One time I was talking to my sister in America on Skype. She asked what I was up to and I said something like, “Nothing, I just had to pop into Bangkok for a meeting and some med appointments.” Immediately, she laughed and mocked, “Oh, I’m just in Bangkok lying on a hotel bed.” At first I didn’t understand the jab until I realized that she thought it weird for me to state it so nonchalantly. After 2 years in Thailand almost nothing can phase me, so much so that I peer over my blog posts and think about how much is missing!
I treat some events that are wild and unbelievable to most people as a commonplace. Therefore, I forget to stop and share some of these incredible, life-changing journeys with friends and family back home (or anyone else around the world following along). You won’t run into a backpacker or a traveler anywhere that has experiences like I do as a Peace Corps volunteer (mostly because of the deep, personal relationships with the villagers and language fluency). Want to know what a United States Peace Corps volunteer is and does? Check it out HERE and HERE.
Having said that, let me share with you some of the incredible sights I have seen. I’ll start with Angkor Wat in Siam Reap, Cambodia.
I traveled to Siam Reap, Cambodia with my parents in April 2013 when they visited me in Thailand. We left from Mo Chit bus terminal and caught a tour bus to the Poipet Cambodian/Thailand border for about $8 per person. The bus ride took about 5 hours and we arrived at sundown. Let me just say, if I never have to return to the Cambodian border again I will be a happy woman. In Thai style, I smiled at everyone I saw to extend a polite and pleasant demeanor, including the border officials asking for my visa credentials. The security men proceeded to make lewd kissing faces at me through the scratched plexiglass.
From there, a Cambodian man (who I suspected to be a tout, or a con), followed us all the way from our bus through immigration. He tried to approach us to offer a taxi then proceeded to tell us what to do and where to go. The trouble with this is that all over the internet you find stories of con men who direct you to fake visa offices then take your money. Corruption in Cambodia breeds and thrives like a virus or a plague. I find it quite frightening, actually.
Since the border office was closing, we decided to take this man up on the taxi and share it with a kind backpacker with a half-shaved head, half dreads, named Anita. We dumped our bags into an unmarked black car, not taxi-like at all, and I snapped photos of the “license plate” and texted them to some friends before I drove out of reach of the Thai cell phone range. If my body turned up somewhere, I just wanted to hedge my bets that someone could find me and the creepy driver responsible. Okay, he turned out entirely un-creepy and after some rude Camobdians trying to hassle us out of money, we arrived safely at our hotel.
I fell in love with our hotel immediately. It’s called Golden Mango Inn and it’s a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the night bazaar/market area. Reception greeted me by name and with glasses of mango juice for me and my parents. If you need a place to stay in Siam Reap, I cannot recommend this hotel enough. It’s inexpensive (I paid about $15 per night for an enormous and beautiful double bed room that overlooked the pool), and it’s constructed from beautiful wood from floor to ceiling.
The hotel was great because they made all of our trip plans to Angkor Wat for us. We rented a tuk-tuk for $20 for the day and an English Guide for $25 for the day. The Angkor Wat entrance fee was $25 per person. For a Peace Corps budget of only $200 per month, this added up to a large amount. However, how can I live in Southeast Asia right next door to Cambodia and not go? Impossible, so I went.
After an entire day of traveling around the historic ruins, I can say emphatically that it’s one of the most grandiose and beautiful things I’ve seen in my life. It reminded me of Teotihuacan, Aztec ruins I visited when I studied in Mexico for a short time in 2008. Interestingly, Angkor Wat is just one of many temples around the area. Angkor Wat, is not even a temple, per se, it’s an entire ancient city uncovered and preserved. My favorite temple was a 45 min tuk-tuk ride away through the countryside. It’s called Banteay Srei, aka the Lady Temple. Go figure.
I took over 700 pictures in one day down in Cambodia. I’ve tried to cut that down to post some here. Enjoy, and while I’m in the Nepali spirit, Namaste. Be sure to follow via email to receive a notification of my future posts and pictures.
**CLICK ANY PHOTO FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW IN GALLERY MODE FOR EASY VIEWING**