Azny Juffri is ensconced in the seat of a nondescript bus. She looks out the window — the great unknown of Cambodia lies before her: a panorama of villages, farms as well as stalls selling fried tarantulas greets her. A stranger in this land, Azny is not privy to her culture, traditions and unwritten rules. A young lad in polo shirt strikes up a conversation with her, and as luck would have it, he too is a Singapore Polytechnic alumnus. He later points Azny to where the hostels are.
It is now 10pm, and the sky is naked and pitch black. Despite following her new friend’s directions, Azny comes to a roadblock. No hostels are in sight; only shabby shops about to retire for the night. “Hostel, hostel!” suddenly shouts a short cherubic man a few paces from her, a disarming quality in his voice. Already tired from the bumpy bus ride, Azny negotiates with him, and follows him down a dingy alleyway. She espies silhouettes of curious residents peering out of windows from above, and feels their eyes tracing their every movement. “What have I gotten myself into?” a woeful thought flits into her mind. A palpable trepidation awakes in and envelops her. She is like the willing prey that goes traipsing into the lion’s den.
And just then, upon reaching the end of the block, a row of hostels comes into view.