Today is our 200th day travel anniversary and a good time to reflect on our journey.
I hope you enjoy it.
Photo taken and printed on our way from Kampot to Sihanoukville by Manuel and Raquel (Spain)
To every weird meal, nasty bug bite, drop of sweat, sketchy moment, trust in strangers, acceptance of the present, embracing the moment, savoring the flavors and praying for clean sheets. To the haggling of goods from a scarf to liters of water, hawkers selling you sunglasses, maps, fans, weed and whatever they see, tuk-tuk drivers asking if you need a ride whilst being in another tuk-tuk. The heartbreak of begging mothers holding children, kids picking up trash for hopes of a rice meal. The teen girls standing outside of a Girlie bar secretly hoping no fat Westerner makes his way inside. The broken down bus from here to there, down to up and everything that’s always going wrong. All the struggle and what appears to be little reward. Until it’s realized that tomorrow is far away and today is an adventure. From the flashpackers that share special moments in kindness with locals, to the pouring rain on an island while the tears on your face are the driest object in the room, the joy of seeing the sun and the dread of the heat. To all the mistakes on your face and all the stress on mine. For finally figuring out how to pack wisely and forgetting to think that even for one second we understand. To the uncountable bowls of noodle soup and even more local beers. To you, for taking each situation, problem, joy, and anger with equal sincerity and just grateful to be here. For all the ‘oh shits’ and frustrations. I tell you, you don’t win. There is no win or lose here, only growth and acceptance. No finish lines, just borders. No best, just breathe. No knowing but asking. Take the pride for yourself and toss it out with all the extra weight from your backpack. Give in to the situations in front of you, always keep steady. Take pride in the ability to make a local laugh and playing with their children. Toss a coin, throw up your hands, limit your limitations and step out into adventure.
October 9th 2014
Angkor Wat is one of those places in the world where your mouth opens in awe, regardless of how many pictures of it you’ve looked at before. The temples were masterfully constructed in the 12th century and have withstand the past of time in almost perfect shape. The surrounding nature makes the temples stand out and enhances their beauty even more. We spend two whole days (from sunrise to sunset) touring on the back of a tuk-tuk and enjoying as many temples as we could.
I won’t try to describe the beauty and magnificence of the temples, I’d rather show it to you with some pictures. I hope you enjoy them 🙂
Amazing sunrise at Angkor Wat
Bayon, the famous temple with faces carved on each of the sides of 54 towers, was definitively one of my favorites. The faces are supposed to resemble both the face of the Buddha and that of King Jayavarman VII and you can certainly feel a calm yet powerful gaze upon you at all times. We went to Bayon twice to make sure we could enjoy the sunset’s soft light—totally worth it.
After two whole days admiring the temples it was time to move on. Our time in Cambodia was running out but we knew that Thailand would be waiting for us with open arms!
Cutest girls ever
After the buzz of the capital we decided it was time to relax. The decision was easy, go to Koh Rong Samloem, one of the most remote islands in southern Cambodia. And if picking the most remote island wasn’t enough, we booked one of the only two hotels on the west side of the island. This of course meant that we had to hike 40 minutes across the island through the tropical forest.
The hike was totally worth it. We found ourselves on an almost deserted beach with no more than a handful of travelers. Our hotel consisted of very basic albeit lovely bungalows, delicious food, great snorkeling, and the most beautiful sunsets.
Our lovely bungalow. Onyx, the lovely black dog, not included
We saw three black tip sharks while snorkeling!
Koh Rong Samloem is also the diving capital of Cambodia and we, of course, took advantage of this. It was great although we didn’t have the best visibility but it’s always fun to take a few breaths under the sea 🙂
If you take a photo underwater, does it still count as a selfie?
One of many breathtaking sunsets on the island
Just a 30 minute bike ride from Kampot lies Kep, a small beach town known for the tantalizing green pepper and blue crab dish. Kampot pepper is regarded as one of the best peppers in the world and Kep has an abundance of crabs and seafood, creating the perfect combination of sweet salty crab and aromatic pepper. We went for lunch and saw our crabs being plucked from the ocean while we patiently waited sipping on our Cambodia beer. To top it all off, the dish comes with a lime and freshly grounded black pepper sauce that is to die for. Bon appetit!
One of the best dishes we’ve had on our trip!
The small and relaxed colonial town of Kampot lies on the southeast of Cambodia by the Kampot river. We spent three days exploring the nearby Bokor mountains and the abandoned French hill station, taking boat rides on the river, and enjoying the food. Kampot is most famous for its black pepper, which is regarded as the best pepper in the world (even the French say so) but more on this in our next post!
Abandoned church on Bokor Mountain
The rather creepy abandoned hotel where we had lunch
Our welcoming to Cambodia came by boat after a six hour river trip from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam to the shores of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia as well as a major spot in local history of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge and their leader Polpot. As always, being the largest city in a developing country means hearing noises we’ve never heard, smells that we never wish to smell again, and all of its charms. We took three days to explore the city, taking time at the Royal Palace, local markets, and the infamous S-21 prison of the Khmer Rouge regime.
One Cambodian culinary tradition is amok, where curry is steamed in banana leaves for a unique, and mouth-watering flavor
Coconut ice cream treat
Street style barbershop
One of the more humble buildings residing at the Royal Palace
S-21, a school turned makeshift prison where the Khmer Rouge sent at least 17,000 of its own people for prosecution to have only 12 come out, houses many atrocities from the government and is truly a modern example of just how little the rest of the world wanted to be involved after the Vietnam War. There is plenty of information on the web and a handful of books that examine how and why the Khmer Rouge decided to murder one fourth of their population, and I definitely encourage everyone to educate themselves on this horrible and sad history. We were both amazed that this topic is barely mentioned or thought in the western hemisphere. Regardless, I am not going to attempt that kind of explanation but rather how after visiting the prison and reading a fraction of available material, there is no way to understand how the people of Cambodia feel about their own history. Instead, it only brought more respect and amazement of how after such a horrible regime, Cambodian people are consciously grateful for everything they have and are happy to move past their history.
Some of the countless faces that passed through this terrible place
Outside of the National Museum where many statues from Angkor Wat live for safe keeping