glass terminals. A small herd of chubby, sunburnt Germans tried in vain to communicate with the local police (to my discredit, I laughed at them) and pairs of tangerine-draped monks politely edged past a group of shiny-suited Africans speaking their own lazy version of French. Having checked in, I was allowed to use the "executive lounge" for Bangkok Airlines: A moodily lit playground of sofas, miniature nibbles, magazines and free wi-fi occupied by Logo-toting Indian girls with twice their body weight in shopping. After briefly checking my email and letting the family know I hadn't been stoned to death for impudence or slain by a poisoned noodle, I made my way to an old turboprop with a faded tropical fuselage, twice banging my head on the low ceiling. After the howling of the propellers faded into the background, they served me a suspiciously tasty Chicken Padang and before I knew it - we were in Phnom Penh!
The Airport was full of casual, slouching guards with AK-47s and I noticed the BBC World Service was on the one screen there. Stepping out to a wave of tropical heat I spent some time looking for my contact, one of the assistants at Hope Agency. Eventually, I found a slender man with a biro scrawled note saying "Gamie Vennig" and clambered into a small minivan.
The 100mph bus journey sans-seatbelt was an interesting experience. Apparently real men out here choose not only to forgo them but go so far as to cut them out to prove it...! By this time I'd been traveling for over 24hrs so everything from that night is a little blurry but have vague memories of locals clambering over me as brightly lit signs and spluttering Tuk-tuks shot by. Eventually, this Deluxe Bus swerved violently into a dusty side-road that swiftly became a pitted, scarred red track. Doing this semi-conscious impression of a Lottery ball we eventually pulled up in the darkness next to what looked like a small hut. An English-sized skinhead shadow emerged from a doorway behind me and asked if I wanted a smoke; explaining the power in the area was down. I don't remember getting into bed.