A year in people #95 – Greg from Phnom Penh

Nick and I had been wandering around the city for a while. It was a hot, dusty evening and we’d just spent hours on a bumpy, stuffy minibus. Laden down with backpacks and travel-weary, we were losing hope of finding somewhere to stay.

Guesthouses were either all booked up or way too expensive, and so we kept wandering. Phnom Penh was a new city to us, and we seemed to be running out of options.

“Let’s try down here”, one of us suggested to the other.

We walked a short way and had decided to stop on the corner of the road to have a look at the map when a moped drove by and pulled up. A young guy took his helmet off.

“Are you looking for somewhere to stay? I saw you walking up and down the street.” His Canadian twang echoed in the empty street.

We looked like typical backpackers, so both of us were wary; when you travel a lot you have to have a healthy dose of cynicism to stay safe. There’s always the chance that someone wants to take advantage, regardless of the situation, because you look like an easy target.

“Errr, yes we are.”

“You can come and stay with us.” Nick and I looked at each other. I saw he was wary, and he knew I wasn’t sure.

Greg continued, he could tell we were weighing it up. “It’s OK. There’s a couple of us, we rent an apartment, and we’re couchsurfing hosts. It’s just round the corner.”

I shrugged. What did we have to lose?

We followed Greg to the apartment and ended up staying for about 4 days. We got a bedroom and bathroom to ourselves as one of the housemates was away, and a key to come and go. A real treat; and such generosity.

Greg played his guitar and told us about his life and how he’d come to be living in Cambodia, and we told him tales of our travels and the UK. He invited us to a party, but we weren’t in the partying mood, choosing to instead spend our time exploring the sombre history of the Khmer Rouge.

That serendipitous meeting on an empty street corner sticks with both me and Nick. Moments like that, where help comes right when you need it, proves to us both that the universe moves in mysterious ways.

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