Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cambodia - Part 2

The trip was short, but I have pages of scribbles - though not as many as normal. They're in the other room though, so I'll save them til I get the photos uploaded.

Some of the highlights though:
  • The sunshine - of course!
  • Getting up to watch the sunrise over a lake - and then going straight to temples where I was the only person. The peace of an ancient temple without a single other person to block your silence, view or freedom is indescribable. Spiritual comes to mind.
  • Leaving a temple as a big group arrives. Smugness!
  • Meeting lots of wonderful people and hanging out with them. Sharing a breath of each others trips.
  • Learning from and talking to monks and enjoying their happiness at my NOT wanting to take their photos.
  • The Singing Tree Cafe in Siem Reap. A little oasis in the midst of the hecticness. I went there three nights on the trot. The first night to enjoy their wonderful vegetarian food in their garden. I read, chilled and sat with a cat purring away in my lap for a couple of hours or more until the days weariness - and early morning start - set in.
  • The second evening in The Singing Tree Cafe was for a free session of 'Monk Chat' - well, I talk to monks all the time anyway, but this was super-cool and very very interesting. A group of people who were also there invited me to join them at a restaurant called 'The Dead Fish' - which had crocodiles swimming around on the first floor, and Cambodian dancers performing on a different level of the multi-levelled restaurant.
  • The third evening in The Singing Tree Cafe was more monkness with a meditation workshop. It was wonderful! Afterwards I spent the rest of the evening talking in the garden, under shelter as a wonderful storm had brewed up - thunder, lightening, the works! - with a Spanish girl who's teaching in England but in Cambodia for three weeks of voluntary work, an English guy and his Greek boyfriend who work in Bhutan (I think! - or was it Dubai?) and who want to open a boutique hotel in Cambodia. So many stories....
  • Showers. Showers were a real highlight after a day getting covered in dust from the tuk-tuk and streets!
  • The temples: what can I say - magnificent.
  • The history. I don't know if this can really be said to be a highlight but to me it's important to learn something about the places I visit. I've read a couple of books about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge / life under the Khmer Rouge over the last couple of years but seeing documentaries, and the related sights (Genocide 'Museum', Killing Fields') was something else. More of this with the photos though.
  • Palaces, museums, markets.
  • Eating fruit from bags. In the sun!
  • Cold water.
  • Clean sheets.
  • Smiling faces.
  • Fresh vegetarian spring rolls.
  • Getting an exit seat with oodles of leg room on the plane.
  • Taking a long boat trip.
  • Motorbike taxis.
  • Massages.
  • Not rushing from city to city - I spent 1.5 days in Phnom Penh (quite enough!), a leisurely half day on a boat, 4.5 days in Siem Reap, a day travelling back to and chilling out in Phnom Penh - and then back home.
  • Deciding I was too old (!) to sleep in an airport - okay, I'd had about three hours sleep the night before which was the real reason - and transferring to a 'luxury' hotel in Taiwan.
  • Talking, talking, talking. And silence. Lots of silence.
  • Teaching three English lessons to monks and locals in a temple! And attempting to get a mingle drill out of them! Wanting to do a coin spin game - and realising Cambodian money doesn't include coins! Seeing monks wandering around with Headway and Minna No Nihongo...

My kind of holiday is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's important to know what you like and go for that. I'm sure I could add a lot more highlights to my trip!

I did like Cambodia, but liked Lao more, for the simple reason that, in Lao, every second person wasn't asking me for money. In fact, in Lao, nobody asked me for money. In Cambodia, this wasn't the case. It ruins it a little when you realise that a simple smile will be interpreted as an invitation to ask for money. On the other hand, when I did want to buy something from street kids it was a good, and usually very amusing experience. It was just a bit too full-on in it's constancy though. A bit like Vietnam really.

To be continued....


Blogger Caro said...

Sounds fantastic!

1:46 am

Anonymous Amy said...

My friends have just come back from Cambodia and Laos as well, and they said the same - they loved Cambodia, but loved Laos even more. Perhaps the fact they had their camera stolen in Cambodia may have swayed their judgement a bit... ;)

3:06 am

Blogger Jo said...

caro - i hope you're taking it easy young lady and enjoying your last weeks of pre-stumpy freedom / sleep!

amy - hi! that's rough about your friends camera, but even without that there's a big difference in the feel of the two places. granted i only went to the big cities in cambodia so it may have been different elsewhere but it was more. for example, i'd heard so many stories of corrupt officials, police, etc in cambodia that i was half-expecting to be asked for money by one of them - and was surprised when i wasn't.

pre-conceptions go a long way too and it can be tough when people are throwing sob stories at you or when the 50th person of the day is still hassling you after 5 minutes of you saying no, while they follow you around.

i understand we are just wallets on legs to many people in developing countries and i would like to do more to help BUT i also want to be able to enjoy my holiday and share a smile with someone or chat without it resulting in being asked to give something or buy something.

by the way, read your blog entry on brits - i was surprised what you were saying about the money questions. most brits would never talk about money in that way, in my experience. i'd have squirmed too! and yes. many are grumpy and unhelpful and shop and restaurant staff can be terrible. they just don't care about their jobs or their customers and their salaries are often crap. paris is worse though!

enjoy scotland!

10:04 am

Blogger Elspeth said...

So far it sounds fantastic! I would so love a holiday like that.

11:26 am

Blogger jojoebi said...

it's a shame about the begging, when we went for the millenium there was some begging but nothing more than you would expect in a 3rd world country but when we went back to get married 3 years later it was 10 times worse, the temple sercurity was much stricter and the prices had gone up dramatically, a shame really.
drop us a line when you are free, I use the gmail account these days.

12:44 pm

Blogger J said...

sounds like my kind of trip!

6:14 pm


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