Cambodia: The Experience


I am back!

Haha 😀

Wow it feels like ages since I have been in front of my laptop but here I am with high speed internet at my fingertips -tanned, exhausted and slightly nostalgic but full of photos and stories to share.

Once I sift through my photos, I will do detailed posts on all the interesting/mischievous/exhausting things that I did but for now let me just review the experience in its entirety.

If you are like how I was, you might have no clue about where Cambodia is. Here it is, sandwiched between its arguably much more popular neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam.

My friend Melita asked me to describe Cambodia in one word and the immediate word that came to mind was: real. Cambodia is what I had always pictured Asia to look like- dusty roads with animals on the pavement, motorcycles owning the road, ancient temples, terrible smells, poverty around every corner but also, beauty in every thing, phenomenal architecture, a sad yet rich history and a leisurely pace to life. No swift Internet, no bullet trains, no sky scrapers, no air conditioned taxis, no hot showers, no iPads and no lady boys. It was pretty different to the Asia I had experienced before heading over to Cambodia. Its just so REAL.

Its “realness’ is probably due to the fact that most people don’t view Cambodia as worth visiting when compared to other destinations in South East Asia. Like all countries, Cambodia is diverse and rich in culture but unlike the other Asian countries, Cambodia is new to the tourism scene and due to a lack of publicity, the country remains a mystery to most people. The good news when you go there is that you aren’t shielded away from the real Cambodia by tourist traps (If you have ever been to Thailand, you know what I mean).

Here is a map of my journey:

I started in Siem Reap (A), went across to Sihanoukville (B), traveled up to Pnom Penh (C) and then back to Siem Reap (D).

Upon my arrival in Cambodia, the first thing I noticed was how dirty and hectic it was. The tuk tuk ride to the guesthouse from the airport was quite the culture shock for me. I witnessed seven people on one motorcycle—not to mention the hundreds of motorcycles going every which way. The amount of dirt lying in the sidewalks astonished me.

At first, all of this seemed so hostile, so alien. I dismissed this feeling of fear as irrational but it still bothered me. My tuk tuk driver said that if I smiled and waved at even just one person in the crowd of busy, busy people, I would receive the coolest gift—a heart-warming smile. Little did I know that in Cambodia a smile can be more than what words can offer. Cambodian people are the nicest most generous people I have ever met.  Even when visiting the slums I was completely amazed that these people who had nothing were laughing and a smiling. These people, that literally live life in a landfill, are more than happy to give out a smile to strangers from a foreign land.

My trip to Cambodia was a much need wake up call, to remind me to wake up and look at the things I have around me, to look and appreciate everything I have. The Cambodians don’t have much, yet they’re so optimistic towards life, so eager to study. We’re constantly rushing to meet deadlines, comparing what we have to others, complaining about the littlest things. I feel that in that way, they are more fortunate than us.

It is a dream come true for every traveler to visit a place gifted with profound beauty and rich culture. And Cambodia was an amazing dream. Here is a sneak peek of what is yet to come in next week’s posts…


23 thoughts on “Cambodia: The Experience

      • Ah, no worries. I haven’t been on here as often these past couple of weeks. I think a good number of bloggers around here are taking short breaks right now. I just want to say your travels just seem…inspiring.

  1. Great article, I visited Cambodia recently as well- passed over by too many people, but is a beautiful country well worth a visit- thanks for sharing!

      • HAHA there are many companies that import Apple’s products to Cambodia. Well, maybe not the majority of Cambodian can afford them, that’s why you didn’t see any iPad in Cambodia. However, if you had visited some cafe shops while you were in Phnom Penh, you would have seen many teenagers use it. Anyway, I agree with how you describe Cambodia, dusty road… yeah… that sucks!

  2. Never been to Cambodia (like most people, I guess) but it sounds quite a bit like India – with the multiple people on one motorbike (whole families – what a site) and the poverty from which comes smiling, friendly people – truly amazing and yes, a good wake up call.

  3. Great blog.. and It’s so surreal to look at your pictures and remember walking those same streets. You are a much more eloquent writer than I and I think you wrote justice to the place.. great job.

      • Thank you ! It is sort of funny because I had just gotten into taking “interesting” pictures and in 6 weeks I took over 6,000 pictures because it was an amazing place and my first travels alone.. it took months to go through them.. and for that I have VERY vivid memories of the place. Also I had spent over 2 years in Korea and was really into all the facial expressions of all of the people of Cambodia and the difference from the facial expressions of Koreans.

  4. Pingback: Cambodia – a land lost | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity

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