The GoGlobal Blog



Our first day in Cambodia was an adventure to say the least. Stuck at a ferry terminal for five hours (despite the large bribe we paid to get to the front of the line) gave us a glimpse of what Cambodia is like for the people who live there. It is a stunning country, words truly do not do it justice. But I have  a hard time reconciling the beauty with the absolute poverty of the people who live there. On our five-hour stop we had plenty of time to walk around the city we stopped in. I had read about it and even braced myself for it but seeing street children begging, babies literally playing in piles of garbage and children no older than 5 picking up plastic bottles barefoot made my heart ache. These are things that I like to push to the back of my mind, pretend they aren’t actually happening because they are happening in a country across the world. It’s strange how my brain immediately starts scrambling for a justification, a way to make sense of what I’m seeing.

I felt the same sort of brain scrambling-justification the next day when we went to see Toul Sleng high school and the killing fields. I had read about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, I had even done a project on them in high school, but this was different. This was brutal history still deeply impacting the present. Our tour guide was a survivor of Pol Pot’s regime. This almost seems unnecessary to say because nearly anyone over 35 years old lived through the Khmer Rouge. Everyone we met on the trip had a very personal story about how their lives were forever changed by Pol Pot’s reign. One tour guide watched her father and brother be taken away and never saw them again. Our tour guide at Angkor Wat wouldn’t speak of that time other than to say, “everyone had a gun, everywhere you look they had guns.” It was an eye-opening experience.

Luckily we had some more uplifting experiences planned, after Phnom Penh we headed for Siem Reap and spent two amazing days at Angkor Wat exploring the temples. If you have never seen pictures of Angkor Wat, google them now. This place is astounding. I was continuously at a loss for words as I wandered through these behemoth temples built by the Kings of Angkor. I have never felt so small! Against all odds, I managed to find a deserted corner and had my first perfect moment in Cambodia.

I’ll be heading back next month when my sister comes to visit and even then, I don’t think it will be enough time in Cambodia…

Leave a Reply