In this guest post from Rob Deason, he shares about his families adventures in Cambodia.
Tourists often pick other Southeast Asian countries as vacation spots over Cambodia. I’m glad we discovered some of what it has to offer.
Prior to 1975, Cambodia possessed a robust society and culture. But during 1975-1979, the Khymer Rouge regime killed over half of the population and literally destroyed the country. Most of those who survived the killing fields lacked education, money and resources. Yet, Cambodians have tenacity. To this day, they work tirelessly to improve their situation. We fell in love with the place and its people during our short visit to the Khymer kingdom.
We flew into Siem Reap, in the Northwest part of the country. The attentive staff of our little boutique hotel, the Chhay Long, treated us like royalty. Greeting us with cold washrags and tamarind juice, they promptly assisted us with our plans. They booked all of our transportation needs. We would just show up and a tuk-tuk would be waiting for us. A tuk-tuk is a small motorized cart. Unlike when you book a taxi, or even an Uber, your tuk-tuk driver serves his clients all day, if necessary.
For our first morning there we got up incredibly early (my wife, Peggy, at 2:45am) to watch the sun rise over the iconic temple ruins of Angkor Wat; a priceless experience. Angkor Wat is a huge complex of many temples.
Some of the better known include Bayon, where the first king of the Khymer people built his likeness facing east, west, north and south into every tower so he could always keep an eye on his kingdom. Serpentine roots of giant trees snake through the ruins of another temple in a fascinatingly and hauntingly beautiful dance of destruction. Our tuk-tuk driver spent eight hours taking us around, which cost us $15 USD. A nice convenience for tourists is that they use American currency in Cambodia. Their money is virtually worthless (an exchange rate of 4,000 to 1). I brought back a $500 Cambodian bill as a souvenir, which is worth 25 cents.
Everyone we encountered in Cambodia seemed friendly, and helpful. Tourism dollars likely drive the economy in Siem Reap, but we know from our experience in Chengdu, that just because tourism butters your bread you’re not required to treat the tourist well. We sometimes saw no other westerners in our excursions. Yet, unlike in China, not once were we made to feel like “others” and no one accosted us for photographs. Also, people at all involved with tourism know enough English so you can communicate pretty easily.
Next time, what is a Cambodian circus like? And what is it with Cambodians and butts?