You guys, I'm gonna be honest: I am experiencing a bit of writer's block tonight, and apart from that I am EXHAUSTED! We are over seven months into our trip, and roughing it (even more than usual!) here on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. As I am interested in surviving our upcoming excursions, I need my sleep.....
Tomorrow we are headed into the jungles of the Gunung Leuser National Park, where it is highly unlikely that I will be able to update this blog. Therefore, as I just can't wait to share a bit about the intriguing country we left behind yesterday, I present to you a sampling of moments in Cambodia. Unfortunately, I currently lack the capacity to intelligently present the rest of our amazing Cambodia photos, so stay tuned for the next time we have Internet access :)
We took the bus from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam all the way to Siem Reap, Cambodia; about a 14-hour ride, which seemed like nothing compared to the 31-hour train trip through southern China that remains seared in our memories.... To get to our transfer point of Phnom Penh, we had to cross the Mekong River on a ferry, as the only bridge is currently under construction by the Japanese government until 2015 or so. I am covering my eyes due to the strong white light.
Siem Reap has a polished, quaint area near the river to stroll, featuring some of that beautiful Khmer architecture. As a tourism-centered town in an otherwise impoverished area, it is a study of contrasts in standard of living.
The market near our hotel where we ate nearly all our delicious Cambodian meals at local food stalls. We rarely eat at official restaurants, instead opting for street food, and (knock on wood!) have so far had no serious consequences.....
We opted for the day pass to visit the world-renowned ruins of Angkor Wat, which is about 10 km outside of Siem Reap. Even in the rainy season downpours, the site was just as otherworldly as we had seen in the media, and I have hundreds of photos of the temples and surroundings that I will soon share :)
We rode our rental bicycles (for $1 a day!) out to the temple complex and squeezed in as many of the far-flung ancient Khmer temples as we could.
At the Bayon Temple; the one with all of the faces turned in different directions. This is an example of a "temple mountain" constructed on the otherwise flat landscape to resemble scenes from Hindu scripture.
We decided that, even though it was the rainy season, we would explore the coastal resort of Sihanoukville for a couple days. It was dreary, but still warm and filled with lovely Cambodian people, who are much friendlier than they need to be towards two crazy foreigners traipsing around their territory, speaking barely a word of their language :)
The beach was the cleanest we had seen in months! Plenty of locals and a few tourists were swimming fully clothed, as beachwear is not commonly worn in this modest culture.
We spent the last few days of our stay in Phnom Penh, a city we enjoyed, mainly due to the lively riverfront area and delicious food, as well as the intangible sense that this was a place of change and rapid, yet unique, development that has resulted in significant economic change in recent years.
I understand that this knotted revolver statue has several cousins in cities around the world; given Cambodia's horrendously violent recent history, it seems particularly fitting to include this symbol of nonviolence in the landscape of a city that we couldn't help but feel is in for a bright future.
A happy weekend to all, and thanks for reading!