Phnom Penh to Siem Reap: The beginning of a long journey
26.09.2007 - 03.10.2007 -17 °C
After two days of travelling, four airports and beds made out of chairs pushed together, I arrived in Phnom Penh. It's a bustling city and I headed straight into the thick of it on a moto. Fifteen minutes after landing I have a great moment: we are sitting at a stoplight and a moto pulls up next to us carrying a woman and two men. I look over and the woman is staring at me, mouth open, eyes wide: staring. I couldn't help but laugh, do I not look like a local with my sweatpants and big backpack? They sped away but the image remains in my mind.
(Side note: I apologize for my lack of English skills. My speech has been limited to pronoun, verb, noun and sometimes adjective since being here and speaking with the locals.)
I had a busy 2 days in Phnom Penh, which I thought was plenty. The most moving experience by far was S-21, the site where terrible torturing occurred during the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. The site is an old school house and they have left everything intact: the beds people were kept with the torture devices on the beds and photos of the victims in that room on the wall. It's intense and life changing--I couldn't even go through the entire museum. If you are interested in Cambodian history, I would learn more about those terrible years which changed the country forever. You can still feel the pain in the locals today.
The city was okay, but I was really looking for a more rural Cambodian experience. The people here can be really intense towards tourists (I understand, everyone needs to eat) but the men are really friendly and don't make me feel uncomfortable at all (they just stare). I will say that driving down main boulevards on a tiny moto on the wrong side of the street while dodging other drivers, pedestrians and cars was thrilling but not enough so to stay in this crazy city.
The country is overwhelmingly young, it seems like 1/4 of the country is made up of babies though I have yet to see a pregnant woman...The kids here are the cutest things ever, when you pass by them especially in the fishing villages, their naked little butts scream HALLOO!! and wave and smile until they can't see us anymore. But the poverty here is so terrible, it's really difficult to see. I'll write more on that later.
While in PP I met a group of American law students, studying in Hong Kong for 4 months. We traveled together, by boat, to Siem Reap. It was a beautiful 5 hour trip through tiny fishing villages and since it's rainy season, we navigated along the tops of trees. Siem Reap, for those who have never been to the city, is a charming though heavily touristed town that has become popular due to it's accessibility to Angkor Wat. And then started my unforgettable weekend with the Angkor temples.