Traveling from a “party central” island, I didn’t think Siem Riep, Cambodia would be any crazier, but apparently it can be! After checking into a beautiful traditional Khemer themed resort, My dad and I rode a tuk tuk (a cart for 4 people that is pulled by a scooter) to a local restaurant for some dinner. The driver recommended that we should go to the night markets and take a walk down pub street (party!!). Since it was nearing 11:30pm, we decided that it would be better to go back to the room and go to bed. The next morning, we had to wake up at 3:30am because my dad booked a sunrise tour of the Angkor Wat. “WAKE UPPPP!!!!!…..WAKE UPPPP!!!!” screamed my minion alarm ringtone. It was very early and we were both so tired, but very excited for the day! After picking up the other members of the tour, we were taken about 30 minutes away to the temples. Angkor Wat was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992; since then, it attracts more than 2 million tourists each year! It was very cold and dark as we waited for the sun to rise, but within minutes, the whole sky behind the massive temple was lit up with bright colors leaving the outline of the structure black; there was a small lake in front of Angkor Wat that showed a reflection of the building. We may have taken too many pictures, oops. The temple complex is the largest in the world and I am so thankful to say that I have been there! I would highly recommend a visit here if you are in southeast Asia! After we had breakfast, our guide then took us to two temples that were located in the ancient city of Angkor Thom. In the 12th century, Angkor Thom was actually the biggest city in the world with a population of 1 million people! The presence of the Hindu and Buddhist religions was felt everywhere. There is still an active Buddhist monastery on the grounds with 24 monks living in. During our visit, my dad and I were blessed by a young monk. Many come daily to pray at these temples and on our next visit we will explore some of the lesser visited of the 400 temples in Siem Reap. It is said that there are nearly 2000 temples in Cambodia alone. Angkor Wat was built by a 14 year old king in the 12th century. The strong and prosperous country of Cambodia was quite powerful in the early days.
Sadly in the late 1960's, civil war broke out and the people of Cambodia (Khmer) were fighting against each other. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge (communists) overthrew the government and took control of the country which began the human genocide. The Khmer Rouge took many innocent families (including children) to a field and executed them brutally. This area is historically significant and a movie was created called "the Killing fields". They concentrated on killing any being they perceived as a political opponent. It is reported that between 1.17 and 3.42 million Cambodians were killed; most of the executioners were in fact boys as young as 12 years old. As this massive war grew and grew, landmines were planted by the people in military operated areas targeting the Khmer Rouge. In 1975, this tragic war was finally over but there was still aftermath. Many of the citizens had to go back to their farms and properties, but they didn’t all know how unsafe it was to work in the fields infested with landmines. Many farmers and children have tragically had their limbs blown off while laboring or just casually playing in the dirt. As my dad and I walked down the streets of the night markets, we often saw beggars without limbs crawling on the ground asking for money, It broke my heart. There are currently 3 million active landmines and buried grenades in Cambodia so it is not very safe to venture off hiking anywhere that isn’t in the city.
Each night we took a Tuk Tuk to the night markets to go shop for gifts and eat traditional Khmer dishes. The markets were HUGE; You could walk down a street and turn down any alley and it would be lit up with booths and people trying to sell their products! Every booth basically sells the same thing, so if someone wont let you get away with 75% off, you can just walk away and look for it next door. This often makes the original salesperson angry and they will sell it for the price you want, hahaha. One store was selling their pants for $8 each (they use American money in Cambodia more than their own) but after a few minutes we got 2 pairs of pants and 3 bracelets for $6, oh yeah (which is still a lot of money for a Cambodian salesperson considering that farmers make $1 per day) !! As were walking down a part of the market, we ran into fish pedicures! This was one of the things I really wanted to to while we were in Asia; it was only $3 for as long as you want. If you don’t know what a fish pedicure is, it is a series of fish tanks and you sit down and stick your feet in; the fish eat the dead skin off your foot. At first I couldn’t stop laughing but after 5 minutes it became really enjoyable! As we were approaching the exit to find our tuk tuk driver, we got harassed by many other desperate drivers looking for a fare.
Our hotel had two tennis courts in the back that we played on a couple times! It felt so weird playing here coming from the super speed courts in Thailand! I felt so good hitting that I challenged my dad to a set….he quit at 2-2 haha. Cambodia was an amazing trip and I cant wait to come back with my mom someday! We now have a flight to Hong Kong for a 12 hour layover for our flight to Tokyo to see our friends!
UPDATE 9:50pm: Please pinch me. We have been sitting in the airport for 9 hours with 3.5 more to go and I just realized that this morning I played tennis in Cambodia and I and now sitting in the Hong Kong airport waiting to fly to Tokyo! I just wanted to say that I feel very fortunate to be on this amazing trip, thank you mom and dad, love you!!