Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Exploring Cambodia

I must say we started our trip in a very peculiar way. It all began on the flight towards our first destination, Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia. Just before takeoff whilst strapping in to our seats, we were approached by a fellow Cambodian local to swap one of our seats with her friend. She needed her friend to be seated beside her, reason being that she was carrying a child and wanted her friend to look out for them in case anything happened. I obviously agreed to her request but little did i know that they would repay our small gesture in the form of a housewarming party invitation. Upon arrival, we found ourselves being welcomed by the family of these Cambodian passengers. The next thing we knew, we were at the back of a pickup truck. To where you ask? Well, en route to a local housewarming party.

Excited faces on board a Pickup truck
The thing about human interaction is that it doesn't take a common topic to start. It all begins with a smile, after all a smile is all it takes to break the language barrier between two complete strangers. It's  the shortest distance to another person's heart .And just like that, we had a great night of fun and laughter, definitely a moment to remember.

During the next couple of days we decided to hit the memory lane of Cambodia's history, starting with the historic war memorial sites. We began with the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum, the former S-21 Security prison. It used to be a place whereby prisoners were once held captive and executed. While touring the place, i was fortunate to meet an actual survivor who managed to escape the clutches of the Tuol Sleng prison. His story is truly emotionally inspirational, hearing about his story while walking past each and every exhibit constantly reminded me how fortunate a generation we are.

With M.r Chum Mey, one of 3 survivors of the Khmer rouge prison
A overview of the S21 prison cells

We also took a ride down to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, also known as the killing fields. This is a really sad place whereby the remains of so many people lie. I won't go in to the specific's but  i'll let the pictures do the talking instead.

The commemorated Stupa which contains the Skulls of the victims
Each and every skull shows the way each victim was executed
Fellow travelers quietly listening to their audio guide while paying respect to the victims 
Well apart from visiting war memorials we visited a number of Palaces and Pagodas too. During our walks around the palace the song "Royals" by Lorde never stopped playing in my head.

During the night, we visited the local night market to have dinner. Sitting down on the public mats gave us an interesting experience as well. The sight of our mobile phones attracted the local kids and within minutes a large group came crowding around us.

The first kid to come running up to our phones
And so after spending a couple of days at Phnom Penh, we took a 8 hour bus ride to Siem Reap. We checked in at the hottest and most popular hostel, the mad monkey hostel! Upon arrival, we hopped onto our rented bikes and just rode around the city.

Cycling down the local park with our rented bicycles
The unique thing about Siem Reap is that you get to experience the best of both worlds. In the day, you get to immerse yourself in the raw ancient Cambodian culture emanating from the Angkor Temples. Its really hard to believe that these beautifully carved stone temples date all the way back to the 12th Century. At night, with alcohol prices being extremely affordable, almost every traveler will head to the Pub street to have experience the local party scene.

Along the way we met up with Bart, a fellow backpacking friend from Poland. With his vast knowledge of the Angkor temples, he became our very own tour guide for the day.

It's always good to have connections around the world. During our stay we frequented a local Cambodian restaurant called Khmer Chef. My friend's Aunt owned the place and because of our relations we were offered discounts whenever we ate there.

Thus after spending a week in Cambodia, we took a 12 hour bus ride to Bangkok. Our next backpacking destination.

Ever traveled to Cambodia before? Comment about it below!

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