2 days was enough time to explore the temples of Angkor, outside of Siem Reap (officially the most touristy place in Cambodia, urgh: the town only exists to provide tourists visiting Angkor a place to sleep/drink/eat and see some Apsara Dancing).
My best friend had flown in from Japan to do some adventuring with me and with our trusty tuktuk driver shuttling us about, Kara and I enjoyed the sunrise at Angkor Wat munching on banana bread, raided tombs (Lara Croft-style), and forded murky rivers to reach mystic temples. Here are some of the best snapshots, but do make the trip yourself — it’s completely worth it, rain or shine!
Suddenly it was the end of three and a half weeks in Cambodia.
And I still hadn’t posted about countless revelations and happenings. (For instance, that my new best friend is actually an elephant named Sambo).
And I didn’t really care. Why? I guess now, for me, Cambodia = no worries.
“No worries”, the phrase that I found myself using every day, sometimes excessively. This may have been due to the prevalence of Kiwis and citizens of Oz throwing their version of Hakuna Matata around like the rugby balls they so dearly cherish, but “no worries” seemed to be the theme of the trip. Let me be specific: Cambodian way of life is, from my limited observation, more worry- and complaint-free than any society I’ve experienced thus far. Despite incredibly low standards of living, a highly corrupt government (*cough* – did I say that? I meant, long live the king!)…yeah, they’re just happy people.
Call me cliché, but I’ve been brushing up on my Buddhism and we’re getting deep into the part about compassion. Seems like that’s really all there is to it; the Khmer people have that concept down, hardcore. Disregarding the aversion I felt when people jumped out of bushes, hotels, restaurants, garbage cans (well, not really) to try to sell me things, I appreciated that they were doing it with a genuine smile. Can we please import some of those not-necessarily-so-pearly-white grins to Deutschland? Ideally with a dollop of natural friendliness on the side? Mmmm, lecker.
Compassion helps weather storms. Which means no worries at the end of the day. And for me, that meant a whole lot of happy days in Cambodia.
The tuktuk ride back to Ramon’s place was well-deserved after returning to the crowded city streets. We were in a humid daze and had lost our butts to a state of numbness, but had gained perspective through glimpses of the rural Cambodian lifestyle.
Within the first 24 hours I’ve learned the “rules of the road” (see below), felt the awkwardness of being a “have” amongst so many have-nots, wound my way through the “Russian market”, haggled for new clothing and enjoyed the combined excellence of Cambodian cuisine (think amok and lok lac) and the company of my good friend Ramon.
Fresh off the plane from Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
This ride was considerably less hectic than ones I didn’t record. Figures.
The expat bubble in Phnom Penh is a tangible sphere made more obvious by the perspective I get from behind secure gates of Ramon’s movie house, The Flicks. I look through windows and over balconies into another layer of society, we interact with the Khmer locals whenever we leave the house, but the society doesn’t afford the opportunity of penetrating the bubble as a visitor. Perhaps not even as a child born in Cambodia to expat parents. It makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I haven’t completely wrapped my head around it yet…my thoughts need more time to develop.
For now, I’m looking forward to more $5 yoga classes, $5 45-minute foot massages, $1 meal options that blow your taste buds away, etc. Life inside the bubble is really nice…
Swanky, affordable apt in Frankfurt ✔
(I’m flat-sharing with a flight attendant, whom I met through the Yahoo! Group Frankfurt-n-Motion, a fabulous resource for expats in Frankfurt).
Life packed up neatly into three-piece suitcase set ✔
Next up? Fly FRA — BKK, spend the cliché “One Night in Bangkok”, fly BKK — PNH the next day. Make it to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in one piece. Relax.
I’m nervous to have to rely solely on English, as my knowledge of Khmer is limited to “Hello”, “My name is Ginger”, yes/no, and the numbers 1-5. Between today and when I touch down in Bangkok I’ll get my Thai to be at a similar level or better…please/thank you are high-priority to learn.
The shortlist of things I expect or want to encounter/experience/suffer through/survive/enjoy:
-pick exotic fruits from the source
-sweat. a lot.
-ride an elephant, no matter how bumpy the ride
-learn to meditate
-drive a moto
-smile at random people and get smiled back at!
The long list is, well, a lot longer, but I’ll be using Ginger in Germany (Again) briefly as Ginger in Cambodia/Thailand. Check back for updates, and while you’re at it, keep tabs on my new personal website, www.gingerkern.com, coming soon!
My, my how time does fly. Only five more months of this Fulbright grant to go, and I haven’t quite solidified the time frame for my plans for after June. I’d like to stay in Europe until approximately the end of August/sometime in September and then…well…if all goes right with the world I’ll be flying to Cambodia!
(Heh, your look of confusion amuses me)…Hang on a sec, you say. Germany…Cambodia…where is the connection?
Remember Ramon Stoppelenburg? (…This crazy Dutch guy, who I’m hoping wont mind if I borrow his picture to share with you…)
Apparently a great deal of fun in life comes back to Couchsurfing in the end (he was my very first CS host..awww), because I’ve nearly finished a 9,000 word translation of his website www.expeditionkilimanjaro.com that will allow him to better cater to all the German-speaking hiking fanatics in the world. It’s fun work, though considerably more difficult translating from English to German as opposed to the other way around, and I’ve enlisted the help of some friends in Gießen to keep their eyes on my progress and make sure I mean what I say and I say what I mean.
Still not following the Cambodia connection? Ok. Here goes. Ramon moved there in August of 2010 from Amsterdam and currently lives in Phnom Penh, the country’s bustling capitol. Given the flexibility of my current work/travel/life situation, Ramon and I agreed upon a somewhat non-traditional payment option and he is rewarding my help with an experience: a round-trip plane ticket (at any time, from anywhere in Europe, specifically) to and from Cambodia. Voilà.
Not only does this provide me with an excellent opportunity to travel a new continent (culture shock, I seriously can’t wait!), but I’m looking forward to the couple of months I’ll be able to spend further developing my game plan for life.
Not a bad deal, eh?
*Ok fo realz, I’m freakin out. In a good way, of course. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!*