Working in the travel and marketing industry has opened my eyes up to more places that I had ever thought about visiting, Cambodia being one of them. This was a country I had never given much thought to … untill I had to research and write about this unique destination for work. After one paragraph on Siem Reap; I was hooked!
So after spending ten amazing days in Vietnam, my friend and I boarded our Vietnam Airlines flight and flew off into the night sky, bound for Cambodia. What happened next was a huge surprise! 10 minutes after taking off, we flew right into a tropical storm.
Once the lights started to flash and the plane started shaking, I tried not to panic by turning to the calm older English man next to me reading a book about Buddhism, who was obviously enlightened by this whole experience.
Needing reassurance I asked if he was frightened. To my astonishment he calmly responded, with no expression “Well we are all going to die one day, aren’t we” and resumed his reading.
I looked at him in disbelief, when he added “At least it will be a quick death”. Clearly that was not the kind of reassurance I was looking for. I concluded then that the best thing was to put my headphones on and let Bob Marley sooth away my fears.
As we slowly moved away from the storm, the turbulence stopped and we started our descent into Siem Reap. My friend and I smiled gratefully at each other as the wheels touched down on the runway. As we disembarked, I wanted to kiss the ground! Our guide met us as we walked out of the airport and took us to our new home. Needless to say we slept quite well.
The next day, was one I will remember forever. Waking up at 6.30am, in darkness we made our way to the iconic Angkor Wat. Among the sea of people, we watched the sun begin to rise and cast a mirror reflection of the temples in the water; it was the most spectacular sight and one that is only seen in postcards.
We spent the day at Angkor Wat, weaving in and out of the ruins and watching monks in awe as they walked around in orange robes taking selfies with their phones.
We learned about the kings, queens and other residents that once dominated these temples. Each structure had ancient drawings embedded into the Bas-relief, which told a story of historic times. It was fascinating and enlightening, even in the oppressive heat.
Exploring temples wasn’t the only thing on our list and after participating in Live Below the Line with Infinity Cares a few years ago, I was well aware that there were Cambodian Schools that needed assistance. Loaded with stationary and books for the children, we made our way to The Spitler School, located in a small village just outside Siem Reap.
Chea Sarin, the School Principle came out to meet us and after introducing ourselves, he started to tell us the story behind the School. The school was established in 2005 after Chae, (a local tour guide) met a couple from the USA, Danny and Pam Spitler. It was always Chae’s dream to build a small school in this village and after sharing his dream with the Spitlers, they decided to contribute the funding to help get it started.
After the school was built Chae focused on the next part of his dream; A computer room for the children. This is where we came in. He took us outside where small children with big smiles, looked at us in awe. After producing two buckets of red paint and brushes, we spent the next couple of hours painting the shell of a computer room. Even in the very hot sun, it was an incredible and rewarding experience.
After three incredible days in Siem Reap, it was time to move onto our next destination. We boarded the Giant Ibis Bus and 7 hours later, we arrived in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. Our breath was taken away as we approached the gates of the Phnom Penh Hotel. The hotel looked more like a Palace. Wow!!
The evening was spent eating, drinking and shopping at the markets and I have to say, compared to the rush and excitement of the Vietnamese locals, the Cambodian’s were a lot more subtle; some not even concerned about us at all, which was a breath of fresh air. No loud “You want a tuk tuk” or “I give you a good price” which meant we were able to wander around in peace.
Two days later, it was time to leave this unique but beautiful country. Our guide picked us up and started telling his story. How he had survived and escaped during the Vietnamese War, by walking all the way to the Thailand border in the company of his brother, who was the only other survivor of the family.
It was such a wonderful experience, little did I know that at the time of writing about this intoxicating destination, it would be even better off the page.