71. Cambodia

Cambodia: Near the beginning of this trip, we told some seasoned traveler that we’d only booked tickets for two weeks in Cambodia. “Why only two weeks? You should be spending at least a month,” they said. We understand now.

Amy: Even though Sloan will vehemently deny it, Cambodia was my idea. I can’t remember now why I was so charged up to add Cambodia to the list all those months ago but I know that I am really grateful for it now. Actually, grateful is a feeling that I experienced many times on our short jaunt through this country. The temples of Ankgor in Siem Reap are bigger and better than all the guidebooks promise. Trekking from one to the next in 98 degree heat was a challenge, but the experience of bumbling around these majestic 11th and 12th century temples can’t be compared. We started each morning just after the sunrise rush and ended each day 9 hours later sweat-soaked, exhausted and smiling. Phnom Penh is a fun bustling little city where I began my apprenticeship in the fine art of riding sidesaddle on a moto, sandwiched between a Cambodian stranger and Sloan. It’s definitely the local answer to a Thighmaster. Then there was Kampot, a dreamy riverside town with all of the love and none of the hassle of many tourist friendly SE Asian locales. The stand out Cambodian experience for me though was the blind massages. From what I can tell the Cambodians are really keen on making sure their disabled have equal access to dignity by staying gainfully employed. The land mine victims become musicians, the handicapped create all kind of incredible art, and the blind become masseurs. I realize how weird that sounds but it’s all very organized and respectable. Seeing Hands Massage has at least 5 branches around the country and I visited two of them and had the best shiatsu massages I’ve ever had and for less than $5. I also had a great conversation with my masseur in Phnom Penh who was born blind and has studied and practiced shiatsu for the last 12 years and described it as the best thing that ever happened to him. I couldn’t help but feel grateful.

Sloan: Monks on motorcycles! Let me tell you something about Buddhist monks in SE Asia; they are not old, quiet, bespectacled little men in orange robes. They do wear the robes, but they’re also very young and they have cell phone cameras and MP3 players and wrap-around sunglasses and tattoos and they ride around cities on the backs of motorcycles. I could do this. I could also spend dozens more weeks in Cambodia, rich as it is with color, good cooking and sweet people. I enjoyed the sights on the well-worn tourist trails in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor, but I didn’t really catch the Khmer Fever until we stayed in Kampot and got a taste of Cambodian life outside the backpacker ghetto. The countryside is stunning. The people are curious, fun and giving, despite their dire poverty. Cambodia is terribly poor, war-ravaged and covered in land mines, yet most of the hard living that happens here is the quiet, rural kind, so it’s easy to romanticize with my cluttered Western mind. I know that’s a little naive, a little ain’t life grand, Huckelberry Finn, but there something positive here – Cambodia’s got me thinking about volunteer work. Lots of NGOs here, not a lot of funding, and I’m starting to tire of the tourist routine. I’m entertained but unfulfilled and this whole trip is nothing but free time. Something to think about. Anyway, I want to wrap this up by assuring my mom that there’s really no such thing as “Khmer Fever” and I’m feeling great. I did throw up once in Siem Reap, but we can talk about that on the phone. Miss you!

 

  1. tt says:

    Wow!!!! you two are so inspiring!!
    I wish you more than …enough!