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Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 5 February 2008 | Views [1011]

Get a cup of coffee and a cookie... this is going to be a long one... I have sooo much to say!
 
Felix and I both agree.... that this country has been one of the highlights on our entire trip of SE Asia.It is most definitely a MUST SEE, and if possible, everyone must come here at least once in their lifetime.I have never felt so strongly about a place, especially having now visited 7 countries on this trip, if you come, you'd see for yourself why, and understand the connection and the love I have for this country.
 
It has evoked so many intense emotions for us, and from complete different ends of the continuum. It's so hard to even put into words.... from something as pure and simple as seeing a smile on a child's face when giving them a candy, to the first sight we had of Angkor Wat, whizzing by on our tuk tuk, it honestly took my breath away, to the intense heaviness I felt in my heart when I went to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Museum. I have never in my life felt that kind of weight, it was almost suffocating.... 
 
We started in Phnom Penh, and visited all the key sites ie the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, Wat Phnom. The city itself is nothing spectacular, but it was my first try of Khmer Cuisine... can everyone just say "YUM!" Why can't we get Khmer food in T.O? We decided to put off the heavy stuff, ie the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Museum until we came back from Sihanouk Ville, which is Cambodia's beaches. It was a nice break from all the tours and sites, and we managed to recharge our batteries. To be honest, I was really dreading the latter tour, having read "First they Killed my Father," by Loung Ung which is about one little girl's survival during the Khmer Rouge Regime. The brutality and the suffering ... no words can describe the our EVIL and horror. I was very apprehensive about this particular visit, but I knew we HAD go, just for the reason of learning and understanding. 
 
The Killing Fields is like no place I have ever been before... the first thing you see is this tower of glass with shelves upon shelves of 8000 skulls. They were split into groups of age and sex, and that just drove it to another level for me. I just felt this heavy pressure on my heart the entire time I was there, and this buzzing in my ears... Felix and I couldn't even speak to each other on the tuk tuk ride back to the city. What we just saw was weighing on our minds, and to imagine people coming by the truckloads to face their fate of being executed. They even had this tree where they hung this speaker, to try and muffle the screams of people being executed. I couldn't even walk by that tree.  I was so sickened to my stomach....  17,000 people were executed here with no rhyme or reason, except for the fact that they were either educated, wore glasses, worked for the government, had lighter skin...whatever the Khmer Rouge were threatened by. To think this only happened 30 years ago.  Right as we were leaving, this man asked if we wanted to shoot a gun... "WHAT KIND OF A SERIOUSLY SICK PERSON would want to do this after going to the Killing Fields??!!" I don't get it?!
 
Afterwards we went to the Tuol Sleng Museum, which is where the S21 did their interrogations and torture. I really can't describe the feeling I had here, other then pure sorrow for the people who suffered here. I could feel tears prickling at my eyelids... to see all these pictures of those who were housed at this EVIL place.  When I went into the rooms where there was a single metal bed frame with some metal rods, clamps and boxes, and a grainy picture to depict how the tortures took place, I was extremely disturbed by these images, and couldn't even walk into some of these rooms. We did not take any photographs of either place, because to me, its a form of respect. To see some people taking pictures at the Killing Fields and the museum.... it just didn't sit right with me. "People died here! Have some sympathy!" Needless to say, Felix and I had a lot to think about, and just how fortunate our lives are, as well as our parents and grandparents generation.
 
We met this British couple and they said to us... "Did you notice there are barely any old people in this country... ?" And after they made this comment, I really started to notice. They estimated that between 750,000 to 2 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Millions of people starved to death, children were forced into becoming child soldiers, people were tortured for stupid reasons... and the worst thing is  people that did not conform ... died. I cannot imagine the devastation and horrors of living during this time... which was in fact right around the time I was born. Heavy stuff... I know.. but I encourage everyone to read about this, or history in general... for the pure reason of learning. I speak for myself when I say, up until this point, I have lived more or less an ignorant life of not knowing. This was a very loud wake up call for me...
 
Ok... lighter stuff now... I promise.
 
Siem Reap on the other hand.... was thankfully on the opposite end of the emotional continuum....and we had such a fantastic stay here! Felix and I really really loved our stay here! From the people, to the food, to the sites, to just the vibe of the old market! Everyone was so friendly.... you'd just smile at the locals on their motorbikes, and unlike at at home where they'd look away and pretend they didn't see... they'd just smile back!
 
Angkor Wat and all the other temples were just amazing.... no words can describe it, and our pictures do no justice! We tried to catch sunrise at 5am... two days in a row... but sadly... nothing but clouds. We did manage to see the sunset at Phnom Bakheng, and it was breathtaking, along with the hundreds of other tourists! ;p Felix and I made the trek up the day before... and had the whole temple to ourselves...LITERALLY and shared a very romantic breakfast of 'bananas' on the top. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip! People... your next vacation has to be in Siem Reap.... definitely unforgettable... !!!! I just don't get how it can be tossed out of the 7 Wonders of the World??? It is by far one of my favourite places so far!
 
Another particularly poignant memory was when Felix and I were doing a tour of the temples on the second day, and decided to take a break at what used to be the King's swimming pool. (More like Swimming Lake... at that!) We decided to take a break, and this little girl came up to us to try and sell us us her handicrafts. If you have been to Cambodia, you would understand how often we get the touts from kids to buy bracelets, cold drinks, postcards, you name it! They have many different methods... from pleading, to pouting, to just being bratty. That never works for me... This particular little girl called "Mi"" really didn't care about the sell... she must have been about 5, and just wanted to play. She knew a couple odd English words, and was no way fluent, but she just had this pure innocence about her, and she really just wanted to play with us. She brought her toys, which was literally dirt that she moulded into a little bowl, a little dirt spoon, and a little ball of dirt with a tree branch in it. She then proceeded to teach us how to cook with her three utensils. When eventually the dirt couldn't take the abuse, and broke apart, she quickly moulded it into another little bowl, and gave it to Felix as a gift! Such a simple moment, but so pure, and so memorable for us. She even gave me a high 5 when we left! 
 
We also took a trip out to Boeung Tonle Sap Lake....it was the bumpiest tuk tuk ride ever! (We'll post the video soon so you can see just HOW bumpy it was!) But so worth it... just to see Cambodians living their lives... we saw so many little kids just playing by the side of the road... naked kids at that. I think Cambodian parents don't believe in clothes until they are 2-3 years old.  It was so awesome to see.... and I wish that we had a better camera... cause every couple minutes, we'd see the best picture, but we'd whiz by and pic opportunity would be gone. We went for a private boat tour of the floating village ... and it was cool... if again just for the kids. I think the first English word then any child learns in the country is "One dolla! One Dolla!" The kids would ride on their parents boat, come parallel with our boat and jump onto our boat to try and sell their wares! We saw these three little girls literally in a metal basin each, just floating and hanging out! There was floating schools, floating markets, floating basketball court, floating mosque... it was a city of boats!
 
Felix and I had such a memorable and incredible time in Cambodia.... it really is one of the destinations that stands out to us... and for you to read.. I guess you can judge based on the length of this blog!
 
We're off to Laos next! It should be a complete different change in pace and lifestyle... =)
 
Miss you guys!

Tags: Adventures

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