Kulen Mountain

Friday, August 7, 2015

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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