Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 8: The Epic 40++ Traveling Hours For the Love of Cambodia

If Day 7 was spent entirely on traveling by train, Day 8 was spent entirely on traveling by bus, marking the completion of the longest travel time of my life to date – an epic 40 ++ hours. Phew. I seriously wonder now how we survived it although I will admit to nearly going crazy. Then again, I would say I did it all to feed the aching feet of my wanderlust and for the love of our next destination – the land of the Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

If Vietnam was about coffee, Halong Bay, and the French influence, Cambodia was about the Angkor Wat and Happy Pizza. Compared to Vietnam though, we had a shorter time in Cambodia and it was focused on Siem Reap. We ditched our plans to explore Phnom Penh at the last minute because of time constraints and because really, we needed time to breathe. The good thing about it is that I have more reasons to come back to Cambodia. And come back, I definitely will.   

Black dark clouds welcomed us to Cambodia. 

Cambodia did not welcome us with the most joyous of weathers. A huge chunk of the sky was dark with black clouds. Try adding that to the growing anxiety of being stuck in a bus for hours.

On the other hand, although the hours were excruciatingly long and tedious, riding the bus was a perfect way to gain an initial insight into Cambodia’s way of life. After passing through several houses, I noticed their houses are on stilts and the “ground floor” was reserved for livestock and in some cases, agricultural equipment. It is a country rich in agricultural resources but the people remain poor. I saw children stark naked running along the highways and makeshift houses with thatched roofs that serve as shelter to a family of four. These were all-too-familiar scenes. In many ways, Cambodia is like the Philippines.

Can you guess what this vendor is selling? I'm guessing
it's a kind of insect. The kind you don't want to put in
your mouth. 
We finally arrived in Siem Reap at half past 9, tired and very hungry. Thank God for our really gracious hosts at Bou Savy Guesthouse who welcomed us with drinks and cold towels.

That night, I read up on some highlights of Cambodia’s history and came across the era of Pol Pot, a revolutionary leader who ordered the torture, execution, and genocide of a million (some sources say 2 million) children, men, and women. Unbelievable, I know. Until now, I feel the country is still reeling from that horrific chapter in their history. We are still lucky after all, for not experiencing this level of pain and suffering. That night, my heart was broken. I was broken.

I know we travel because of new sights and fresh experiences and all things bright and beautiful. But we cannot take away the inevitability that travel can break us sometimes. And when it does, we are never the same person again.

This day was epic, indeed. 

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