If you’ve never been in south east Asia, visiting Cambodia might look like a cultural shock…it was something like that for us when we visited it in 2007.
I wanted to learn something more about Asia: I enjoyed so much every second I spent in Japan in 2006, so I was looking for a similar and thrilling experience and I was browsing the pages of a catalogue when I saw some pics of Angkor Wat.
I can say it was love at first sight, although I didn’t have a clear idea about what to expect from a one week trip to Cambodia (it was a package tour from quite an important italian agency).
After the 10 days spent there, I was madly in love with Asia, Mekong and monsoon climate. I think everyone has a place he belongs to, no matter where we are born and where we lived. In summer 2007 I understood I belong to Asia, that’s it.
So, what do I recall of that trip? What are the best memories from Cambodia?
#1 – Huge and sacred Mekong river
Is it really…that brown?!?! How can people wash things and have a bath there? I couldn’t believe it but now it looks normal to me, after visiting many countries in south east Asia.
Mekong is like a source of life, an essential part of the culture and scenary of millions people.
#2 Smelly markets
How can they possibly smell that bad? I couldn’t breathe when I first went to a market in Cambodia. It’s a mix of rotten food, spices, fruit and sweat. I needed time to get used to it. Still now it stinks but it looks familiar to me and I can’t visit Asia without spending hours wandering through food markets.
#3 Blessed by geckos
They are cute (japanese tourists would say: kawaiiii!!!!), they are everywhere and they bring luck.
What else can we say? There wouldn’t be “true Asia” without them and we got used to. They can be found in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms…always close to the lights so they can better catch mosquitos.
Unlike what happens in western countries, death is not a taboo in Asia: it is a normal part of everyday life, something natural. So it is nothing that needs to be hidden or forgotten: it can be shown naturally in all of his aspects and implications.
#5 When it comes to snacks: bugs please!
French fries? Hot dogs? Of course not. It wouldn’t be a true cambodian snack without cockroaches and locusts. At the end of the trip Ale had the courage to try them and won the esteem of the group of travellers.
I must admit that he tried eating locusts just once…maybe they were not that good…
#6 Electricity and bugs
It looks like it’s all about bugs in Cambodia…In 2007 there was no electricity in the streets and in the houses, even in the capital city. People used generators to have light in the evening and one of the purposes of this light was bugs hunt.
Easy and effective: you take a lamp, a plastic sheet and a basin filled with water. The bugs are drawn close by the light, hit the plastic and fall inside the basin: there’s no escape! As described in #5, those bugs are sold in the markets.
#7 Siem Reap
This place is definitely one of the top destinations of the world: after having been there, I was ready to die because I was sure I would have never seen anything more interesting or amazing than Angkor in my whole life.
You can spend days exploring the temples and admiring the sculptures, or looking for the perfect shot or simply praying Buddha.
#8 Green and sky-blue
Our eyes were filled with the emerald green of the rice crops and the blue sky.
While travelling across the country, we were surrounded by this beautiful scenery of nature, people and water buffaloes.
In the monsoon season the nature is definitely at its best.
#9 Living on a lake
Tonle Sap is amazing: it is a lake that expands and shrinks dramatically depending on the season. In july it was huge!
All the private and public buildings are boats, some small some very big. People are used to living on boats and just follow the shore. It’s like a floating village always on the move.
#10 Street life
People spend a lot of time outside their houses, in the streets. They buy and eat the meals there, have their hair cut and stop by for a talk.
When they are home, they keep the doors open so they can see what happens in the streets. And sometimes their living rooms are inside the garage, so it’s like watching TV straight on the road.