22nd of February, Zurich Airport. The air around me is filled with excitement and uncertainty – the good type. I hugged my mom goodbye and took my friend’s hand, as we walked through security. Whilst boarding the airplane to Phnom Penh, I though of this big adventure that lay ahead of me. I could not put into words how excited I was. After so many months of counting down the days here I finally was; in Cambodia.
For the longest time Cambodia had been a country I desperately wanted to visit. The motivation to do so came from an acquaintance of mine who had fled the civil war in Cambodia in 1979. Not seldom has she talked about the escape from her hometown Battambang. Despite the fact that her escape was the complete opposite of pleasant, she has never stopped talking about the beauty and simplicity of her homeland. And her tellings have not failed to draw an extraordinary picture of Cambodia in my mind. Pictures that soon turned into reality.
Good to know
From 1975 until 1979 Cambodia was torn apart by the then ongoing civil war. The totalitarian leader Pol Pot forced his people through a very extreme reshaping in order to reach his economical goals. Bluntly said, Pol Pot starved his civilians to death and exploited his violently conquered country of its pride.
The aftereffects are still noticeable in for example the country’s poverty, lack of well educated teachers and clean drinking water. Nonetheless, Cambodia is a very proud country. The people are extremely humble and generous. Both my friend and I have experienced nothing but impeccable guest friendliness hence why we felt welcomed anywhere at any time.
Traveling through the „Land of the Khmer“
Our itinerary took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap down, to the islands Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, up to Kampot and Kep, and then back to Phnom Penh. Our route came about through conversations and tips we had received from other backpackers. We calculated roughly one week per city. Through this route, we were able to experience city life, visit museums to learn about the country’s history, have relaxing beach days and go out into nature.
Personally, I would have loved to stay longer in Siem Reap and Kampot as those cities were breathtaking to me. Siem Reap’s temples are even better in real life than in the pictures. Adding to that, we met many friends there through the nightlife scene. In Kampot, we rented out scooters to visit Kep and the National Park, both very calming and nurturing places.
Along the way I have seen a lot of the country’s facets. Street vendors selling the most exotic fruit, cafés vending delicious teas and markets luring tourists with good deals. Tuktuk drivers maneuvered their vehicles through the crowded streets of the big cities and young kids were running up and down little alleyways. There were dogs and kittens at every corner and friendly elderlies smiling from their restaurant entries.
I loved visiting Cambodia. My first trip without family so far away from home could not have been more amazing. To a certain extent, this country, so different from the one I am from, feels like home to me. Nostalgia and a bit of sadness overcome me everytime I see a picture or think of a memory. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The people I have met, the places I have traveled, and the things I have learned along the way, I will remember forever. Core memories that will last a lifetime.
The most eyeopening trup I took was probably to two schools in the rural areas of Siem Reap that I would like to elaborate more on in my upcoming article next week.
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- 550D43C2-6721-4E80-9FDD-4563BB005F37: https://www.indietraveller.co/cambodia-travel-guide/
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