A CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE

Before I tell you about Cambodia, let me reiterate how wonderful Thailand was…on one of the last days we swam into a cave…completely, pitch black…the guide had a small flashlight that he kept pointing to the ceiling to show us the bats…the current was strong, so I got a good workout…eventually we ended up in this incredible place called Emerald Cove(it was in National Geographic)…it is a beach inside a mountain…sort of inside what looks like a volcano(but isn’t)…completely covered in tropical foliage. It looked like a movie set…it was so pristine…unfortunately no pictures…couldn’t get my camera through the water… About 8 of us came down with the Thai flu on the last Island…which happened to be the best Island…it had two hotel type places and that was it…there were maybe 50 people on the entire island. It was so beautiful…The last day, I was quite sick so the Adventure Transportation longboats, ferries, jitneys, buses and planes was not so much fun… Flying into my last stop on my adventure: Cambodia, was incredible…I may have been sick but I could still be wowed by the amazing scenery…I have never seen anything like it…from the plane as far as my eye could see, it was water and trees…Marsh like but not swampy…not a living sole for miles and miles…completely desolate…then all of the sudden there would be a floating village of maybe25 houses and that would be it…

Landing in Siem Reap, the airport experience was great, easy and efficient…lots of military…they just completed their last civil war in ’98…and the 4th opposition leader was assassinated 2 days ago…they don’t like opposition!… A driver from the hotel met me…he gave me a quick tour of Siem Reap…it is considered a fairly large city for Cambodia, but really is more like a village…the road from the airport was donated by the Japanese so it is asphalt, all other roads are dusty, clay with huge potholes…lots of cows again in the streets…Cambodia is Buddhist…But they have a strong Hindu influence in their past…Once at the hotel, I collapsed into bed…The hotel is spectacular…the most incredible I’ve stayed at…it is very traditional with lots of ponds, fountains and tropical foliage…my room overlooks the pool with beautiful trees…so at least I am sick in beautiful surroundings!… I have been subsisting on wonderful soups over the last few days…By the way, the food on this trip has been wonderful. Every place has offered interesting eats…Most of the time, I’m not sure what I am eating, but it has always been good…In Thailand, I ate tons of vegetables and fresh fruits… Unfortunately mild spice there is more like extra spice in the US…and it about killed me to eat the spicy fish…so I stuck to Veggies and fruit….Today I pulled myself out of bed to go to the Angkor Temples…my driver was waiting for me and once again gave me lots of history of Cambodia…the Khemer Rouge(Pol Pot) really did a great deal of damage to the Cambodian people(think the “killing fields”)…but even though these people have only known unstable peace since ’98, they are incredibly friendly…they actually rival the Thais…they will go out of their way to make you happy… The Angkor Temple complex is huge…you would need a week to see the hundreds of Khmer Temples(dating 805AD-1400AD)…the Khmer empire is not related to the Khmer Rouge of the 60’s and 70’s…the temples are amazing….some are Hindu and most are Buddhist…once again, I attracted many little boys offering to guide me…they all were so cute…

Cambodia is extremely poor…on the same level as Nepal…300.00 per capita income…but just like the Nepalis they are very proud and welcoming and so very friendly…they will invite you into their home and feed you, without any concern for their lack of money…. I have found Asia the most welcoming place I have ever traveled…it is easier to travel here than anywhere I have ever been, including Europe…people will go out of their way to help and they seem genuinely happy to see Westerners…when I say I am American, they ask all sorts of questions…I have only really had to pose as Canadian in 2 Islands in Thailand…the rest of the time I’ve been American…everyone in these countries has enjoyed sharing with me their feelings on what’s going on in the world…I just nodded and listened…but learned how little we know and what misinformation we are given…I think, as Americans, we need to listen to the people of other countries more..we need to try to understand them not change them…Even the people from Ireland were saying that there has been an anti American backlash in Dublin…they say their media is saying that we are too “Ra Ra American” and not truly looking at why these things are happening…meaning that our policies may be making parts of the world not like us…seems obvious…one thing that I’ve heard from literally everyone is how much they like Colin Powell and feel more secure knowing he is involved…this is especially true of all of the Europeans I’ve met…But just to be clear, everyone has condemned the 9/11 but most feel that we, as Americans, are pleasantly ignorant to our own policies and that we should be more educated about the world… I would definitely come back to Asia…I met another woman traveling alone, from Minnesota…she’s off to Laos…l initially was worried about traveling alone as a woman to these countries…now I am not…the men in these cultures have a great deal of respect for women…they tend to watch out..l felt safe everywhere…there is also a traveling culture…so it is easy to meet people and swap stories and find out about places to see and stay…this trip has given me the travel bug worse than I had it…the world is a big and interesting place…and I want to experience as much of it as possible…the cultures are different but in the end the people all want the same things.

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