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Our Trip We've left our jobs as banker and teacher in order to see the Southern Hemisphere. Why not?


CAMBODIA | Friday, 13 March 2009 | Views [642] | Comments [1]

There is so much to say about Cambodia, and we only visited for 6 days.  It was a remarkable place that quickly won us over, and the people seem to have such a great sense of humor.  However, there is also so much sadness here after the tragedies of the 1970s.

Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

We took our travel book's advice and left for Angkor Wat for sunrise.  At 5:30 am our tuk tuk driver (arranged the day before) picked us up from our guest house and drove us to Angkor.  I'd studiously written the order in which we wanted to visit the temples, with the first being recommended as a good place to watch the sun come up.  Unfortunately our tuk tuk driver misunderstood and we ended up missing the sunrise.  After we got over that disappointment, we realized we were among the only visitors at Bayon, a stunning temple with giant faces carved into stone high over head.  We then continued on our way visiting the major temples and what is called the "small circuit," which is for one day visitors to see as much as possible.  And we saw a ton.  One of the best was Ta Prohm, where trees are growing through the walls and causing total destruction.  It's a very natural way to see how time takes its toll.  Angkor Wat, of course, is the highlight of the whole area.  There's a moat that could be mistaken for a river and surrounds the temple.  Inside there are hours worth of sights.  The sculptures and bas relief are quite impressive, especially when you consider the time taken to produce these images centuries ago. In the early afternoon the heat was unbearable so we had our driver return us to the city where we thanked him and paid him a full days pay.  We could have had him drive us around until 6 pm, but we felt like the communication problems meant we were missing things.  So we found the Rock n Roll Tuk Tuk Driver and had him take us back to the temples in the evening for sunset.  He has a pretty good system and speakers and a vase of flowers in the back of his tuk tuk.  We got in and expected some rock and roll, but instead he turned on Bryan Adams.  Pete took over the remote and we listened to Hotel California on our way back to Angkor Wat.  We got there in time for sunset and climbed a hill in order to have a good view.  However, about a million other tourists were also at the top of the hill for sunset, which, by the way, never came, since the sun ducked behind some clouds and was very anti-climactic.  But it was still nice to see all of Angkor from above.

As a city, Siem Reap has a very relaxing atmosphere.  We enjoyed our nights there, finding good restaurants easily and cheap street food on more thrifty evenings.  The markets were far less hectic than any in Vietnam, so that was a relief.  Our only complaint is that there were more tourists than locals, so one day we took a walk away from the "tourist center," and found a fishing village.  People were hanging out in front of their houses, but it was always the kids who said, "Hello," as if they were practicing their English on us. 

Phnom Penh

This is Cambodia's capitol and home to the Royal Palace.  We were surprised to find that even in the heart of the city there were parks and open spaces which people seemed to use both day and night.  There's a river that runs through the city, so restaurants have views of the water.  These were the enjoyable parts, but there were many things that were harder to accept.  For example, many people in Cambodia are victims of land mine disasters, and have been left as amputees.  They're not cared for by the government, so often their only means of income is begging on the streets or having their children sell things to tourists.  If we ate dinner on the waterfront, 5 or more people would come up to our table in that time asking for money or playing an instrument or selling something.  It's a very sad situation and there has to be something more we can do than just give out small bills or share our leftovers.  We decided that if we return to Cambodia, it won't be as tourists.  There is even more sadness when considering the near past.  In the 1970s Cambodia was transformed and almost 1/4 of their population brutally killed under the Pol Pot regime.  There is evidence of this in the city and we visited S21, an old high school used as a "prison" during Khmer Rougue.  Ther is also the Killing Fields, which we didn't visit after finding out it's owned by a Japanese organization.  Maybe the money goes back to the victims, but probably not.  On a more happy note, we bumped into a group of Canadians that we'd met back in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and spent a long night drinking and enjoying conversation.  Shannon, Justin, and Dave made our stay in the worst guest house in SE Asia a little more tolerable!

Overall Thoughts on Cambodia

We really loved the country and the cities we visited.  It is definitely a place we'd return to with more visits to outer cities and villages.



That sounds like a place I would be interested in going to. Maybe if I become a school psychologist and end up with summers off, we can go together! :)

  Calley Ekberg Mar 15, 2009 6:57 AM

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