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No thank you! No massage! No tuk tuk!

A week in Cambodia

sunny -30 °C

When we left on this adventure, I had given a bit of thought to visiting Cambodia, but admittedly, knew very little about it. Thoughts of Cambodia were accompanied by visions of poverty, jungles, and general disorganization. Guess what? I was right! What I didn't count on however, were smiling, friendly people, remarkable ruins, and a country struggling to overcome it's past in order to build a future.

After a dodgy start (the usual rip off schemes found in border towns, designed to prey on unsuspecting, naive, tourists), we settled in to our hotel in Siem Reap, and had a great week haggling with the locals. Highlights included a visit to Angkor Wat, a tuk tuk ride through the country, visits to the market, and of course...spa treatments! Even Mac, our country bumpkin, thought that as far as cities go, Siem Reap was OK.

Once we got the money figured out ($1=400 000 riel), we hardly ever got ripped off - at least not that we know of. Strangely, they mainly use US dollars, but to keep you on your toes they give you part of your change in riel and part in dollars. In the end, everything was so cheap, and we were so (relatively) rich, that we tended to just pay people whatever they wanted and tell them to keep the change.

Here's our Cambodian Top 10:

  1. 1 The Children.
The kids were so smiley and friendly. Many times we'd hear "Hello Goodbye!" from across the street, from in a shop, or biking by. Big, big smiles. One day as some kids were piling out of the school across the street, two little boys ran straight for Mac with their hands out. They just wanted to shake his hand.
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  1. 2 The Temples
Angkor Wat in its incredible state of preservation was remarkable to see. Much of the relief carving done in sandstone is clearly visible, except where people would have touched it. Hard to believe it's 1000 years old. For now, you are still allowed to crawl all over the ruins with or without a guide. We got a guide which made it way more enriching, and his stories about life under the Kmer Rouge were a real eye opener.
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There can never be too many Buddhas carved in stone. This one is watching the gate.
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Social Studies at it's best. A lesson from our guide.
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It's difficult to say what's more amazing; the amount of work that must have gone into creating the relief carvings that cover the walls around Angkor Thom OR the fact that they remain in such remarkable condition today.
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By far the coolest temple of all was Ta Prohm. The jungle trees are intertwined with the temple and make for stunning photos.
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  1. 3 The Transport Vehicles
Watching these guys became our favorite past time. They hauled everything on or behind their bikes; from families of 4, to full grown pigs, to loads the size of a small shed, to 100lb propane tanks. Nothing was too big or awkward for these guys!
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  1. 4 The Countryside
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  1. 5 The resilience of the people.
This group of men are victims of post war land mine explosions. Their band raises money for other victims.
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Our Angkor Wat guide told us that his father was killed by the Kmer Rouge when he was a very young child. He was raised by his grandmother, and didn't start school until he was about 10. He would take trays of cakes to school every day to sell to the other children in order to earn money so that he could to pay for school. After finishing school, he struggled as a tuk tuk driver for many years, until at age 37 he began learning English so that he could work as a tour guide. He is now learning french so that he can earn even more money as a french guide. In the mean time, he sends most of his money to his pregnant wife who lives and teaches school in the country. She earns $45/month. Despite it all, he keeps smiling because he says life will be much easier for his own children.
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  1. 6 The Markets.
We all found the old market near the river to be amazing and overwhelming. There was so much unusual stuff we had to go in to the crowded, dark, smelly chaos, but were overwhelmed by the agressive sales styles of the locals. They just don't like it when you don't buy anything.
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  1. 7 The street vendors.
So many people seem to have this job. Some sell from little wagons, off tuk tuks, or even a wheelbarrow/tray. Fresh fruit, coconuts, stuff like that was common, roasted clams or bugs were less common but apparently popular with some people. In this picture the closest bowl was full of smoked, honey coated crickets. I was told they taste like roasted nuts a bit, but couldn't say. Other bowls had grasshoppers and beetles. The lady with the machine was pressing sugar cane and collecting the juice in a jug. I watcher her for a while but no one tried to buy any off her so I don't know what the deal was.
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  1. 8 The tuk tuks (and the drivers who never, ever, give up on asking you if you need one)
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  1. 9 The spas. Hmmm, I think I'll have a manicure with pain today.
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  1. 10 The food
What's on the menu?
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Let's start with the crocodile, and save the snake for later.
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The silver lining to the French occupation? The pastry legacy of course.
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Jane's pineapple-coconut fruit shake. It's like having a pina-colada every day.
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Megan, of course, finds icecream everywhere we go :)
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Posted by wilsonprawdzik 08:51 Archived in Cambodia

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Comments

I'm glad to see your photographer is starting to carry his weight! I've only seen Mac and Meg through pictures over the years, wow are they becoming adults in a hurry, that pic of Meg in the cart she looks like an adult

by irfeir

Considering the year I am having....talk about jealousy!!! So glad you guys are having such a fabulous experience!! Travel safe!! (Sherrill)

by irfeir

The photos are amazing! There is colour everywhere in that land. You are all looking fantastic! Thanks for sharing these cool experiences with us! Can't wait to see you guys en vivo!

by The Flying Five

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