We set out for our Southeast Asia adventure with Cambodia in Mid February meeting up good friends, Ray and Marilyn [from vessel Horizon] in Siem Reap. We'd heard nothing but great things about Cambodia, especially the kindness of the people, and we have found it an amazing and enlightening country. It really is like stepping back in time. Lynn was so excited to see that they still use huge clay pots...the size of washing machines...to hold and even filter river water in the country towns. She had read about the potters who make them way back when she was a potter. Few places in the world still do that.
We immediately followed our friends to Battambong for 2 days of country life in Cambodia and also because we may not see them for a long time and this is another good spot to visit. We all took a "tuktuk" ride around the dusty country. A tuktuk is a motor scooter pulling a covered cart seating 4. We got to see temples, a cave where hundreds of bodies were disposed during the Khmer Rouge Genocide and took a rickety ride on the bamboo railroad. This"railway" is just a bamboo slat raft sitting on 2 railroad wheel axles with an outboard motor connected to a fan belt running it. This raft thing was used to take crops to the city to sell produce and was disassembled when an actual train came along.
We returned to Siem Reap for several days staying in a nice comfortable $16 a day hotel. Siem Reap is the star location in Cambodia with many reconstructed temples from the 9th to the 12th century. The temples were built to honor Hindu Gods and commemorate favored myths of certain kings and are now for Buddist worship. These are massive constructions the size of cities with huge water reservoirs. Almost a million people lived all around this part of the country at this time and they have lived here since prehistory meaning 10's of thousands of years. That is amazing. Java man, one of the earliest cavemen, came from here in SE Asia.
We set off south to the capitol of Phnom Penh on quite an adventure of a 6 hour boat ride. It was overbooked so we rode on top for the first part and got soaked until some folks finally made some space below in the freezing air conditioning. We were glad to arrive, especially Lynn who had a mild cold anyway. In the city, it was still the celebration of Chinese New Year and a challenge to find a Hotel room so we had to pay $35 but it included breakfast if you like instant eggs, spam, hotdogs, orange koolade and noodles! We found a market for granola and box milk!!!! The fruit and veggies are great and overall the food is just yummy [except breakfast] and really cheap...and often FRENCH!!! Yea!!!
With their philosophy of Buddhism teaching tolerance and acceptance, these are really mild, polite, courteous people who really want to do a good job. We are so impressed with them. We are also crushed learning that Polpot's Khmer Rouge Regime wiped out 15% of the population in the early 70's in the Genocide that especially targeted the "intellectuals" who threatened his regime. That meant any man, woman or child who wore glasses or owned a book!!! We met some relatives of victims. So bitterly sad. See the movie "The Killing Fields". We visited the place that was turned into an interrogation and holding prison before execution in the city and we chose not to visit the killing fields themselves thinking we had seen enough. The city is slowly moving forward and rebuilding after being almost completely crushed. What really surprised us is that Polpot was allowed to live comfortably in Thailand until 1998 after murdering over 1.5 million people...astounding!!! They need Rambo here!!!
The King himself helped bury the significant number of crown jewels and gold statuary before leaving the country before the Regime and much was saved. We really enjoyed seeing the renovated palace and beautiful grounds that this country is very proud of. There is a strong bond between the king who is in his 50's and unmarried and the people. The country is a committed democracy, they did tell us, though.
We got our Vietnam visa here and leave on a 6 hour luxury bus for $12 for Ho Chi Minh City on Friday Feb 26. We'll see if it's better than the boat trip which wouldn't be hard to beat!!!