What do you imagine when you think of Cambodia? For me it was Angelina Jolie’s son Max, dirt roads and a lot of poverty. In a small way Cambodia is all those things, Angelina IS idolized, there are a lot of dirt roads and yes a lot of people are poor. But there is also a lot of beauty, a lot of culture, a rich history and this unexplainable sense of freedom.
My journey to Cambodia began on not such a good note, the train was leaving at 5:30 a.m. and well I got home at 4:30 from a night out. I realized then I hadn’t packed so I chucked the first few things I found in my backpack and headed to the taxis to meet the others. On our way to the station, I asked the stupidest question which I knew the answer to as soon as I said it out loud, “Do you guys think I need my passport?”. The taxi fell silent, the daggers of betrayal came out and everyone could not believe I was on my way to leaving the country and I forgot my passport. They basically threw me out of the taxi. I had to get home get my passport and make it back all in about 30 minutes. So I got to the first taxi saw and told him it was an emergency, the driver seemed worried he sped through to my residence as if someone was in real danger, I felt kind of guilty after. Then I get home and I didn’t have my keys so I had to run to reception and ask them to open the door. I got the passport got another taxi and literally made it the station with five minutes to spear. The group decided to buy 3rd class tickets to Cambodia while I was gone, sure it cost $1.50 but we had no air and hard seats we had to share between 3 people for 8 hours. If only I had been there to talk some sense into them. To top it all off when we arrived we were first taken to a fake border, seriously people?! Thankfully we were forewarned about this trick but basically it’s purpose is to make tourist pay 2 entry visas when you only need one. Once we got to the real border and into Cambodia we headed to Siam Reap home to the famous Angkor Wat temples. Our first night there was cut short from all the traveling but we still managed to try some local cuisine and get fish massages. This is the popular spa treatment in Asia where you dunk your feet into a tank of flesh eating fish that eat your dead skin. I don’t know in what word this is relaxing but I do know if you are ticklish this is HELL. The ladies that owned the tank (which was not in a spa but the middle of the street) were awesome; they brought us drinks and gave us shoulder massages as the fish feasted on our feet. After a while it kind of feels nice and it really did work, we were all pretty impressed at the fact our feet felt smoother.
The next day we got up at 4:30 a.m. in order to see the sunrise over the Angkor Wat temples. The temples were in complete darkness and luckily I had my phone flashlight to guide us through to the center. We stood around with the other early risers as the sky got brighter and brighter and shades of purple and pink poked through the clouds and over the magnificent Angkor Wat. We spent most of the day running around through the temples. We went to the famous Tomb Raider temple where Angelina Jolie first connected with Cambodia. From all the ones we saw this one was my favorite because the entire place was covered with trees and vines. We were really lucky to find a driver and a guide that only charged us $20 a day for the group to take us wherever we wanted. In the afternoon he took us to a long boat ride into a floating village. The ride was nice and relaxing after a day in the ruins, we could lie on the top of the boat and soak up the sun and the views. One of my more adventurous friends Xavier dove straight into the river with no regard for water snakes, catfish and other murky creatures swimming about.
Then for dinner we went for Cambodian BBQ on the menu was everything from crocodile to snake, kangaroo and squid. I decided I have to conquer my fear and try snake. If ever I were in a movie some form of this would be my arch nemesis. It took me 30 minutes staring time but I did it I ATE SNAKE AHHHH! We celebrated our bravery with some Angkor beers, Cambodian punch and dancing at surprisingly poppin’ Seap Reap nightclubs.
The next day we decided to visit a landline museum because Cambodia has so much history of war and violence; we wanted to learn more about it. The museum was small but seeing the victims of landmine explosion and how the US contributed to the problem really changed my mind about Cambodia. It made me understand their situation and how small actions by the US have big repercussions for small countries like Cambodia. On our way back from the museum we found a bunch of monkeys running around in the street and we had to stop for a photo-op. This is exactly what I imagined when I thought Cambodia, monkeys co-existing with people and yeah that’s the way it is in some parts. The smaller ones were friendly but the males won’t hesitate to growl at you and then steal your stuff, this ain’t no monkey business (I did not just do that). With darkness approaching but a few hours to kill we rented bicycles for $1 and rode around Siam Reap in search of some good local food. In the end it began to pour but we still rode through the rain and the dark in the crazy streets. It’s as if there are no traffic laws, cars, mopeds, bicycles are drive in the same place. I honestly did not see but one traffic light. Somehow this crazy ride was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Why do I say Cambodia is freedom? Well to begin with all laws in this place seem to be negotiable . Like Thailand, you can do anything for a price. Other than that it seems like the west hasn’t hit this country, you won’t find a McDonalds here or a magazine with Kim Kardashian on the cover. It’s definitely a place to get away from it all and live a simple life. The people are nice and helpful and honestly they’ve been through so much since the invasions of the Khmer rouge that all they want is peace. They appreciate the tourists, they try to educate you on their history and cater to anything you desire from Cambodia.