Cambodia (March 29, 2010)

After an epic, multi-modal journey we arrived over land to Cambodia (well actually, it wasn’t that bad but it was a taxi, plane, bus, taxi, tuk-tuk all day trip). And did accomplish the rare tri-national meal schedule with breakfast in Burma, lunch in Thailand, and dinner in Cambodia (for those of multinational diners you keeping score at home, Cambodia’s meal won this round--although to be fair, what Meg ordered for her Burmese breakfast was "finished" (like so many other meals on this trip) and lunch was at the Bangkok airport.)

Like any good tourist we started our time in Cambodia in Seam Reap with a visit to Angkor Wat. While Angkor Wat is touristy, it is one of those places (like the pyramids) that is justifiably famous. We had a great day biking from ruin to ruin so even among the package tour hordes it was possible to find some moments of relative solitude amongst temples overtaken by the jungle:

Considering that Siem Reap is the most touristy town in the country, it was actually a fairly pleasant and inexpensive place (we’ll take it over Agra every day of the week). While we were definitely templed out after 3 days in Siem Reap, we were sorry to leave behind the very nice $10 hotel room (with A/C, wifi, hot water, cable TV, a balcony, etc.) and great less than $10 dinners.  We were also lucky enough to visit the Angkor Wat Children's Hospital, an impressive facility that serves as a great model for involving the international community in local health issues. 

Then it was on to the next step on the Cambodian tourist trail with a few days in Phnom Penh. Despite what we’d heard about how dangerous it was, we found Phnom Penh to be a very pleasant city, where we’d actually think about living under the right circumstances (there seems to be something about national capitals in tourist countries that inspire people to say negative things about perfectly nice cities; but perhaps this is advantageous as we’ve  regularly arrived low expectations and been pleasantly surprised- see Nairobi and Vientiane as other examples).

Jed in Phnom Penh

For our final act, we decided it was time to get a little off the beaten path so went up to Cambodia’s northeast, where we spent several lovely days biking, hiking, and generally being stared at by the locals unused to seeing tourists. If you ever want to get a taste of what it might be like to be famous (though instead of people asking for your autograph they scream hello and/or ask you where you’re from, what your name is and how long you’ll be in the country to practice their English) we can recommend a trip to Ban Lung, Cambodia. 

Practicing English on Trung Island
The countless smiling faces we encountered were a sharp contrast to the reminders of the country's recent tragic history under the Khmer Rouge.  While Cambodia still faces many challenges, it was remarkable to witness the amount of hope and optimism that exists today. After many rounds of local children rapidly screaming “hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye”, we took the road (which had fortunately just been paved cutting the 10 hour trip in a pick up truck down to a comfortable hour in a mini-bus) to the Vietnam border. 

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