If you’re new to my blog, you can see how I got started here. For those of you who are up to date on my Remote Year experience, I spent the month of December in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I split out to side trip in Thailand about halfway through the month, but returned on Christmas to finish out the rest of the month and transition with the group.
The title of this post is an ode to the limited information I had about Cambodia & Thailand. To say that I couldn’t wait to get out of Vietnam would be a gross understatement. I didn’t care that our pick-up was at 6am, in fact, I was energized. I would be saying goodbye to construction behind my building, Hanoi traffic, HAIR TOUCHING, and sadly, bun cha.
I had a tough time deciding what to focus on for this post so I asked my good friends Esther and Edna for help. One gave me questions that I felt really summed up my experience in the Kingdoms, and the other helped me see the trip through her eyes.
What was the most interesting part?
Cambodia wasn’t as invasive as I expected it would be. Although our phenomenal city team assured us that Cambodians wouldn’t touch our head/hair, I was skeptical. After all, I had thought the same thing in Vietnam. I also felt more spiritual being both in Cambodia and Thailand.
What about it made it more spiritual?
I visited the royal palaces in both Cambodia and Thailand. I also went to a number of Wats or temples. I fell off the wagon on maintaining my spiritual health in Vietnam. I let worry and stress take over a lot of my mental space. I vowed to practice meditation and visiting those temples helped with this goal.
Another reason I felt this way was the people that I met. The locals that I interacted with especially in Phnom Penh were some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Knowing the history of the country, and how most of them are/were affected by the atrocities but still welcome ‘foreigners and outsiders’ renewed my faith.
What about Edna’s visit?
Background: my tween, Edna, met me in Thailand. We traveled from Bangkok > Chiang Mai > Phuket > Bangkok.
I was a bit afraid that I had changed so much but she didn’t think I had. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: having time with someone who’s known you for a long time refreshes your soul. I swear on my Manolo Blahniks.
What about the killing fields?
To be honest, visiting Choeung Ek (also known as the killing fields) gutted me. I went with my friend Carlos on a full-day city tour. Before the trip, I had listened to a survivor who lost his family members tell his story and watched a movie depicting the Cambodian history through music. I highly recommend this movie: Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.
Nothing could have prepared me for the fields. I was holding myself together until I walked up to the killing tree. The audio told of the carnage that occurred there with Khmer Rouge soldiers killing children by beating them against the tree. You read that correctly. The soldiers. beat. children. against. the. tree. The explanation for these brutal murders being that there was no gain in keeping them and that they’d grow up and seek revenge.
Carlos and I also visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum aka S21. It was once a high school that was turned into a prison during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. I think that everyone who visits Cambodia should really pay a visit to these two places. They are a stark reminder of the evils humans are capable of (still happening) and as a memorial for the people whose lives were stolen.
There’s so much more to Cambodia than those dark years. It is honestly one of my top countries. I can’t wait to return and finally visit Angkor Wat.
What question did you have that was answered?
What will I remember the most about doing Remote Year when I’m done? Contrary to popular belief, there’s a different kind of pressure that accompanies you through a year of travel. It’s not a year-long vacation and job hunting/side hustling takes a toll. As I read some of my past journal entries, I realized I spent a ton of time stressing. I made a conscious decision to enjoy the process more than worrying about it.
What surprised you the most?
That Christmas didn’t feel as odd as I thought it would’ve. I went to church on Christmas morning and spent the rest of the day with my RY family.
That I didn’t feel ready to leave Phnom Penh. That I look forward to returning.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed being in Chiang Mai. It had a cool, laid back feel to it. Phuket was a bit pricier and we didn’t visit any of the smaller islands but I was caught off guard by how underwhelming it was. Patong beach, on the other hand, was extra. After our time in Bangkok, I can see how the Hangover movies happened. We had our own tales of ladyboy shenanigans but we’ll keep that under wraps. Let’s just say it was SHOCKING.
Conclusively, I know that a large part of my Magellan family didn’t love Cambodia for various reasons and it’s certainly not my place to try and convince them otherwise. After all, most of them loved Hanoi and we (now) all know how I felt about it. There are many lessons that I’m learning about myself, the world, and my place in it. I look back and see the growth that I didn’t ~even~ realize was happening and I think “damn”.
I leave you with a few more pictures of Thailand/Cambodia adventures.
Love you, mean it!