There are plenty more tales from Asia yet to come, but I just wanted to update you on where I am and what’s going on.
Two days ago I said goodbye to Will at Phnom Penh Airport. After four incredible weeks of fun, sun and plenty of street food, Will was heading back to the UK to start his new job. The time really had flown by and I wished we could have stayed together a little longer. But then I think no matter how long we travelled together for, it would never be enough and we’d always want just one more week. Saying goodbye is always emotional, but at least we were both taking-off to new and exciting adventures, Will with the job and me to Australia.
The flight from Cambodia to Kuala Lumpur was my first solo flight of the trip. Pretty uneventful; Air Asia short haul, sat next to a pair of giggly Cambodian girls who loved instagramming photos of themselves browsing nonchalantly through the in-flight magazine (whatever passes the time I guess). Almost two hours later and I was in KL international transfer lounge trying to buy some dinner with US$10 and doing currency conversion gymnastics in my head into Malaysian Ringgit. For reference, this got me a bottle of water, some nasi lemak chicken, a slice of cake and some nasty coffee-bag brew.
Flying to Sydney was a whole different experience. Eight or so hours with Air Asia has firmly made up my mind, low cost long haul is definitely not for me! There were no meals, no entertainment, not even a blanket to sleep with on the night flight – dodgy Vietnamese sleeper buses at least give you that. You could pay to rent a blanket, which was tempting after they cranked up the air con halfway through the flight…
Arriving in Sydney made up for all of that though! The customs staff were really friendly, which was a surprise after they made such a big deal about not bringing any food, animal or plant produce etc. in to Australia. They even made a guy scrape the mud off the bottom of his trainers!
First lesson I’ve learnt being solo so far, it’s not a good idea to turn up to immigration with no proof of where you’re staying apart from some dodgy sounding story about dossing at a mate’s house whose address you don’t know. Luckily the officer was susceptible to a sweet smile, or could see how greasy and exhausted I was, and he let me through.
Turns out my Aussie buddy, who I met travelling Greece in 2009, lives in Petersham. After driving me around the city yesterday and introducing me to some of Sydney’s best coffee spots, I’ve been left to my own devices and have spent my first day wandering. From Central station through Darling Harbour, up to The Rocks and the Opera House, I’ve covered quite a bit of ground and the weather has been beautifully sunny.
Sitting in the State Library (lots of good free wifi) I feel as if I’m starting to find my feet as a solo backpacker – just as well really, considering I’ve got 5 more months of it. I’m already enjoying the independence and freedom of it, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking of friends and loved ones back home; probably more so now than when Will and I boarded that plane to Hanoi back in July. But I’m getting the swing of things and can’t wait to explore some more of this gorgeous city, on my terms and at my own pace.