Beginning with the bus ride from the airport to our hotel, Cambodia was vastly different from anything else I’ve seen on the trip. While I saw a prevalence of poverty in Lhasa, Cambodia was completely…unfiltered. I saw the best of the worst in Tibet, due to China’s authority on what we were allowed to see, but we had the opportunity to see Cambodia as raw and untouched.
I came to Cambodia for the incredible temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, which really were spectacular. But the history of Cambodia and the people I met affected me so much more than I expected them to. We were so lucky to have our tour guide, Dany, because he wanted to balance our experience of temples with knowledge of the history and culture.
Outside all of the temples were children selling magnets, fans, Angkor Wat guide books, really anything they thought would get money from foreigners. I think the kids impacted me the most. We were told that they wouldn’t leave us alone unless we just completely ignored their presence, which broke my heart. I did it for the first couple of days, and every time was so frustrating. I don’t like pretending that people don’t exist. An amazing friend of mine on this trip started greeting them, to which they’d blush and smile and say, “HALLO” really loudly. In those couple of seconds they weren’t selling anything; they were just kids. I loved that.
We went to a night market by tuk tuk (in other words, a man who has a cart attached to his bike who says he’ll take you to the night market for $1 per person) and it was really neat to see the city on such a close scale. Traveling by bus is so different than traveling by a cart weaving in and out of the alleyways of Siem Reap!
On our last day we went to a floating village that my dad had told me about when he went to Cambodia. I was pretty excited to see it because it sounded so exotic! People living on the water? Kids boating up to you selling you $1 drinks? It sounded fascinating! And it was fascinating. But it was also uncomfortable. I was shocked at the quality of living I saw driving around Cambodia, but it was nothing compared to what I saw in this floating village. I didn’t take many pictures of it just because of my comfort level, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see it. We stopped at a floating market where I held a snake (sorry, mom!) and watched Chinese tourists ferociously bargain with the locals, and met these two adorable girls who took their picture with me.
My thoughts on Cambodia are sporadic; maybe because I had such a variety of feelings and experiences in Cambodia that it’s hard to write about them accurately or maybe because I’m rushed for time and my shuttle to Yangon leaves in 30 minutes. But I will upload a lot of pictures that hopefully capture the beauty of Siem Reap more successfully than this post does!