A Floating Neighborhood

Friday, August 7, 2015

On the last day we took a boat ride through this neighborhood. I can't even begin to describe what an incredible experience this was....definitely one of my favorite things we did in Cambodia. It just shows you the impoverished view of a town. Even as tourists boats are coming through their backyard while they're trying to fish and stuff they're still all waving and smiling at us coming by. I have no idea if they're genuinely happy to see foreigners or if they just know that tourism is what will build their country. Either way I love them. 

While driving by I saw this little boy that was about Anna's age....maybe 2 yrs old? making his way up one of those tall ladders. The steps of the ladder were literally almost as tall as he was and he was all by himself way up high going up them like it was just stairs - no biggie. He'd seriously break his neck if he fell but no one seemed concerned! 

Also so many nakey children's bums running around. So cute. 

As we were leaving the village the little van that we were in broke down! But no fear because every Cambodian man in site came running to get things back up and running and everyone here is a handyman so we weren't stranded long. They're so resourceful and self sustaining.

Bye Cambodia! We flew from Siem Reap to Bangkok and then had another flight from Bangkok back to our home in Phitsanulok in northern Thailand. When we were booking the flights there was only about a 50 minute layover in Bangkok so I was thinking, perfect! Buuuuuut I failed to forget that we were crossing country borders so of course we would have to go through immigration and get to another side of the airport which takes quite a bit of time. 

After purchasing the flights we had called the airline about another problem and the lady on the phone realized the two flights we had were only 50 minutes apart and she said there's no way you'll make it.  You just won't. It's not enough time. So we were like crap.........but we basically decided to go for it anyways because we really didn't have enough money to buy another flight and really didn't want to take the long bus ride from Bangkok.  

So luckily we know the Bangkok airport like the back of our hand because we've been there so many times. We had it all mapped out in our heads where we would go. We got on the plan leaving Siem Reap and told the flight attendants about the pickle we had gotten ourselves into and asked if there was anything they could do. Here's the deal....we would land and then have 50 minutes before our next flight would board.  They sort of looked at us with big eyes and said they would try to do what they could. We had already checked in for our next flight so they took our information and called the Bangkok airport to give them a heads up that we'd be on our way...running frantically. They also let us move from our crappy back of the plane seats to some empty ones at the front.  We just had our bags on our laps and as soon as we heard the ding that people could stand up we jumped up and went in front of everyone on the plane. I felt so bad trying to push past a few people but they didn't yell at me. So unfortunately our plane took off 30 minutes late and so we had landed 30 minutes late which meant that we now had 20 minutes until our next flight was boarding.  We were the first people in line off the plane and the flight attendants and everyone at the front of the plane was wishing us good luck (shout out to amazing Asia Air for being the best airline ever) and then they opened the plane door and we all just jumped onto the tarmac and started running for it.  

So there we went. A group of American girls running as fast as we could.  I had my 15 lb backpackers backpack on and my shorts were a little too lose and falling off as I ran. Leslie had a duffle bag off her shoulder. Angie had TWO backpacks. We just ran as fast as we could.  Through the crowds of people waiting to board their flights. Down the longest hallway of my life to immigration. Up ahead I could see a sea of asians and I just thought...we're screwed if that's the immigration line. Turns out they were all waiting for visas so we just got in a line and pushed our way through the asians, weaving in and out where we could and ran hard for the immigration line. Luckily there was no line! We only had to wait for like one person before we went through. No issues at immigration. Then down the stairs and ran around looking for the exit to customs. Leslie saw the sign "nothing to declare" and screamed there it is! We all started taking off through the doors and then I hear this faint, "Jeeeeeeeen!" scream and I realized I couldn't see Mallory so I just yelled, "we're this way!!!!!!" and she follows my voice and then I see Mallory's head come popping through the door and we were out in the public part of the airport running again.  We ran past all hired taxi drivers holding up signs waiting to pick people up.  Weaving in and out the crowds of people in one of the busiest airports around.  I was a few people in our group back so by the time I got up to where the first person in our group had already ran by I could see EVERYONE laughing and pointing. Here we are the Americans for your entertainment. 

Up the two levels of escalators.......down one hall and around to the other side.....down another hall to where we finally hit the security line. A guard apparently knew we were coming because without saying a word she just smiled and pointed us in the right direction. Through the security line (no issues), found our gate on the screen, and then CHEERED when we realized it wasn't the farthest gate in all the land.  We kept running and got to our gate just in time.  18 minutes. EIGHTEEN minutes people. That's all it took from the time the plane door opened to get to our next gate. I would like to thank all of you Air Asia flight attendants for having our back and letting us off the plane first, every asian cheerleader along the way (because I like to think they were cheering and not making fun of us), and my shorts for not completely falling off as I ran. 

We made it to the gate exactly at boarding time. Except then in true asian fashion it boarded 30 minutes late so we had time to sit and wipe the sweat off before boarding our next flight.  This was our elation that we made our flight and didn't have to take the crappy 8 hours night bus back to our home.  

As much as I absolutely loved Cambodia....I really missed Thailand. I realized it as soon as we got to Bangkok and the first person gave me the little bow and a hello.  Thailand - you're tops in my book. 

Angkor Wat

Knocked another world wonder off the list! We went to Angkor Wat to explore one day and I was blown away.

We heard you have to go watch the sunrise over the famous temple so we hired a tuk tuk drive the day before and he said he'd pick us up at 4:50 am. Ouch...that was a little tough since zero people in my group are morning people but we told ourselves it was worth it.

It was totally overcast so unfortunately no sunrise happened. I did get a bit of time with hardly anyone else around though so that made it all worth it. 

We just spent about 7 hours exploring and hardly touched it at all. They have a 3 day pass because Angkor Wat is so incredibly huge that you need that much time to see most of it. We just a few main places though and called it good. I know none of the history except it is obvious that this was a major and successful empire in its day. 
And also I should probably see Tomb Raider now right?

This was our tuk tuk driver, sleeping in his hammock while waiting for us until we were ready to go home :) $20 for a full day of work. Except I'm sure he probably kept working after we were done because I have a feeling that a full day of work in Cambodia isn't just 8 hours. 

Kulen Mountain

So we really only had about half a day in Phnom Pehn before heading to Siem Reap.  I'm so sad that was all we had because I ended up loving the feel of that city so much.  Siem Reap was very touristy and it felt like Phnom Pehn was still untouched by all that.  I'm sure that won't last too long once people start realizing how amazing that country is. 

So it's a 6 hour bus ride between the two cities. That didn't sound too bad. And then you're driving down a dirt road, weaving back and forth as the bus driver tries to avoid huge holes and bumps in the road as well as oncoming traffic. Beeping his horn every few minutes to make sure other traffic - and apparently the entire world - knows he's there. So you're thinking okay pretty soon we'll hit the main highway right?  Soon? Almost to the main road?

Turns out the entire 6 hour road connecting the two major cities in Cambodia is currently completely a dirt road. Not only just dirt.....but bumpy, holey, up and down, road. So that was fun. I'm sure after more tourism comes to Cambodia they'll be able to fix it but for now we'll just chalk that up as a true Cambodian experience.

The first day we hired a guide named Tra to take us to Kulen Mountain.  He was the sweetest and spoke English and really wanted to teach us all about Cambodian history.  He knew so much and I had a little hard time understanding his accent which was so incredibly frustrating because I had no idea how interesting the last 50 years has been in Cambodia. It was way awkward when he mentioned the US coming in and bombing Cambodia and I'm sitting there with hardly any knowledge that that even happened. Definitely should have paid more attention in that senior year world history class. He was so gracious though as he was teaching us the history and not at all bitter towards us because of what our country did to theirs.  

He was the most interesting person ever. He's 34 years old. He grew up going to a pagoda where he learned English from monks. He just did that on his own free will. How smart is he to recognize that knowing English was really his ticket to any kind of future as tourism is really the reason this country is progressing at all right now. He told us how women weren't allowed to have jobs as he was growing up so his mother stayed at home. They changed that recently and his mother started a business exporting rice and was doing well until a flood came through and completely bankrupted them. He told me about how as a teenager during the 90s there was constant civil war around him. He would run and take cover when bombs went off or guns were heard. He told us about how one time he ran for cover and was stuck there until his parents were able to later rescue him.  Fortunately he didn't have to fight because he wasn't 18 yet, but he had 5 uncles who fought in the war and were all killed. He said that everyone was forced to enlist and that they were only trained for a couple of days, so most of the men who were fighting didn't even know how to shoot the gun that they were given. He taught us so much about the history there and just inspired me to go learn more about it. Tra said he's never left Cambodia because a passport costs too much.

On the mountain there was this worship area. Hinduism is the main religion there.  I can't remember exactly what's happening below but they pour water over that part that's sticking out and then when the water comes down they pour it over their faces because Tra says, "It means lucky."

I got a blessing from a monk again. I donated $1,000 riel which I hope isn't totally disrespectful seeing as that's like 25 cents. He says a lot of stuff, ties a piece of yarn around your wrist, splash a bunch of water all over you and then you bow because...monks. Tra told me that he wished me safe and happy travels in Cambodia that luck to my family. So, if you're in my family and something good happens to you, you are welcome.

After seeing the monks and a huge buddha we went to a nearby river. There was this girl in a hammock that was so cute so I snapped a pic but then she came running up and grabbed Mallory's hand and wouldn't let go. It was the sweetest most random thing but she completely had this strange connection with Mallory that was a highlight of the day.

This was just a random kid but I still love it. All the kids in Cambodia were BEAUTIFUL and everyone was so kind and wanted to wave at us and say hello. Such welcoming people. I just think about how Americans welcome foreigners and it makes me cringe to be associated with that.

Also there was the most beautiful of waterfalls. We didn't get in to swim but we just stuck our feet in and got a little surprise. Have you ever heard about how Asians have fish treatments where they stick their feet in a tank of fish and let them eat the dead skin off? So there were fish in the water that did just that. Free fishy massage at this waterfall.

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