We took an outrageously long bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) to Siem Reap where we have been staying for the last few nights. There's so much to say about Cambodia, I don't really know where to begin.
Well, the main currency used here is US dollars which has been nice. It's hard to always convert the money in your head and it's easy to get ripped off when you can't do the conversion. It's been a welcome and familiar feeling to have those one dollar bills in my hand again. Although when you get change back it comes in Cambodian Riel which can get a bit confusing.
We came to Siem Reap first to meet up with Melissa again who had left Vietnam a little early. We've spent the last few days exploring Angkor Wat and... wow. I really can't describe the feeling of seeing it for the first time or the intricacy of every inch of carved stone or the sheer mass of it all. But I can say it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and I'm eternally grateful for that experience. We explored the main temple and a few others, including one with hundreds of faces carved into the stones and the fairly famous "tree" temple, where I think (maybe) Tomb Raider was filmed.
Cambodia is full of breathtaking sights but it also has a pretty dark (and recent) past. I don't know much about the history yet, but there was a genocide that took place within the last 40 or so years. Liana and I are going back to Phnom Penh to learn about the country's troubled past. While there, we plan to visit the "killing fields" where thousands of executions took place as well as a high school turned prison (turned museum?) so we can fully educate ourselves on the topic. I'm ignorant of it all at this point, but I'm sure I will leave this country with a new appreciation for its people and all they had to endure. Liana and I also hope to volunteer at an orphanage before we leave, another humbling experience I'm sure.
Other than the paradox between beautiful world heritage sites and terrible execution camps, Cambodia is amazing. The people are incredibly kind and accommodating. It's a little strange and a bit inspiring to realize most (if not every) Cambodian you see has been affected by the genocide. Someone pointed out the fact that there are few older people here, simply for the fact that they were all killed. I think almost 50% of the population is under the age of 30. It really is remarkable.
I'm excited to spend a few more days in Cambodia before flying back into Bangkok and making our way down south for two weeks of beaches and... beaches.