I have loved my two weeks in Cambodia. After leaving Siem Reap, Emma and I traveled to Kampot and Rabbit Island. Kampot was a rundown old French town that provides tours to an abandoned palace and large caves off the sea (both of which, I must admit, we skipped. I was a bit touristed out). They are known for growing Kampot pepper. Rabbit Island is off the coast of Kep, a small beach town on the Gulf of Thailand. The island had four or five separate bungalow resorts. We stayed overnight for in a super cute bungalow with mosquito net, shower, and porch. It was a great break to lay around. Also, wonderful seafood! I am pretty sure I ate a piranha. HUGE teeth! (Side note: we could see Vietnam from the island).
My favorite moment was waking up early and going in the ocean while it rained. No one was around, just me, the water (which was super super warm!) and the rain.
I head to Vietnam tomorrow. For now, here are few random notes on life in Cambodia:
-Pajama sets are the “it” fashion. Presumably starting because pajamas are, well, clothing, and cheaper than a proper shirt and pants, floral, teddy bear and polka dot jammies are all the rage.
-There is a ton of construction, roads, buildings, power lines. It is very clearly a nation in repair.
-About 50% of the population is children. As Cambodia has faced war after war (French colonization, WWII, then Khmer Rouge), with 3 million adults killed between 1975 and 1978 alone (including all teachers, doctors, scholars), the population is lacking in adults and is either encouraging reproduction or not providing birth control information.
-There are a limited number of paved roads here, but the number is sure to grow exponentially in the next decade. You have to take the road to Phnom Penh to get anywhere else, even if that’s totally out of the way.
-Amok is the famous Khmer dish. It is a mild yellow curry with veggies and, generally, fish. Kampot pepper is another famous Cambodian product. I had fried crab with Kampot pepper while in Kampot and it was awesome. (Side note: Anthony Bourdain does the same thing in his Cambodia episode. I sat down in the restaurant and thought, “This looks familiar.”)
-They swim in their clothing (same as Thailand!).
-They call Thai basil “holy basil” and the Thai fisherman pants “Cambodia fisherman pants.” Who can blame them? The Thai still want control of the border temples and they are so much wealthier than Cambodia, it seems like stealing from a peasant. The Thai are also very proud that they were never colonized, which I think is rubbed in the face of the Khmer. Additionally, the Khmer claim that most of Thai culture (music, dance, art) was taken from Angkor Wat; when Thailand formed, they took the artists from Angkor Wat and brought them to Thailand. Thailand is definitely seen as the mean older brother in this region, which I of course could not observe until I left Thailand. (Even so, I still love Thailand! Shh)
-Women sweep the streets by hand at night with a broom. No machinery.
-Men are housekeepers/cleaning maids.
-Cambodia’s main products are silk, rice, and coffee. If durian were more popular, it would probably be durian too.
-They have karaoke bars and “karaoke bars,” hint hint, nudge nudge. Women sing, men choose.
-There are several older white men walking hand in hand with super young Cambodian women.
-They have a saying here, “no money, no honey.” Men do not find a wife until they have made a good living.
-They have “happy pizza” here.
-There is apparently a drug trade within the monk hood. Because the economy is so poor, men began joining the monastery for monetary reason. As a result, they do not respect the Buddhist values and use drugs and prostitutes.
-As I walk down the street, all I hear is, “tuk tuk, lady?” “motorbike, lady?” “where you go, lady?” And when you say no, they go, “Maybe tomorrow?”
Hoping to join a tour of the Mekong tomorrow, but if not, I will be in Ho Chi Minh next. Wish me luck!