Post by Lauren
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but the only thing that I knew about Cambodia prior to this year was that it was the country from which Angelina Jolie adopted her son.
Cambodia had been on Gabe’s list for the lure of the ancient temples. So, we decided to venture there during our Southeast Asia trip since it was an easy add on. After three days spent exploring Siam Reap, Angkor, and the central Cambodia region, I am now in wonder.
Here are a few of the initial takeaways:
-Angkor Wat is the famous temple & name for which Cambodia is known; however, there are hundreds of ruins and dozens of temples in this region of the world from the Khmer Empire. So, its not just one site like we’d originally thought.
-They take US dollars more frequently than their currency. Everything we saw except gas was in US currency. And it was crazy cheap – $5 for a one hour massage. The exchange rate for their currency is about 4000: 1 USD if you are baffled by the price on the gas sign! I bring my nephew our loose change from our travels. I actually have about 8000 in mixed bills for him from Cambodia…can’t wait to see his face.
-This country has come an amazingly long way. Twenty years ago it was war torn and very dangerous. During this post-Vietnam war Khmer Rouge regime, 2 million, or one-third of Cambodians were killed as a result of genocide. Thankfully, the country is now at peace. Now that it is much safer, the above two factors (Angkor ruins & low-cost of living/travel) have seen a blooming tourism faction, helping to stimulate the economy and create jobs for Cambodians. Please see “Killing Fields” for more history & awareness on these awful events.
-The presence of French. French was everywhere! We were able to practice our Bonjour Madame and Bonsoir Monsieur’s at the hotel. We learned that France, at one point, ruled over Cambodia when it was a part of French Indochina.
-90-95% of Cambodians are Buddhist, just like Thailand
-Don’t mess with Angelina. I’m not her biggest fan based on some odd behavior and the whole Brad/Jennifer deal, but when conversing with our driver, I quickly learned not to say anything too harmful. She is well renowned for her humanitarian work as well as adopting one of the country’s orphans ( Maddox ) while filming Lora Croft: Tomb Raider. I can easily see how Cambodia captured her heart and have a newfound respect for what she has done here. This country needs support badly.
On our first day, we took a small boat to a floating fishing village on the Tonlé Sap lake to see the local way of life. The children were just getting out of school and paddling their canoes back to their watery abodes.
80% of Cambodians are farmers, with rice being the most prominent crop. I love the below photo of the little girl walking home from school.
Tuk-tuk was the most common way to get around. Otherwise, elephant.
The ruins are on the edge of the Cambodian jungle. Thus, lots of monkeys to my delight. We saw a momma monkey caring for a baby monkey.
Also along all the streets were markets selling food and souvenirs. This is palm juice being made into sugar and juice. Yup, my husband drank some of this juice out of the wall plaster bucket. Me, no way.
Gas for sale by the coke or whisky bottle: