Places I’ve been to – Part 1. Cambodia

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I found a picture of myself in Angkor Wat from almost 5 years ago, looking happy and relaxed (or at least I tried to look relaxed when I was suffering the worst food poisoning in my life at the time). Life was simpler back then, I suppose. I didn’t have much in my early twenties but I was at ease in the back of my head.

I remember hopping on a bus and went to Siem Reap with my boyfriend at the time with two light backpacks. We stopped to eat breakfast near the border of Vietnam and Cambodia, and headed to a local lunch at some small eatery before finally approaching Siem Reap. Food was amazing, and I did not eat anything too adventurous knowing my digestive system wouldn’t be able to take it if I eat something too wild out of the usual. I remember vividly the time when I was at the point of trying to hold it so bad or else I’d shit my pants any moment. Siem Reap’s extremely bumpy roads did not help much with my horrifying situation at the time. This reminds me of this segment on my favorite podcast “Not too deep” by Grace Helbig where Grace herself would ask the guests to share the situations where they nearly shat their pants using three words or three small phrases. Well, I guess mine would be “Siem Reap, bus, bumpy roads”. I felt extremely grateful making it to the stops’ restrooms along the roads and finally reaching Siem Reap without accidents. What a drive!

Aside from the magnificent greatness of Angkor Wat itself, being so vast and beautiful that I was totally blown away. I remember just feeling the bricks from the buildings built almost a thousand years ago was simple breathless, and strangely nostalgic to me, no words can describe the feeling. I’d read and seen pictures and referencing materials online before but I was completely mesmerized by the beautiful greenery, the sight of the wandering Buddhist monks and gorgeous buildings. No pictures & videos or commentary will be able to describe the beauty of the Angkor ruins. You’ll have to read about the history and actually be there to witness and breathe everything in. It’ll be worth every wait.

*Well, I think it’s pretty pointless if I recite the history & architectural facts since it’s already everywhere on the Internet. By no mean I’m trying to be a travel blogger. I’m just documenting the journey to my mind to the place and what’s left in me after all those years. If I get a chance to come back to Cambodia, I’d happy spending a week in Angkor Wat to learn more about it and reminisce life. I strongly believe solitude can be found in the whispering prayers or under some old trees hidden deep inside some secret garden corner not too many people know of.

On another note, I think on of the must-sees in Siem Reap is the Apsara show. I went to the one called “Smile of Angkor) at the time and I loved it so much. It was a traditional Cambodian musical about the history of the country, folk stories of the Gods and the people. Up until today, it still remained the best cultural production I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few from different countries, including my own country of Vietnam – call me a boring tourist but I love these shows!).

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Smile of Angkor show – Siem Reap through my normal digital camera at the time

What I still remember quite clearly was when our bus was passing by the villages, rice fields and small towns. The country was still rather poor, and a lot people still lived in poverty at the time, politics were unstable but I found Cambodian people extremely friendly, helpful and truthful. For this I must say my people (Vietnamese) have to improve on. Service quality and hospitality I received during this trip were immensely wonderful. Everyone was very knowledgable and helpful from the local tour guide, hotel staff to service staff in restaurants. Food was good, and quite similar to Vietnamese/Chinese/Thai cuisines which I’m always used to. I particularly loved their dried banana chips they sold everywhere in Cambodia. It is a delicately sweet chips which are super addicting! I’m actually drooling in my mouth just thinking about it…

I also got to go Phnom Penh after Siem Reap but nothing that memorable with the city accept from the usual touristy  Royal Palace and Shiver Palace. Life in Phnom Penh was quite similar to life in Vietnamese cities as I remember: a lot of motorbikes, wet markets, shophouses along the streets, constructions and traffic jams.

What was missing from my trip is I didn’t get to try too much of the local food scene, night life and the haunting remains such as killing fields and prisons from the Khmer Rouge time. I think it would’ve scarred my life considering how sensitive to these things that I am but I’d definitely go to witness myself the actuality of these places if I ever go back to Cambodia.

Well, I guess that’s pretty much it for now. I’ll try to write more about the places I’ve been to just for the sake of documenting my travels.

Until I get to wander again 🙂

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