Cambodia

Siem Reap Province - Angkor Wat and Tonlé Sap

Siem Reap is a lovely city in Cambodia and home to 200+ temples, bringing in 50% of Cambodia's tourists every year. A group of us took a bus to Siem Reap for a weekend and explored the city on bikes, truck beds, and jeeps. I left with a lot of memories but very little knowledge as to why the temples were built, the history behind them and what they represent. I'll tell you what the few things I do know and some tips and tricks for visiting if you ever add Angkor to your bucket list.

"Angkor" means capital city and "Khmer" means the dominant group. Today, the famous site is known as Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire. At the Empire's prime, the vast city was made up of grand temples, waterways and over a million people. This was during the 9th-12th century.  The Empire controlled all of modern Cambodia, and a good chunk of Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

During the 12th century, some of the cities grandest temples were built including Angkor Wat, Thommanon, Banteay Samre and Beng Melea. Some of which I was able to explore. The holy grail, Angkor Wat was built for funeral purposes. What happened to the Empire after the 12th century is still unclear. From what I gather they went to the war with Champa and unfortunately lost (who they are, beats me.) 

Pre Rup Temple, Angkor Empire

Once we arrived in Siem Reap we hit the first temple, Pre Rup for sunset. It was a bit crowded due to Chinese New Year. Tip number 1: Don't go to Angkor over Chinese New Year. Seriously! Don't. All of China is on holiday and touring Angkor with selfie sticks. ALL THE PEOPLE.

The name, Pre Rup means "turn the body" which means it was used for funerals back in 961. This was before Angkor Wat was built. This temple was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. <--- No clue. I decided after the first visit, I was going to take in the greatness of each temple and not worry about the historical details. Too much to retain when it's 97 degrees out.

 

That same night a small group of us went to the Cambodian Circus. It was a bit of a slow start but really picked up. Imagine a smaller, less theatrical version of Circ. The crew is uber talented and had me chuckling most of the hour. It was a really small space but I imagined it was similar to the circus back in the states when it first opened. I highly recommend attending this while in Seam Reap. Tickets are $17 a person but get there early as the best seats go fast.  

Our longest day of tourism started off with bikes. It was incredibly hot so I ended up parking the bike and hit the flatbed an hour into the day. Although I missed some of the more adventurous parts of the tour I was still able to explore each temple, several of which I was in complete awe of. The amount of detail that went into the carvings of each temple blew me away. Each one having a unique design and meaning. 

Monkey with Fangs

Our last temple of the day was Angkor Wat. It's directly in the center of the city and faces west. It really is grand and majestic just as everyone says. I can only imagine the amount of people who spent years working on this with lack of heavy machinery, cranes and fancy tools to assist with the work.

On our way into Angkor Wat we were greeted by a monkey, eating some bread. We quickly realized he was blind in one eye, had tumors on his belly and had a giant hole in his nose. We were all snapping pictures when the thing hissed at us. I nearly thought he was going to kill Maria and I. He has fangs!!! Proof to the right! I'm praying to the good Lord above there aren't monkeys roaming the streets of Australia. Although, I'd rather have monkeys than snakes and spiders. 

Blessed by a monk at Angkor Wat

We spent about an hour at Angkor Wat, taking in the architecture and beauty. In the center of Angkor, there are several Buddhist monks who will bless you for a donation. I happened to partake in this as I thought it would be super meaningful. It would have been a tad more enjoyable had 100 other tourists not been gawking at me, waiting for their turn... such is life. He started by tying an orange bracelet around my wrist and sprinkling holy water on me while he chanted. A week later, I'm still wearing the bracelet. Apparently, you must wait for it to fall off and not cut it on your own or you'll remove the good fortune and blessing.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Buddha

A small group of us broke off and decided to rent two old school US Army Jeeps for a tour the following day. We had a blast!!! We loaded up the jeep at 5 am and went back to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. We had to wait an hour or so before the sun actually sat above the highest tower. The small pond in front of the main temple had a perfect reflection. Hundreds of people lined the pond, some with professional cameras and others with their iPhone waiting for the perfect shot. My perfect shot below :-)

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500 photos later we were back in the jeep and headed towards our next stop. It was so fun to be in the open Cambodian air, hair flying, dirt roads, and amazing scenery. We passed a lot of children playing in the ditch next to the highway, scooters with dead pigs on the back and markets selling fresh fruit and meat. One market, in particular, had an entire dead cow laying on a table, half butchered.  #culture

We arrived at Beng Melea, the furthest temple a part of the Khmer Empire. It's the same blueprint of Angkor Wat but much smaller. It has been completely destroyed by the jungle, trees tearing down walls, vines breaking stone and the middle tower has completely collapsed leaving rubble everywhere. For a short second I thought we were in an Indiana Jones movie, until I saw the herd of tourists. 

It costs $5 to enter Beng Melea and takes about 1.5 hours to get there from Angkor Wat. I would go back during offseason when there aren't a million people with selfie sticks. :-/ 

Our final stop for the day was a trip to Tonlé Sap, a giant lake which connects to the Tonlé Sap river .. also connecting to the Mekong River (in Phnom Penh.) For $10 each we bought tickets to hop on a boat and explore the floating villages. This was without a doubt the highlight of my weekend. Millions of people live around the lake, 90% of them make a living from fishing. I've learned 30% of all fish in Cambodia come from this area. Children stop their education at a young age to help their parents. You'll see children in the streets, as young as 5 years old counting little silver fish. Not sure what kind they are but there are thousands lining the streets as you approach the floating village. 

While the Khmer Rouge was in power, they either killed or exported all ethnic Vietnamese. Once they were able to come back into Cambodia, they were unable to prove their Cambodian citizenship so the government wouldn't allow them to buy property. More than 700,000 ethnic Vietnamese live on the Tonlé Sap fishing village, the only place the government would allow them to live (The law states only Cambodian citizens can buy land and water was the exception.) For more information on the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide, please refer to my last blog post. 

We hopped on the boat and slowly drove through the river. Three story homes on top of wood stilts lined the waterways. It was hard to take it all in as I was in complete sensory overload. Once we were further down we saw hundreds of houseboats. Floating schools, restaurants, shops all a part of the community. Some of the homes were well decorated with fresh flowers and others looked a bit more like a shack. Every direction I looked there were kids playing in the water. 

The jeeps took us back to the city where we embarked on another great adventure. One I can't say I fully participated in but others did. The eating of bugs. Laura, a fabulous chick on our trip had been told by a client the greatness of the Bug Cafe and insisted we pay it a visit. I thought I'd try the leg of a tarantula and call it a day but it was oh so much more than that. Our group ordered a platter of bugs. PLATTER! Can you believe it? Laura was bound and determined to give almost everything a try. She along with the rest were pure champs. I'm weak so I stuck to the simple bugs: ants, crickets, and silkworms. The others tried tarantula, SCORPIONS, and a water beetle which just about put me over the edge looking at it. Before arriving at the Bug Cafe I was starving and quickly lost my appetite after checking out the menu. 

We finished our Siem Reap adventure by shopping at the night market and eating some ice cream while getting an hour massage for $5. That my dear readers is what we call "winning." 

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Here are a few serious tips and tricks for traveling to Siem Reap - Visiting Angkor Wat

  1. Tickets are $37 for one day and $61 for 3. I'd recommend getting the 3-day pass and take your sweet time. The days are long, hot and exhausting. Especially if you want to see sunrise and sunset. Your 3-day ticket will be valid for 10 days. They punch your ticket when you enter the first temple of the day. You can buy your tickets here: Street 60, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
  2. There are 200+ temples, choose a small selection. It's impossible to see it all. Some of the more famous temples include Angkor Wat, Thommanon, Banteay Samre and Beng Melea (an hour away from Siem Reap.)
  3. Visit Angkor Wat around noon. It seems to be really crowded in the morning and evenings. Everyone wants a picture of the sunrise and sunset. 
  4. Hire a guide if you're really interested to learn about the history. I didn't notice any audio guides anywhere. 
  5. If you're into the Bike Tour, our guide was SO good! He speaks perfect English and has a fabulous accent (he learned English watching BBC every day) His details are here.
  6. Wear closed toe shoes. There's a lot of climbing up and down uneven, broken up pieces of temples. Some of them look like they could crumble down at any minute. It's also very dirty. I wore flip flops and my feet were filthy after a day of temple hopping.
  7. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT: Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. Sometimes a scarf is not enough and they will make you buy a t-shirt. This is to get into any and every temple. 
  8. If you want to be blessed by a monk, give a donation of $1-2. You can find monks in the center of most temples. 
  9. Bug spray! Take it. There are so many mosquitos and red fire ants around each temple. 
  10. I highly recommend the jeep tour. For $55 a person we rented two jeeps, including beer, water, and soda. We had the jeeps and drivers for the full day. 
  11. Our tour guide brought an entire box of electrolyte powder with him and I'm so glad he did. I was pretty dehydrated after the day even after drinking 5 bottles of water and using the powder. If you don't have an awesome tour guide who is this detailed, make sure to bring some Gaterade or Powerade packets from home. 
  12. The night market is amazing. You'll find a lot of great bargains. It's also walking distance to Pub Street where you'll find a ton of restaurants and bars. Pub Street reminded me a lot of New Orleans but a lot cleaner. 

If you'd like to see the people I encounter and beautiful places I see on a daily basis, follow my Instagram account @throughherwandering_eyes. 

The Cambodian Genocide: Killing Fields and S21

It saddens me to no end to sit here and write this post. I'm upset to relive yet again the reality and history that plagues Cambodia. However, back in the 70's social media wasn't present. Seeing real-time images of what was going on in the world wasn't as easy as it is today. Textbooks in the US don't discuss it (at least mine didn't) and I think it's important for you all to know the horrific details of the Cambodian Genocide. 

Note: there are some horrific details which may be challenging to read. 

US Secret Bombing of Cambodia 

In 1969 the United States government dropped over 2.7 million tons of bombs on the countryside of Cambodia. They did this during the Vietnam War to wipe out the supply routes the Vietnamese had running through Laos and Cambodia. President Nixon was the one who authorized the attacks and kept this a secret from US congress until 1973. Over 500,000 farmers and their families lost their lives due to these bombings. Thousands of Cambodians had to flee their homes and move into cities to avoid being killed. Cities were covered with homeless, unemployed farmers and their families. Several more lost their lives from the displacement due to starvation and disease. The political unrest caused the Pol Pot Regime to be installed throughout the nation and Cambodians truly believed the regime to be the peace they so badly craved. 

Pol Pot Enters Phnom Penh 

Pol Pot built his regime by recruiting young, uneducated children who were traumatized by American bombings. They were promised a bright future, food, and steady job. In 1975 when the Khmer Regime communist party took over, they entered the streets of Phnom Penh and forced everyone to leave. Their campaign promised they could come back in three days and warned the Cambodian people of American bombings. If they didn't leave the city they were killed. Most left large supplies of food and personal belongings back in the city. They had no idea they would be forced into rural areas for years to work as slaves in the fields. Many died due to being overworked with little water, food, and medicine. They labored in the burning sun for 12+ hours a day. Modern machinery wasn't allowed to be used, only the hands of the Cambodian people. Many didn't know how to grow rice and other crops as they were from the city. When they failed at their job they would be beaten or killed. The Khmer regime wanted a society made of peasants. People were stripped of their money, land, religion, and names. Those who were educated, wore glasses, and had soft hands were sent off for execution.

S21 Prison

In the middle of Phnom Penh lies a school. When everyone was forced out of the city, the regime used the school as a prison, capturing anyone who they thought might be against the regime. Most of the prisoners were government officials, lawyers, doctors, monks, artists and their families. A total of 20K people died in this prison and only 12 survived. There were single cells used for interrogation and torture. The rules below had to be followed or one would be tortured for hours:

As stated in the prison.

  1. You must answer accordingly to my questions - don't turn them away
  2. Don't try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me.
  3. Don't be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
  4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect. 
  5. Don't tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
  6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
  7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting. 
  8. Don't make pretext about Kampuchea Kromin order to hide your secret or traitor. 
  9. If you don't follow allow the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire. 
  10. If you disobey any point of my regulation you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric charge. 

Gallows were used to hang people by their wrist and when finally passed out they would lower them head first into a bucket of human waste until they woke back up. Some rooms had 30+ people chained and bound together by metal ankle links. Some stayed in the prison for months only receiving a ration or two a day and maybe one shower a month. A shower would consist of a hose being blasted into a room full of people. 

When people came into the prison they were stripped of their name, given a number and records of their past life were documented. Any babies who came into the prison were instantly killed. 

Three young men from New Zealand were sailing around the world when a storm caused their boat to drift into Cambodian waters. They were captured and brought to S21, where they were tortured for two months, trying to get any kind of confession. They were unfortunately killed and burned. 

The Killing Fields

Over the four years Pol Pot was in power, 3 million people died. A quarter of his own army is included in that number as he was extremely paranoid they were creating a coup against him. Over 300 mass grave sites have been found all over Cambodia. Some of them are open to the public and memorialized and others are off limits due to undiscovered land mines. 

One of the largest fields is located south of Phnom Penh, where 129 mass graves have been found. 1975-97 trucks would pull up to the Killing Fields with people blindfolded and bound every couple weeks. By 1978, trucks would pull up everyday. They were told they were going to a different home and had no idea they were being driven to their grave. Once they arrived they had to sign a document, their death warrant. Detailed records were kept on each prisoner to make sure no one was missed. A teenage boy was recruited to be the one in charge of escorting prisoners from the truck to the grave. If he would have refused, he would have been killed himself. 

Loud revolutionary music would play from speakers hanging in the trees. They did this to cover the sound of cries and screams. Bullets were expensive and to keep the noise down so peasants close by wouldn't know what was happening they beat the individual over the back of the head with a hammer, ax, machete or anything else they had on hand. Sharp palm trees would be used to slit throats. Each person was stripped of their dignity and their clothes before they would die and be thrown into the massive grave. DDT was used to cover the bodies. This served two purposes, kill those who were still alive and to cover the stench. 

Better to kill an innocent by mistake than to spare an enemy by mistake
— Pol Pot

There is a specific grave where women and children were found. Babies and children were murdered in front of their mother's eyes. Held by their two legs and smashed their heads up against the tree. When the grave was discovered, remnants of hair, blood, and bodily fluids were found all over the tree shown below.

In 1979 Pol Pot and the Khmer regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese army and his own army who had turned against him. For more than 10 years after he was overthrown he and his communist party was still recognized by other countries as the leader of Cambodia, including the US, UK, China and many more. He was even given a seat at the UN and received financial aid while Cambodia was trying to put it's country back together.

Cambodia Today 

Those who survived the genocide are still deeply affected. Families are gone and it's very evident the people don't like to talk about the past. A lot of Cambodians believe the US had a lot to do with the Khmer regime coming into power. Although, all of the Cambodians have been extremely nice to me I often wonder if they hold a grudge against Americans. I notice every day while walking the streets of Phnom Penh how young the country is. Most individuals are under the age of 30. While attending a traditional art show they said: "We want to be known for the arts and not the Killing Fields." They're trying to rebuild still to this day, rebrand themselves and get back to the country they once were before US bombings, communist parties, civil wars and genocides. They've built the memorials so they can always remember and to ensure it never happens again. 

Me 

I was told I'd leave the S21 Genocide Museum and Killing Fields very somber. This was not at all true for me. I left pissed. Still, as I'm writing this post my blood boils. How we as individuals can let events like this happen is beyond me. Cambodians killing Cambodians. Religious groups killing religious groups. Kids shooting up kids. Why? All I could think about while walking the fields and prison was Syria. It may not be 3 million people but it's families, children, babies who are being affected by civil unrest every day. It's Americans who are too afraid to let those who need us into our country because we might let in a terrorist, when we have our own flesh and blood raping, molesting our children, shooting up schools and movie theaters, need I go on? I don't like to think about it as our country. This is our world. People who are no better than each of us need us and what makes me even more upset is the fact that I have no idea where to even start. How can I help? How can I even make a dent? How can we create change? How can American finally be great again, not for our own financial gains but great because we're a country that stands for the basic right to human life - regardless of age, race, sex, religion, and class. Will my children someday be visiting Syria and other countries, walking through a museum thinking "Why didn't we do anything about it?" Am I going to be an embarrassed mother who says "I was too busy fighting for gun control and human rights in our own country." 

One of my biggest challenges and struggles on this trip is something I should be extremely proud of. When people ask where I'm from I shy away from saying "America." It's true and I hate admitting it out loud. I'm sure I'll get a lot of people lashing out because of that statement and I honestly don't care. How did you feel while reading about the children and babies being killed in front of their mothers? How are innocent children being bombed in Syria any different, or children being shot up in your own country any different? There has to be a better way and quite frankly, America does not have it figured out. Everyone is too worried about their own personal interest until they're affected by tragedy. This breaks my heart. 

Learn More

I'm not a historian and there are a lot of details about the Genocide I missed or have yet to learn. If you'd like to learn more about the Genocide from the perspective of a survivor of S21, I highly recommend reading this book. I was able to meet this gentle soul at the museum. You can still see the sadness in his eyes but he smiles at each person who walks by and proudly puts his John Hancock in each book he sells. You can purchase the book here. 

Survivor

The Triumph of an Ordinary Man in the Khmer Rouge Genocide

But I do not condemn the people who tortured me. If they were still alive today and if they came to me, would I still be angry with them? No. Because they were not senior leaders and they were doing what they had to do at the time. I consider them victims like me.... There’s a saying in the Khmer language; “If a mad dog bites you, don’t bite it back. If you do, it means you are mad, too.
— Chum Mey, S21 Survivor

Phnom Penh, A Day in the Life

Since arriving in Phnom Penh (PP) I've been able to develop a "normal" routine.. for the most part. Finding my new normal hasn't been as challenging as Bali. I chalk this us up to Bali being a vacation destination, island, chillax atmosphere, new program, new people and so much to do and see it's overwhelming. Phnom Penh is anything but a resort town and I already have my footing in the program so I'm not spending extra time "figuring it out" like I did in Bali. I'm quite lucky the time zones didn't differ all that much so my work schedule has remained the same. Our housing accommodations also allow for a bit of normalcy as we have kitchens, a washer, and a desk in our bedrooms. 

Disclaimer: You may get sick watching this video. It's a bit shaky and everything is in fast mode. I have a stabilizer coming so all videos here on out should be smooothhh. :-) 

In PP, the Tonle Sap River runs through the city, separating a chunk of land. It's the less crazy side of PP. Not as much traffic and wonderful views of the skyline and sunsets. This is where I live, work and some play. There is so much traffic it takes a 30 minute Tuk Tuk ride to cross the bridge to be in the heart of the city... all for the bargain price of $3-5 (depending on my negotiation skills that day.) 

Our group lives in two different apartment buildings but within walking distance to one another and the coworking space. Most of us live in AbuAbu, a combination of one and two bedroom apartments. I live with Megan, who you've heard me references many times before :-). She's been a dream to live with.. she cooks, I clean. Our apartment is two bedrooms, two baths with a living and kitchen area. Our kitchen has a small fridge, and an intense hot plate with minimal cooking supplies. We get by with a pot, skillet, rice cooker, kettle, spatula, and butchers knife. We don't dare buy anything requiring a can opener or oven :-/. We've gotten used to our limited amount of supplies, making me wonder why I need 100 kitchen gadgets back at home. What a waste. 

Before arriving in Cambodia, I set my expectations really low as I wasn't at all sure what I would be living in for 37 days, given it's a developing country. I wouldn't say it's the nicest place but she does the trick. I have a safe place to sleep, running water, working toilet <-- people, I can't even tell you how important this is in Cambodia... and the owners of the building are such a delight. So much so, they invited our entire group to their daughter's wedding, which so happened to take place right outside our apartment door...We would have been apart of it whether they invited us or not sine we had to walk right through it to leave. Ha. 

I've had to learn the hard way, Southeast Asia is not a fan or doesn't know about the trend of light, fluffy, pillow-like beds... OR PILLOWS. My god, it's like sleeping on a cinder block. I'm pretty sure Brandon thought I was being nothing but dramatic until he had the opportunity to sleep on it himself. He was such a doll and brought my pillow and blanket from home last week. I can finally wake up without having to take Aleve. Geezz. 

Megan and I rarely use the living space. Our TV offers 1-2 English speaking stations and our sectional was built for a midget. It also doesn't have anything holding the sections together unless you squeeze them together with your butt cheeks. It's very interesting. We both like to answer emails and work from the kitchen while sipping on our instant coffee we bought from the local market. 

Our first day in Cambodia we were taken to a grocery store nearby. A so-so experience. Everything was extremely expensive and marked in American dollars (everything in Cambodia is marked in American as well as Cambodian Riel) Our idea of a fancy treat was literally cheese and crackers. We later found a western store downtown PP in a shopping mall, that offers all the fine goods you can find at Kroger. Most of the prices are either cheaper or just as you would buy in the states with the exception of Ben and Jerry's. Those suckers go for $14 a pint!!! Yes, you read that right. Highway robbery. I was super excited when I saw brownie mix, almost tossed it in the cart until I realized I no longer have an oven. Have you noticed I have a sweet tooth yet? Our meals at home consist of Kellogg's cereal, spaghetti, toast, tuna with cheese and crackers, coffee and roman noodles. All classy stuff. 

Outpost, our coworking space is a 5-minute walk down the street from our apartment. The space is majestic, calm, comforting and gives the Roamers and I the ability to focus on work. It's located in a building called the Green Penthouse. Six floors with green vines trailing from top to bottom along  the outside of the building. Our coworking space takes up the 5th and 6th floor. The fifth floor is more of an office vibe and the sixth offering bean bags, hammocks, giant couches and more. We also have a cafe located within the office. They come up with a different menu every week, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday-Friday. They take requests and I have yet to have a bad meal. A breakfast dish of pork fried rice runs $3.50. This is much cheaper than anything I could buy in the grocery store. We've learned early on it's cheaper for us to eat out than to cook at home. The chefs at Outpost have been a lifesaver. My first week I had a meal or two there every day and it has yet to get old. 

At Outpost we have full access to the rooftop. One of the miraculous things about Cambodia is the consistent sunsets. From our rooftop view, we have a clear picture of the PP skyline along with the orange and pink sky as the sun sets behind the cities newly built skyscrapers. From our view you can see 15-20 cranes (probably more) being put to good use. This city is growing and it will be fascinating to come here someday and see how it's changed. 

Sunset View from Outpost Coworking

The We Roam staff also hooked us up with access to the Sokha Hotel another 10-minute walk from Outpost. The gym and pool is available to us 24/7 and we get discounts on all spa treatments and food. I've only used the gym perk once but tend to add it to part of my daily schedule. The pool is technically considered a lake, it's so big. I've never seen anything like it. I'll be able to swim laps thanks to BG who brought my competitive suit and goggles. If you ever find yourself coming to Phnom Penh, you'll be one of 5 individuals staying at Sokha. It's a constant ghost town. I'm not at all sure how they stay in business. Apparently, other Roamers have found 20+ Karaoke rooms in the basement. Score! We will all be checking that out later this week. 

The weather here is constantly spicy. This week we're looking at an average of 95 degrees every day. There is little to no cloud coverage and the humidity is ... there. It's really not as bad as Bali but I have started to experience lip sweat and back of the knee sweat for the first time in my life. Come on, it's just gross. To beat the heat we usually end up at the Sokha pool or a hotel pool across the river. Megan, JD and I found Aquarius Hotel our first few days in PP and fell in love. This is where the picture below was taken. 

Aquarius Hotel Infinity Pool

I'm unsure of the population size of PP but due to the millions of scooters, tuk tuks and cars on the road at any given time the pollution is really bad. We also think this is due to the amount of trash they burn. This has caused me, and others to not feel all that great on a consistent basis. Around 2pm my body is dragging every day. Most days I feel lethargic. Little to no energy and in desperate need of a nap. When Brandon and I left Phnom Penh a week ago to visit the coast I never experienced the exhaustion. I now understand why so many Cambodians where face masks while walking around and I may just start sporting this fashion trend. 

The video above gives you a small glimpse into my day and what our accommodations and office space look like. 

I know a lot of you are curious to know how my program works and what I'm up to. If you have suggestions for content or pictures please don't hesitate to ask! Comment below :-)

 

 

 

 

B&C Take Cambodia

January 2, 2018, a day I will never forget. I was in an Airbnb near Boca Raton, Florida and having to stay goodbye to my man. Tears streamed down my face for hours and I could hardly get a grip. Flashback to March 2017, I was accepted into We Roam.  One of the employees who had interviewed me gave me a piece of advice I took to heart. “Don’t get into a relationship,” he said, “it will be painfully hard unless he’s extremely supportive and open-minded.” I had every intention of sticking to that plan, actually, I was more than adamant.  Not only did I find myself in a relationship, but with a man who has been nothing short of supportive and has encouraged me to persue the world tour. Here I am almost a year later, sitting on the beach writing this post while he's yards away, getting a massage.

When I left the US for Bali I had only completed half of the trip before receiving a text from Brandon with a flight itinerary... to Cambodia.  My first thought, “He decided to come to Cambodia?? Of all places?!?!?!” Reality quickly set in and I was more than elated. To fly halfway around the world for a week is a big commitment and what homesickness I was feeling at the time started to fade as I knew it would only be a matter of weeks before I was able to see him again.

The week before his arrival was PAINFULLY LONG. I'm sure I annoyed all of you to death with my Instagram stories. I was trying to adjust to a new country, plan the next week and anxiously await his arrival.

I wanted him to see all Cambodia has to offer in a short amount of time so I did some extensive research and planned the week.  He arrived last Saturday after a 32-hour flight from Indy --> LAX --> Hong Kong --> Phnom Penh. I was nervous he'd be tired and worn down the entire week but he handled the jet lag like a champ, didn’t even seem phased. Anxious to hear how exhausted he is when he gets home :-)

Our first night we stayed at The Pavilion, a boutique hotel in Phnom Penh. They picked us up from the airport in an old school Jag, put a bottle of chilled champagne in our room and covered the bed in fresh flowers.  We spent the day relaxing by the pool, had a couples massage and went to the Aquarius Hotel for dinner and sunset. Perfection doesn't begin to describe February 3rd. The following day happened to be Brandon's birthday so we had a fancy breakfast in bed before packing up to hit the Cambodian coast.

A little over 4 hours away from Phnom Penh is a coastal town, Sihanoukville. Home to a few resorts, casinos, bright blue skies and consistent 85-degree weather. We stayed at Sokha Beach Resort for two days, doing nothing but enjoying each others company and relaxing by the pool and beach. We did, however, decide to skip the sun one of our precious mornings and visit the local market. Cambodia itself is sensory overload but the market is on another level. You can easily get lost, and the smell… I can’t even describe it. If you’ve ever let meat sit in the trash too long you know what the smell is like.... x10 because there is every kind of animal possible in that market.. chicken, fish, cow, pig.... frog … Makes me a little nauseous thinking about it. I was hoping to find unique items to add to my traveling wardrobe and some gifts to send back home but no dice. Brandon, however, scored a $10 watered down bottle of cologne. Apparently, it's $100 back at home so he thinks he's winning. 

Tuesday morning we left for Koh Rong Sanloem, an island off the coast of Cambodia. What was supposed to be a 45-minute boat ride ended up being a 2-hour excursion.. It just so happened to be an extremely windy day so the seas were a little rough… It was like Gili Islands all over again. I was bound and determined to find a helicopter to fly us back opposed to getting back on that dern boat.  Ain’t doin it... but I did and th ride back was lovely. 

Brandon and I walked the beach, lined with the cutest little bungalows and found us a place to stay. He decided to splurge a little bit on a beachfront resort … It was out of a dream. I had thought about canceling the rest of our plans so we could stay there the rest of our time together. The sand is like powdered sugar and they keep the beaches squeaky clean (compared to what we had in Bali). Hammocks and swings in the ocean are a dime a dozen. Nothing is owned by corporations so every place of business is local and picturesque.

We fell in love with our little resort and each of the employees including a little guy who we met very early on in our stay, a son to a young girl who works in the kitchen. He thought the portable speaker was highly entertaining and took on quite the liking to Oreos (can you blame him?!?!)

I had read Lazy Beach is the place to be for some RnR and epic sunsets. Our resort had given us snorkel masks and directions to get to the other side of the island. We had to walk 30 minutes through the rainforest to get there.  I enjoyed watching Brandon's nervous face as he was expecting a snake or giant animal of some kind to come at as full speed ahead. We did find a giant pile of poo in the middle of the trail. What could possibly take a dump that big is beyond me.. it had me a tad bit freaked out. Here's to hoping it belongs to gentle, wandering cow.

Lazy Beach is unlike any other beach I had ever been to. There were maybe 25 people on the beach at any given time, the water is crystal clear, even when you're 8 feet out. Nothing on the bottom of the ocean other than sand and you can see it ripple from the current. The waves were next to nothing, hearing them hit the shore reminded me of being on the lake back at home. Brandon and I put our snorkel masks on and headed out. We ended up swimming along the rocks to get views of coral and colorful fish. I believe Brandon could have snorkeled for days. I was extremely impressed  ... this man is not a fan of going in the ocean, especially when he can't see what's coming atcha. HA. Cracks me up. 

We enjoyed Lazy Beach so much we got up early the next day to watch the sunrise and head right back. We wanted to snorkel the other side of the cove and I'm so glad we did. More coral, more fish, and several naked old men lined the beach (YES, they were FULLY nude. In the FLESH.) It was paradise. Please note the sarcasm. 

I would have loved to stay on the island a few more days. Several of my fellow Roamers are spending the weekend there and I'm just a smidge jealous. However, I will admit, at this exact moment I'm a little over the sun. Yes, I said it. Don't any of you back home in the negative temps school me about this either. I'll feel differently next week.

Brandon and I went back to Sokha hotel for two more nights before heading back to Phnom Pehn. We decided to do some stand-up paddle boarding our last day. The ocean somehow ate my sunglasses, well... they weren't mine. They were Brandon's but he gave them to me and I'm still feeling super guilty for getting in the ocean with them in the first place. 

We took a taxi back to the city Friday morning. I wanted him to experience more of Phnom Penh before departing. I was able to give him the grand tour of our coworking space, Outpost, and he was able to spend a few hours with the few Roamers who stayed back for the weekend. On our way home from dinner, we just about died in a Tuk Tuk (I'm being dramatic). The driver had a giant Glock on the back of his t-shirt if that tells you anything. He was blowing through red lights like it was nothing. My anxiety was through the roof and I think Brandon was enjoying every minute of it. 

Today (probably tomorrow by the time you read this) I had to say goodbye to Brandon. Having him here, felt like home. He brought me all my comforts.. my pillow, blanket and himself. The only thing missing was my dear fur baby. I'm back to all the feels. Excited for all my upcoming adventures and sad a the same time. In 29 days we will be together again in Melbourne, Austrailia! Something for us both to look forward to.

Brandon has promised to guest blog about his experience here in Cambodia. Something for you all to look forward to :-) <--- Babe, does this hold you accountable? 

 

Cambodia, The Beginning

It took all of 2 hours being in Phnom Penh, Cambodia before experiencing the same feelings after arriving in Haiti for the first time years ago. “What am I doing here? Can I survive 37 days? I want to go home. I can’t eat this food. I want my own bed.”

I went from island life, lush greenery, own transportation, beach, good food, English everywhere, to city life, brown everything, feeling like a minority, relying on other people, a lot of poverty, and language barriers. It was a big adjustment but then I experienced the sunsets, Outpost Co-working, the cutest little girl around my apartment building who is thrilled to see me everyday, people who are genuinely excited we’re here, invitation to a traditional wedding, and a country who should hold a grudge against Americans but certainly do not (from what I can tell.) Cambodia is growing on me.

Neighbor girl&nbsp;

Neighbor girl 

It’s already been an entirely new experience and I’ve realized after some reflecting, I can’t at all compare this to Bali. Cambodia is a developing country, rich in history, with a past that brings tears to my eyes every time I learn something new. I’ve been here over a week and I can’t help thinking every day, "how lucky am I?" Not that I’m on this trip, or having these experiences (this isn’t luck, it’s a lifestyle choice <--- Pet Peeve of mine)… But how lucky are you and I to have been born in a place with the opportunities and luxuries we choose to take for granite every day? We have NO control whatsoever of the race we’re born into, class, country, gender, sexual orientation, or the religion our parents choose to bring us up in.  If you were given a questionnaire before you were born would you choose your current situation? Would you choose to be a white US citizen, middle class, raised in a Christian household? Or would you choose to be born in a developing country, sleeping on cinder blocks, picking up cans on the side of the street to feed yourself, struggling for a quality education, Buddhist, etc…I’m not sure I even know the answer to my own question but it’s something I’m digging into.

I continue to remind myself, this is exactly what I wanted to experience. I’ve been begging to be pushed outside my comfort zone and Cambodia is delivering in a big way. Is it these very experiences that make us better human beings? How many times a day do you choose to step outside your little box of comfort or do something out of the ordinary? This could be as simple as going to dinner by yourself, turning off social media for a month, striking up a conversation with a stranger, visiting a church outside of your religion or trying broccoli for the first time. Whatever it is, I challenge my dear readers to write down 5 things that make you uncomfortable and go out and try to experience it. You may find what once felt awkward is your new norm.

I've decided during my 37 days in Cambodia I’m going to soak up as much history as I can, learn more about the locals, understand what makes the Cambodian people so joyous even though they don’t have the same luxuries and conveniences as we do in America and I’m going to eat the food that has me doing this … 🤔😬🤢 I’m going to attempt to show you through my eyes why Cambodia and other like countries are not “shit holes” but so grand.

I’m ready to make what felt so awkward a week ago, my norm.  Thank you, Cambodia for the push.

Up-and-coming blogs: Day in the life, Phnom Penh, Week with Brandon, Traditional Cambodian Wedding, Top 10 Favorite Canguu Restaurants, Bali Recap Video and much more!!! Stay tuned. :-)