Siem Riep, Phom Pean, & Shinoukville
Jocelyn: It feels as though it has been so long since I have written that I hardly know where to begin. We have been in Cambodia for about two weeks now and we are leaving on Tuesday for Vietnam. Our time in Cambodia has been bitter sweet. The ruins of Angkor Wat were impressive and awe inspiring while the killing fields and the prison museums of the Khmer Rouge were utterly horrifying. This country has been through so much.
Seventy percent of the population is under the age of twenty and only twenty percent of the population attends school. The rest are too poor to afford education and are forced to work from the age of five upwards. Crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia was a real eye opener. In Thailand you see giggling children in their crisp school uniforms, while only a couple kilometers away skinny children in tattered clothes, collect bottles and sweep garbage at the border of Poipet.
A young boy paddling on the lake near the slums of Phon Pean
An old women in a rural village
Our tuk tuk ride around the dusty city, (Scalpel please....)
Nate: Less than 20 years ago a political communist group called the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia. The King fled the country, and over the next 10 years more than 1/2 of the population (Over 4 Million) were killed through genocide. They focused their killing on the educated and anyone who opposed them. The people of Cambodia have only started rebuilding their country within the last 10 years, and literacy and education are probably their biggest obstacles.
We also stopped at the Land-Mine Museum and learned how the war is still taking casualities to this day in the form of left over landmines. You see many people in town and around with missing limbs due to unexploded mines that are laying around in the bush. Normally I wander off the beaten track alot but this is one place that sticking to the path counts. I also learned that there are only 4 or 5 countries still using land mines. I bet you can guess one. Interestingly enough, it was Canada that spearheaded an international agreement against the use, production and storage of landmines. They actually have a Canadian flag hoisted in front of the Museum. Go Canada EH!
Nathaniel with some massive missiles at the Cambodian landmine museum.
Jocelyn: Our first stop in Cambodia was in Siem Riep, home of Angkor Wat. We arrived just before the sunrise so that we could watch it rise over the ancient city. We explored the ruins that were showcased in the movies Laura Croft: Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. In some parts the trees look as though they are strangeling the buildings.
We clambered up some seriously steep stairs and took pictures of majestic stone faces.
Nathaniel had to fight for elbow room in a horde of Japanese tourists for this shot.
Jocelyn: We are spending our remaining days on a beautiful streach of beach that is virtually deserted. We have a beautiful little bunglaow on stilts and have been doing a lot of reading, beachcombing, and generaly slothfull activities
Both: Dispite its remote location it has not been without drama. Last night, while we were sitting wth some friends in some cozy chairs, a fight of massive proportions developed between the Cambodian cook and the Spanish hut owner. She was screaming in Khmer while he visibly ignored her unable to understand a word she was screaming. Ironically one of the Australian girls sitting with us teaches English in Cambodia and understands Khmer. She explained to us why the woman was understandably angry. Eventually the cook lost it and starting throwing dishes and chairs but it wasn't until she picked up a butcher knife that I decided it was time to intervene. I basically had to wrestle the knife from her, sit her down and try and calm her while Nathaniel and a Danish guy talked to the owner. He eventually had to flee his own establishment, and sleep somewhere else for the night. What do you expect when you pay your staff next to nothing. I'd do the same.
When we were not keeping our Cambodian cook from killing our hotel owner we rented kyayks and paddled to a remote island that you can see if the above picture. Nathaniel also rented a windsurfer for a couple of bucks and ripped it up on the ocean. He said the massive jellyfish floating past him made a good argument for not falling down.
Nathaniel found some octopi close to the shore yesterday and true to "Nathaniel Nature" stuck one of them on his face. He was planning on eating it until I strongly encouraged him to "let it go for goodness sake"!
Some funky coral Nathaniel found on one of his forages
I have been very reflective this past month.. thinking about all that I have seen and experienced in our travels. We only have four weeks left, and although I am getting really excited about going home, I want to make my time here count.