Our tour of the Kingdom of Cambodia comes to an end with the expiry of our two month visa. Its a good opportunity to summarize all the adventures, experiences and moments of happiness in the land of the Khmer.
The following moments are some of our favourites and will stay with us for a long time to come:
- Lazily spend time lying in a hammock in a traditional wooden house in Kep, staring dreamily, or emptily, into the green mountains in front. Also the heavy silence and quietitude, only occasionally interrupted by the songs of the birds or geckos.
- Go swimming in a calm as a sheep ocean after sunset, with the moon and starts lighting up in the sky.
- Stroll bare-footed around the white sand beaches of Koh Rong island and completely forget that there are such ghastly things in existence as pavements, streets, cars, motorbikes and bicycles.
- Swim in the warm ocean of turquoise water under the moonlight and experience the light-emitting algae all around you. Its like swimming in a star field.
- Thrall through the jungle stomping one’s feet (according to the locals, this should scare the several types of cobras that live here) and descend, with the help of a rope, down a steep mountain slope to reach the paradise-on-Earth that is the Long Beach on the Koh Rong island and swim in the blue waters the colour of the sky.
- Experience the rhythms of the Cambodian drums and witness the animate classics dances (Giant dance and Monkey dance) in a theater in Phnom Penh. Also, have a brief drumming session with one of the musicians after the show.
- Cross the Mekong river at sunset on a wooden barge that is a river-crossing taxi, sharing it with several locals and two huge water buffaloes near the town of Kratie.
- Spend four hours in the back of a truck, sitting on several huge bags of crisps, rice and canisters of petrol, heading down an endless red dust-road to reach the roundabout town of Promoui in the Cardamom mountains.
- Stare, with mind-boggling fascination, into the historical remains of the Khmer culture in the dozens of ancient temples at Angkor. Spend hours “reading” the secretive inscriptions in Sanskrit and Khmer languages on many doorways and contemplate the stone carvings depicting Apsara dancers, Buddha and his many brethren.
- In Koh Rong island, dine on a freshly caught, freshly grilled barracuda, served with fresh pepper and sitting meters away from the swashing sea. Afterwards, take a relaxed bare-foodted walk back to the straw-roof bungalow on the mountain slope.
- Go snorkeling for the first time in our lives to experience the daily life of corals and swarms of colourfull little fish near the shores of the Koh Rong Samrong island. Just why nobody bothered to inform us that we should apply dollops of sun block on our backs and arses?
- Observe the Irrawady river dolphins in the Mekong river, swimming leisurely only meters away from our boat and surfacing to take a breath of fresh air.
- Enjoy the free main dish or desert, because the hostess decided that we must try it and insisted that its much better than what we had ordered (and she was right on both occasions).
- Splash kids with water and talcum powder during the celebration of the Khmer new year around the temples in province of Kampong Cham. One can’t help but feel being blessed for the new year afterwards.
What we didn’t like?
- Expensive inter-city bus tickets
- Serious deforestation in the once beautiful province of Ratanakiri and also in Cardamom mountains. It seems the problem isn’t wholly caused by illegal loggers and farmers expanding their farms. The Cambodian government also plays a hand by handing our logging permits to private, usually Chinese, organisations. And so what if the national parks are full of western NGO jeeps, carrying professional ecologists, if they’re only told about new logging allocated after the contract has been signed.
- Cambodia’s image as the country of the poor. True, its sad to see street beggars in filthy clothing and hear the stories of low wages told by the many young, but in two months we saw great numbers of smartphones, tablet devices, gold jewelery and so many brand new SUVs (mostly leather interior Lexus and Range Rovers), that it rivals the obsession of the people of the Land of the Free. And then add up the contribution of money and time brought into the country by countless NGOs, foreign aid and always increasing flow of young volunteers, all passionately trying to help. You can’t help making the decision that there’s plenty of dollar running through the veins of the country, that business is doing great, but everywhere you look you still see donation boxes for various causes (even if the young collector fella is distracted by the shiny buttons of an Apfel mp3 player) and the foreign media never ceases to publish stories of “a country in need”.
In summary, we did like Cambodia a lot and recommend everyone to check it out, especially Koh Rong island and especially before they build the international airport there (planned for around 2015) and spoil it completely!