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Good Morning Vietnam!

12 Feb

We are heading north through Vietnam– stopping at cities and towns along the way. Leaving Cambodia was a struggle – as are most in-transit days. Our last day in Cambodia started off just right – beach bumming and working on our tan. We visited Otres Beach, which was much more relaxed than the main beach and only a short motor-taxi ride away. At first, I wasn’t so keen on taking a motorcycle, but now I really enjoy the ride. It’s an authentic way to travel, especially when the driver is balancing your giant backpacking in-between his legs.

Otres Beach, Cambodia near Sihanoukville

Otres Beach, Cambodia

We booked an overnight bus out of Sihanoukville, but had already checked out early in the morning. I was desperate for a shower, so the front desk said I could rinse off using the tap and bucket in the bathroom. I walked into the dingy stall with a squat toilet. I realized that the bucket and tap were used to wash your business down the porcelain hole in the ground. UGH, but what can you do? I washed the bucket with soap and used the fresh water from the tap and ‘showered’. haha! I was first to go and then Stefanie. At least, she was warned and could prepare herself. Continue reading

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Cambodia’s Capital and Back to the Beach

2 Feb
Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Palace & Temples, Cambodia

Anyways, the following the day – we took it easy (mentally and physically). It was over 34C in the capital. We visited the Royal Temple, which has a 9,000 diamond encrusted Buddha statue and a Silver tile Pagoda, which was less than impressive. Each tile is made from pure silver and weighs 1kg each, but they covered the entire floor in cheap carpet and had display cases of knick knacks that all looked the same. Why not polish the floor and show it off! Kind of lame. The royal palace and temples in Bangkok were a lot more dramatic and better maintained. Still, the gardens were beautiful and the architecture was very inspiring.

Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Temples, Cambodia

Stefanie’s coworker’s brother lives in PP, so we arranged to have dinner with him and his boyfriend. He’s 65 years old and has been living in Cambodia for 3 years, working as a principal and a teacher. Before Cambodia, he lived in Japan for 28 years teaching at a university. He brought us to this restaurant called Friends, which trains underprivileged youth for careers in the restaurant industry. Stefanie and I arrived early and we were curious to meet his boyfriend. Was he Canadian, American, European, Cambodian, young, old? Well, weren’t we were surprised! Continue reading

Khmer Culture

1 Feb

There are too many posts about beaches, but I can’t help it! Hearing about all the snow in Canada makes me want to hide under my beach umbrella and order another fruit shake!

But don’t worry, I didn’t spend all of my time on the beach. We had a serious culture injection in Phnom Penh. Our first day was a serious one. We hired a tuk tuk and visited the Killing Fields. The Khmer people (Cambodians) have a dark history. From 1975-1979, the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Regime was responsible for over 2 million deaths in Cambodia – essentially, a genocide. They envisioned an agrarian society and forced Khmer people into the farmlands to grow rice in harsh conditions. They destroyed education, religious and economic institutions and enslaved the people – including foreigners.

Memorial for Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia

Memorial for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia

The Killing Fields was just one of the many areas across the country where the Khmer Rouge executed the population. Over 129 mass graves were discovered and thousands were murdered in this field – including children and babies. In fact, there is a rumored ‘baby killing tree’ next to one mass grave, where the Khmer Rouge would smash babies and then throw them into pits. My stomach turns even as I type. They believed that if they didn’t kill the babies, one day the children would seek revenge. The Khmer Rouge did not want to waste money using bullets, so everyone was murdered by bludgeoning, stab wound or forced object to the head – using pitchforks, hoes, etc. Unthinkable. Continue reading

A Taste of Phnom Pneh

29 Jan

THIS IS AS-IAH! Actually, the real term is ‘The is Africa’ but Stefanie and I invented our own slogan about Asia due to recent events. “This is Africa” is the term Leo DiCaprio uses in Blood Diamond to explain how anything and everything happens in Africa – good or bad, but mostly bad and how nobody can do a thing about it. AS-IAH because 1: we needed something that sounded like Africa and 2: we are practicing our Spanish.

Thailand was breezy and easy, but Cambodia is another story. The landscape, the people, the poverty, the rules, the corruption… everything I mentioned in my last post. It hasn’t been all awful. In fact, I’m really starting to like it here. However, I did have one bad day where it everything goes wrong and you start to feel homesick. It sounds so trivial now, but sometimes you just get stuck.

Siem Reap was amazing, but Stefanie and I had to make our way down south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia‘s capital. We booked a 6hr bus ride to PP through our guesthouse. The bus was supposed to have a/c, toilet, tv, etc. Not bad for $5! A minibus was picking us up one hour before departure and would bring us to the station. Stefanie and I made a breakfast call to Jessie and then went upstairs to gather a few last things. Our key wasn’t opening the door, so the front desk guy took a look, but he couldn’t open the door either. Needless to say, after prying the handle off the door and shimmying a metal twig around for 30 minutes, the manager finally got the door open a mere 5 minutes before our minibus arrived. PHEW! Continue reading

Temples and Tuk Tuks

27 Jan
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The 14 hour bus journey to Bangkok wasn’t that bad, so Stefanie and I decided to head straight to Siem Reap, Cambodia – another 7 hour journey. We’re crazy right?! I was really nervous about the border crossing. I heard that there would be a million scams (including money exchange and visa scams) and it would be quite a hassle – but having travel experience eased the process. We arrived at the border prepared and made it all the way to Siem Reap unscaved.

Our tuk tuk driver brought us to a cheap guesthouse for about $4 each a night. So cheap! Actually, Cambodia is a dirt cheap, but significantly poorer than Thailand. You can tell just from the taxi ride into the city. There are a lot more beggers, including children and there are a lot of landmine victims as well. Cambodia is the world’s most heavily mined country. It’s really sad to see a barefoot child searching the garbage bins for recyclables next to an expensive hotel. Stefanie and I were sitting at a street stall and this boy comes up to us asking for money. I didn’t want my food anymore, so I offered it the boy. I barely touched it, but he didn’t want it. He asked for money. And then earlier, this little boy dragged stefanie into a store and asked her to buy him milk for the baby. She was considering it before these two girls came up to me and told me that it’s a known thing around here that the boy will return the milk for money later on. It just shows how desperate the children and families are for what little money they can get. Even though it is a scam, you can’t help feeling guilty and want to help, but it just perpetuates. Continue reading

Settled in the homeland – for now!

3 Dec

I thought I would write a little something after settling into my temporary home here in Toronto. It’s weird to think I’ve already been in Canada for  3 weeks now. Time flies… When I look back, I can’t even believe I was in South America. It feels like a strange dream – as if it never even happened and I’m transplanted back to my regular life. Funny how that works.

The last few weeks, I have been living at Kyle’s apartment in Toronto, working at Gap (barf!) and applying for graduate school. Throw in a bunch of doggie walks, coffee dates and family visits and I’ve been one busy gal. Continue reading

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