I would compare it to an Asian Jamaica (ya mon).
Cambodia (also known as Kampuchea to most of Asia) has a really turbulent history and it is very apparent in the way that it has developed. Many people here speak Khmer and French (it was colonized by the French in the 19th century I believe) and has been picked on by its neighbors (Vietnam and Thailand and China--they actually sold bits and pieces of their cultural sights to Thailand/China so when you go to the Museum the money you are paying is actually going to Thailand).
In the 1950's-1970's Cambodians were caught between Vietnam and Thailand in the Vietnam War and their loyalties towards or against Communism. Cambodia became a war zone and later was taken over by the Khmer Rouge (the Communist party in Cambodia) which resulted with a mass genocide (I'm sure you have heard of Pol Pot).
We met many people today who were greatly affected by this--some were missing limbs from stepping on land mines.
We visited Siem Reap which is a tourist city (because of the temples) and continues to develop to cater to a tourists' wants/needs. On the main road from the airport to the downtown area there was hotel after hotel after hotel (we were there from 1/28-1/31 so manyyyy Chinese tourists were celebrating the New Years there). The locals are extremely poor and live an entirely different lifestyle than the "upper class" or hotel owners.
Many poor locals go through extensive measures to scam tourists. (Some even rent babies and ask for milk)
In this picture you can see the locals--heading to the market. Those are live chickens hanging from their truck
From the airport our Tuk-Tuk driver for the week (set up by our hotel) greeted us and somehow got all of our luggage onto his little Tuk-Tuk.
We were told to give a small tip each day. One thing about Cambodia that I loved was that it used American dollars. A Tuk-Tuk driver makes about $100 USD / month
Our hotel was a little outside of the downtown area but it was so comfortable and cute!
After traveling all morning we relaxed a bit in the afternoon :)
Poolside service--the mangos here were soooooooo sweet and fresh
And then traveled downtown to check it out.
Just like Thailand there are signs everywhere displaying flags and the King
The cute downtown area--there are so many places to eat and little shops (very touristy) and of course little markets to shop
In both Thailand and Cambodia many people rent motorbikes very cheaply. You see some tourists walking around with bandages on--most likely from a motorbike accident
Fresh coconuts--my favorite
I decided to stick my feet in and get a fish massage. I could barely keep them in long enough to take a picture I am too ticklish!
Unbeatable happy hour (this makes me wonder how much teachers make in this city)
Cambodian food was so good--it tasted a lot fresher than Thai or Chinese food (less oily) and so many more spices and flavors
My first bloody mary in ages--not so good
Day 2: Temples
You must wear clothing that covers your shoulders and your knees so my Mom and I were both dying of heat
I did not realize there were so many temples. Between the 800-1200s as each ruler changed they would build a new temple. Heres a map of the entire UNESCO site:
Also many temples were built as Hindu temples and later transformed into Buddhist temples
The detailing and architecture is absolutely stunning-its crazy to think that people were capable of doing this so long ago.
When Europeans first came to Cambodia and discovered the temples (in the 16th century I believe) they did not believe that savage Cambodians could make these structures.
A headless Buddha--most Buddha statues were beheaded because they are valuable--many of the temples were looted
Found some Monks! (they can't touch women)
These steps were a little terrifying to climb
There were stray dogs everywhere
You can tell that this temple is not as restored as others
It looks a little more authentic
Chinese vandalism…this means "watch your head"
A view of one of the temples from the top
All carvings of various gods
This is Bayon temple, it was my favorite. Each one of the peaks has a Buddha face built into it
(Up close view of one of the peaks)
Finally--the largest temple in the world Angkor Watt
Around the entire temple the walls were carved with (mostly violent) scenes
EEK--heading up to the main temple
(the Chinese couple on the right took about 10 minutes to get down--they were clinging onto the railing for dear life)
One last view of Angkor Watt!
There were monkeys everywhere
After touring the temples all day we were exhausted and just enjoyed dinner at our hotel. This is Beef Lom Lak (which is supposed to be a salad) but is marinated beef with onions, peppers, served on lettuce and tomatoes.
Day 3: Floating village and more temples
It took about 1.5 hours on a Tuk Tuk to get to this remote floating village
This guy and his little brother (or son?) took us out on their boat
This is the school (apparently no kids are in school at the moment)
Khmer people are only required to go to school for 3 hours a day
(either in the morning or the afternoon) after that those who can afford it pay to go to an international school
During the rainy season the water level rises to where the bases of the houses are.
I saw one pig, but for the most part these people eat mostly fish, fruits and vegetables
A family heading out to fish
This is a pig--this is a luxury food item
A little crazy to think that you can't just walk out of your house and walk to the supermarket if you need something. Most of the houses seemed pretty decorated.
I think the biggest thing that struck me was that the water seems so dirty and there were kids just playing around in it and showering in it.
We also saw a baby (maybe 3-4 months old) sitting in between his moms legs on a canoe
I think this village was just for donations but these are people who live in their little canoes
The little guy was so adorable. We asked how old he was and he said 9 (no way)
The skinniest cows I've ever seen
Before going to the long temple tour we stopped for lunch. This is a chicken and green mango salad. So fresh and flavorful (a lot of cilantro)
Around the temples there are many children and vendors. The kids have postcards and little souvenirs that they sell. They are a little threatening and persistent. As soon as you buy one thing they all surround you. Im not sure if they actually get to keep the money (I think someone gives them somewhere to live and takes all their earnings) so its a little harder to give them money.
The long temple tour!
These temples looked a little less restored
A row of headless buddhas
The last day my mom and I just walked around the downtown area and did some shopping at the markets. And of course ate some good food!
5 color salad with egg
Spring rolls with peanut sauce and an amazing pumpkin dessert (my mom didn't think it was a pumpkin in asia pumpkins are much smaller)
Its always interesting to go in a grocery store and see what type of products are sold--there was a lot more familiar variety than in China in terms of snacks and candy--there were also some unusual gems…
Catching the red eye back to Bangkok--heading to the beach in the morning!
I really enjoyed Cambodia--there seems to be something there for everyone. I would definitely go back and would even consider teaching there (although there is only one international school) but one thing that I really liked is that there are so many opportunities to volunteer. While the inequality between tourists and upper class is very apparent there are constructive ways to give back to the society.
In China its difficult to find volunteering opportunities.