Cambodia is a country of richies and pain, a culture who more than a generation after the Khmer Rouge, the killing fields and Pol Pot Cambodia is still a country of vast contradictions. I didn’t spend a lot of time in Cambodia and only saw brief glimpses into its tortured soul but what I found is that her people are resilient. Even though they have been through horror they are lookimg forward not wallowing in their past, the scars are still present but they are less a reminder of the dark and instead show how far the Khmer people have come with their cultural spirit intact.
They have been through the crucible and made it out of the other side. Her intellectual riches cut at the knees but what they are capable of still stands as Ankor Wat and the temples that surround her show the best of what the Khmer are capable of achieving.
When I left Thailand I took a bus destined for the Casino wasteland that hover on the border. Right on the border are a wide swath of Casinos that call to Thai’s who seek the edge and thrill that gambling provides but that Thailand disallows.
The casino bus leaves at 7 am everyday from Lumphini Park taking intrwpid gamblers so that the house can releive them of their hard earned BAHT. It is way cheaper than any of the other options I found in Khaosan road which ranged from 1000 baht to 1600 baht.
The bus cost 200 baht and took 3-4 hours and once across the border you had to find your own way to whatever destination you were heading to. Me and Maddie who was also traveling to cambodia took a shares taxi for a total of 700 baht to the city of Battambang.
This city wa devoid of the usual tourist trappings and was completely local in its feel and ambience. It is home to the bat cave where nightly a stream of millioms of bats but on a show that only nature could provide. Between 4 and 5 pm the bats stream out of their cliff bound cave to feed on the morsels in the sky. It ends up looking like a thread spreading outward from its spool.
We went to the killing cave that brought death to many and drips what was a cave carved wat into a sorrow stained hole. Battambang seems less like a city and more like a large town. It feels smaller than its population suggests. It sits on a river and there is no building higher than 4 or 5 stories.
We stayed at the Royal Hotel but all the hotels I saw had the same look and same signs except for the names. It reminded me of sim city like someone just copied and pasted the exterior of all the hotels for each one.
There are a few temples and even a Pepsi bottling plant that still feels as if its frozen in time. Left in the rise of of the Khmer Rouge and left as a memory of what was and a potential still not yet fully realized today. We took a cooking class from the chef of the Smoking Pot in Battambang. The chef brougjmht us to the local market where we bought ingredients and got to cook 2 dishes.
Beyond learning a bit of their culinary history my favorite part was taking to the owner who revealled he prefers the cooking class to the restaurant. I think because he can interact with his students it makes it more personal and engaging for him. The cooking class was $10 and well worth it. We started at 10 am but he usually starts a bit earlier. At the end of the class we were given a cook book with local Khmer recipes ready for creation by those willing to give it a try.
The next day we said goodbye to Battambang and began to make our way to Siem Reap and Cambodia’s cultural magna opus that is Aknor, not just Aknor What but its fields of temples and projects that defined the Khmer people before its golden age receded from global memory.
We were traveling in the heart of rainy season where the river flooding makes it possible to go from Battambang to Siem Reap by boat via a long 6 hour boat ride that goes through a narrow twisting river that empties into a flooded lake and passes through the many floating villages that dot the river’s edge and the lake’s shore.
That was my introduction to Cambodia ans her people, Siem Reap would bring in a new texture. A tourist trap to rival any in the region made for westerners and full of beggers, merchants and bars for all your needs.
Cambodia works on a 2 currency system where prices are quoted in $ and change given in a mix of $ and riel. 1 USD is 4000 riel with 1000 riel being equivalent to .25 cents. While accomdation is cheaper than you would find in Thailand food is more expensive in part because it is priced in dollars. I found this meant I didn’t have as much eoom to maneuver on price because a lot of goods were priced .50 cents or 1 dollar or more.
Its just something you should be mindful of when budgeting for Cambodia. So next I’ll get into Aknor and the mysteries within its long silent walls.
NOTE – This post is s bit rough cause I’m doing it on my phone but I will add links and do some much needed editing when I can get to a computer.
Its hard to take in an entire region like Southeast Asia ans not fewl like your going to miss something. I knew it was time to leave Thailand, I has some amazing times, lazy times, drunk ones ans scary ones. The past 6 weeks have been an experience that I can’t foeget but it was time to call it to a close.
So the next logical destination was Cambodia, Aknor War and the magistry of its surrounding temples calls to all travellers who venture within her grasp. I endes up meeting a girl qho was heading there as well so we took the trek together. There is always more power in numbers. Our mutual friend Sakai gave her some grear advice that saved us time, money and worry aa ww left Bangkok’s orbit to enter that of another.
My problem right now is that I don’t have a plan and tend to so whatevee people around me want to do but that has to change. You havr to Mke your own choices and that is something I always knew but that I am only now truely starting to appreciate and understand.
I just went with whatever Maddie said, I have to have an opinion and nor be afraid of owning it. In Cambodia I startes to learn more about the immensity og the Khmer people’s accomplishments and the darkness of their collective dispair during the black days of the killing fields ans I am so blesses to see them walk forward with an eye of the future instead of them being paralyzed by the horror of their past.
While I am here I am learning not about horror but about reziliance in the face of terror and fear. Of a people who deespite a period of pain and moving forward to tomorrow. I walked the templue ruins of Siem Reap and am at the cost and I step in the shadows searching for the light to come and make tomorrow tangible ans real. That’s the hope among the fear.
While on the coast I read “The Killing Fields” which dives into a story of friends that become brothers that search for each other in the wind. More powerful because it has truth that makes what it describes more impactful and sad for us who have no frame of reference to compare the darkness. It was worthe the journey to understand that although Cambodia is still searching for tomorrow there is a possibility that the bright days are still yet to come.
I’ll be honest I’ve been had several times since I came to Thailand. A lot of times it was my own fault or I was just to tired to care but at some point I had enough with being a human ATM and I would go an extra step to avoid paying for going to the washroom, toilet paper and on and on. I’m Filipino and was able to pass for Thai at the attractions so I didn’t have to pay.
When I was waiting in Chiang Mai for the bus you had to pay 10 baht to go forge washroom but of you went next door there was a lifestyle mall that had a clean washroom that was probably cleaner and more modern than what was in the bus station.
At the southern bus station in Bangkok you didn’t have to pay for the washroom, you had to pay for toilet paper. It just pissed me off, before doing my business I went 2 floors down the the Amazon coffee shop to get napkins just so I didn’t have to give them 3 baht,
I just didn’t want to play ball with being a bank for a few more baht they could take from me. I know that what they are asking for is so cheap, like pennies but I just didn’t want to go along with it.
Maybe that makes me ungrateful for how cheap everything is in Thailand but it all adds up and you realize pretty quickly that it isn’t that cheap after all. All the brand names you get in the west ate just a little cheaper or are the same price.
Local equivalents for Cole like Big C are much cheaper. While food was in general cheaper you could see exactly why because the amount there was a lot less than you would get in most western countries.
Food stands is the one place where the prices are fixed, some packaged foods will vary from 7-eleven to 7-eleven or to local stores but the variance tends to be minimal because most outlets will pay similar costs spending on their supplier and their specific deals.
I loved the Pringles, they use the old cardboard tube container for chips half the size, while charging nearly the same thing they would in Canada. I had to laugh and it makes me realize how lucky we are to have access to do much food, with larger portions and for some items better quality.
There are many exceptions to this, especially for local foods that were plentiful and food you could buy from the market but boy do I miss not having to pay for an extra slice of cheese or something.
This also contributes to the warped sense of value you face where how value scales haphazardly much more frequently here. In Canada you could see how value and what you pay scale much more consistently across the board. In Thailand you could pay the same amount for a bucket of vodka and coke that you could pay for room and board.
That scale and the constant being taken advantage of just makes you want to get back by pushing the prices as low as you can. If they are going to take advantage of you I feel justified to do the same at every opportunity and I don’t feel any guilt or recompense for pushing the price as far down as possible. After awhile it almost becomes a game, you just can’t accept the first price, you cut it I half and see how far you can push them down.
Local street food would cost a dollar or two while at Burger King or McDonald’s be double or triple the cost. You know at the brands you know your paying the western brand tax. The premium that comes with the brand which is more profitable for those companies.
So for everyone traveling I think the push back comes when you negotiate. I’m some ways you are trying to get some payback for all the times the tuk tuk drivers, taxi drivers and everyone has taken you for a ride.
It takes getting used to and is definitely different but when you start feeling like a human ATM you stop feeling for the people who are just trying to make a living and just want to get a better deal which is usually pennies to dollars difference. It becomes a matter of principle for me, anyway Id you see me as that piggy bank I’ll think of you as the opposite.
That’s where I’ve found myself and I feel bad that I am doing it but not too bad because turn about is fair play and they know that as much as we do.
I knew I needed to get out of my daily grind 2 years ago because I was going nowhere and needed to face what diabetes stopped me from doing. I was way too comfortable and wasn’t getting anything done, being diabetic was always a challenge and I felt it was time to take control. I tell people that even though I was 30ish I was still so young. Not immature but just not that experienced as others in my own age group. I didn’t feel like I knew who I was and I needed to stop surviving and really start to live.
I could never pull the trigger because being a diabetic complicates issues. I have no medical coverage cause i was not full-time employed and when I first started looking up medical insurance for travel the terms and conditions precluded pre-existing conditions rendering the coverage useless to me. My condition is pretty stable but diabetes is a battle for ever inch day by day.
Most days you are fine but all it takes is one instance where you put too much insulin or don’t eat enough or are being active and things can take a dramatic shift from good to bad.
It’s happened to me on many occasions. For a long time I had many more lows than highs and for a diabetic that means my awareness of my lows declined. My body learned to function with low blood sugar levels until the last possible second before a reaction hit and when it hit it came on like a sledgehammer.
One minute I’d be fine and the next I would be on the ground. It could happen even before I was aware and every time is a little different. The first low I had I knew it was happening and I think that was because I wasn’t really that active at the time. So it was a slower decline and I could react but the second time it happened the situation was totally different.
At that time I had a low in Chiang Mai, I had taken in a lot of sugars but was very active and it was very hot. I walked about 5 km but I was walking in 28 degrees Celsius during the afternoon and I just couldn’t tell I was going low.
The heat and walking masked the signs and I had no clue I was low. I was also taking sugar and drinking water so I thought I was fine but I wasn’t. By 7 I was having an attack and the tourist police came and thought I was on drugs which I was not.
It reminds me of how delicate the balance is and is one of the reasons it took me so long to get out here. Shit is going to happen, hell I’ve already had a bag lost or stolen which had cash, my computer, passport and credit cards in it. I’ve had 2 diabetic reactions, missed my stop on the train and had to wait 7 hours for a new one, slept in a train station for a night. cause I has nowhere to go and I only 5 weeks into it.
Should I let my fear of something happening stop me from living and discovering who I am? No way, I’m travelling because I will not let a condition dictate my actions, not be bound to the limitations that it could impose because diabetes can be managed and isanaged by millions of people, all over the world.
It means I have to take extra precautions, listen to my body more and be careful and honest to the people I end up meeting and travelling with. I don’t check my blood sugar 4 times a day because its expensive as hell.
I do it half as much and I use the same needle over and over again because no one else is using it but me. I make reasonable choices to extend my supplies, keep a cold pack with my insulin so it stays good as long as possible and I will not let it control me, I will control my diabetes.
I will not win ever battle, but I will not go down without a fight. I am better for the challenge because it forces me to understand my physical limits but pushes be to find ways to use them and extend them so I can prove to myself that I can with diabetes, not in fear of it but thrive because I understand it and can use it to better control my physical self.
I will not be defined by what I live with every day beside I am privileged to get care and am able to manage the condition where there are so many that don’t have the chance to do the same. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or that it is without risk r consequence but we all face our share of that. I choose to thrive because I have to face it, I choose to be defined how I react not but what I have or what I can’t control. I will never beholden by the limits people think I have for any reason but by the possibilities I feel I can achieve if I can breakdown the barriers that have limited what I think I can achieve.
So life lets dance on the tip of the spear, I can’t say that I won’t get cut by your edge every so often but I can say each time I’ll learn how to get past it with a grin on my face and at the ready for the next dance.
So don’t diabetes or anything you face prevent you from trying. It may mean that you face more limits but that just means you have to get more creative and see your goal or objective from a different perspective and that isn’t better or worse its just different. I don’t face that withy condition and I Ho our and respect those who face more than I ever will and make magic happen for themselves in spite of what they have to go through no matter what those challenges are.
Never let those reasons be why you say no instead of yes to travel or whatever, we say no because its easier, because we crave stability when we really grow the the most when have to face the unknown and learn through the hard lessons not the easy ones. Understand how to dance within your own limits and realize that you can alway find ways to get beyond them and if you do that, them you are the victor.
Arriving in Bangkok more than a month ago I didn’t know what to expect, travel was and still is very new to me in a lot of instances. There is a path that travelers trek on through Thailand, that goes either north or south, to the quiet beauty of the mountains to the sun and sand of the beach.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kho Tao and Kho Phangan each have their own tourist gauntlet, where the waves of tourists congregate to meet other travellers, party, drink and at times misbehave.
This acts like bees to honey, where you will see every person trying to sell you something, shirts, watches, packages to other illicit items. These places are meant to be places of excess. I really find they are great meeting grounds but poor representations of the people.
As a tourist you begin to feel like a lamb to the slaughter, the wolves are ready and waiting for thee chance for dinner, except it isn’t you meat they want, it’s you cash.
I feel like the tourist traps warp your perceptions of a place and I think while they offer a lot there are shadows at work that will try to take even if you don’t want to give. Going to be heading out of Thailand pretty soon and hoping to walk out of the traps and into the sun where I hope to find myself in the process.
A guru who I gave 20 baht to said a lot of things but one thing I am certain he is right about is that my future isn’t in Canada, it’s somewhere else and that and my best me are what I’m searching for.