I cannot think of a more interesting place than Cambodia. I know to the initiated, this claim seems loaded up and perhaps even contrived. Like a kid rooting for an unpopular team to irritate or provoke, I have been known to cast my chips on the obscure and eccentric, perhaps by extension making myself bear these traits. With Cambodia, my motivations are purely the consequence of amazement. I am not necessarily a history buff, but I enjoy taking the vast curve of a country's failures and glories into account while visiting. It is rare to visit a place that seems so lived in, both tragically and triumphantly. Up until the 13th century, the Khmer Cambodian empire stretched out with great ambition, ruling most of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. With this came grand temples, a network of which rivals any ancient site in the world. The crown jewel, Angkor Wat, is laid out to mirror the universe, its ambition rivaled only by its beauty. When I came upon the Pyramids of Giza, I was impressed. When I came upon Angkor Wat, I was in love.
Cambodia is also a land of great tragedy. Millions and millions of Cambodians were murdered by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rogue in the 1970's in a horrific act of cleansing on a scale similar to The Holocaust. The "cleansing" took the sick, infirm, dissident, spectacled, and otherwise different and sent them to work camps and ultimately their death. It is believed that 3 million perished. Throughout Cambodia, killing fields remind us of this atrocious time.
Throw in French occupation, extensive mining by the US, civil wars, and you have a very colorful and troublesome history. Despite all of this, the people are some of the nicest in the world. They are hospitable, kind, and always willing to help.
Our day began far to early, 4am. We stumbled and bumbled to the Kuala Lumpur airport, for our 2 hour flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Kristin and I had a pair of donuts in the gate lounge that even Anorexics would appreciate. Flaked with sugar and warm, these discs of delight got us both through the bothersome early morning. We landed at 8am in Cambodia.
At the corner of Park and Coit in Plano, TX, there used to be a restaurant called Swensens. This place was sort of a reoccurring element in my childhood. They served americana fare and ice cream, really good ice cream. I remember eating there when we first moved from California, getting rocky road ice cream after my wisdom teeth surgery, and walking a tab during my wilder years after ordering "The Earthquake," a 30 scoop behemoth. With a little imagination, I am sure you can figure the circumstances. It eventually closed down (hopefully not due to my malfeasance), and it sort of bummed me out. I rarely ate there, but like anyone else, I disdain having constancy dislodged. Today though, I can bask in the glow of Swensens once again. For some odd reason, along the waterfront in Siem Reap, Swensens lives on. Apparently, they also have a store in Laos. I thought I saw this earlier in the trip, but discounted it as simply a nostalgic hallucination. I ordered rocky road.
We spent most of the day in Siem Reap just walking around town while Ryan and Meagan got started on the temple circuit. We hired a tuk tuk driver named Sarin, and he drove us by some killing fields. It is eerie to visit a place where human beings were murdered and we took in the sobriety of human nature's darker side.
Sarin than took us to a huge outdoor local market. You can always tell when you are at a real local place because no one harasses you to buy stuff. We were free to walk around, scoping out the strange offerings, from fried crickets to carnival games. He told us that wars have been fought on this site. Sarin is a pretty smart guy. Self educated, he is currently reading a book about all of the Asian nations. When he gets home, he eats, studies, and sleeps. His thirst for any sort of knowledge was exhilarating. I hope good stuff happens to him.
A booming storm rolled in and destroyed our plans to meet up with Ryan and Meagan to go to the night market. It is good to be back in Cambodia. Here are some pictures of everyday life in Cambodia.
Siem Reap Airport
At our hotel entrance
Pretty nice place for $40 a night
View from our Balc
In our Tuk Tuk
Some kids climbing over mom's ride
Happy Herb Pizza has some interesting toppings
Siem Reap Pub Street
Kristin asked at Funky Monkey if they had shirts for her mom
Inside the Funky Monkey
A section of cafes
I wish I could relay the smell
The river that runs through town is not that clean
Really random book
Wat Prom Rath
A roundabout with a picture of the queen
A stupa filled with bones next to the Killing Fields
I hope that is a pig
The main road through the local market
A small Ferris Wheel
Some red chairs and kids playing
Me and Sarin
Kristin decided to play
go boo go
I hit one and won 2 cokes
Fresh Cane sugar
Furmonster of the day - hotel pup