We’re through Vietnam and on our last day in Cambodia. I thought I would have been back in Pla Pak by now but additional nights at Halong Bay and here in Siem Reap have extended our tour by a few days. We are now at Garden Village and the air-con room, relaxed bar/restaurant atmosphere (from which I am now blogging) and the prospect of spending an extra day decompressing after a month of travel was too tempting to pass up.
Ho Chi Minh City was overwhelmingly busy. The traffic there was unparalleled to anything I’ve seen before. Crossing streets was a challenge in and of itself, let alone finding the book stores and restaurants we wanted in the sprawling districts. Despite my immediate intimidation with all traffic-related endeavors, we enjoyed our time there. I especially liked the French architecture found in the 19th century Notre Dame Cathedral and the main post office. We also spent an afternoon at the War Reenactment Museum which offered some horrifying perspectives on the war in Vietnam.
Phnom Penh was also a bit tolling on our emotions. We spent several hours at a prison museum located in an old high school that was used to detain and torture the intellectuals, professionals and other Cambodians targeted by the Khmer Rouge during their rule in the mid to late 70’s. I knew very little about the genocide that occured here and was shocked to learn how recent this painful history is for Cambodia. Unfortunatley UN trials on the high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge are just beginning and many of the officials are predicted to age out before the completion of the trials, adding to the pain of the families affected by the regime. Despite all of this, I have found Cambodians to be extemely hospitable, positive, and upbeat people who seem to be forward-looking rather than focused on the past. We have been continuously surprised at the high level of English spoken by both children and young adults (though this must be taken with a grain of salt as we are definitely on the well-beaten tourist trail) and also by the presence of so many NGO’s and fair trade craft shops supporting economic and community development in the country. Cambodia is certainly a place I would consider returning to for international work and volunteer opportunities.
Siem Reap, our current location, is the base for exploring the temples of Angkor. We spent two days exploring and even with all the hype associated with the ruins, I have not been disappointed. We even woke up at 4:30 am yesterday to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, thouh conditions were not ideal for the occasion (it was overcast and we were a bit bleary-eyed from a late night out). My favorite temple was Ta Prohm because it was located in the jungle and there were trees growing in and around the ruins, creating awesome effects impossible for human hand to replicate.
Today we are going to bike to the National Centre for Khmer Ceramics Revival where pottery art almost lost during the Khmer Rouge regime is practiced. Then I hope to turn in early tonight for our 8 am departure for the border and long journey back to NKP. I look forward to posting pictures once I am settled into Pla Pak.
Also, happy birthday to my dad! Enjoy your celebration at home and I will see you soon.