February 28, 2012
It's 8 am and I'm sitting at the restaurant/bar on Koh Ru ("Bamboo Island") awaiting my breakfast. I was awakened today, as every day, by the sound of crashing waves. I do not mind this alarm clock at all.
Well, it's now March 9th, and I never finished that one. You can see how much the island life took over and I haven't done much except relax and enjoy life. Not complaining! I'm actually sitting in a hotel room in Vietnam now so I realize I've missed an entire country in my blogging. I'll try to catch up now.
KAMPUCHEA, land of the Khmer.
That's Cambodia for all ya'll who don't speak Khmer, the language and name of the people of Cambodia. If you read anything about Cambodia or ask anyone who has ever been, they will all tell you the same thing- - - Cambodians love to SMILE! What amazes me the most is that they are not only some of the friendliest, smile-ready people I've ever met (I mean they'd give me and Jen a run for our money for our "oh a camera's in my face" flashy grin), but they have such a haunting past.--a very recent past, that it inspires me to think how much they've overcome and yet how happy they are. Let me explain.
From 1976-1979, Pol Pot lead Cambodia and carried out his own version of the Holocaust. While seeking to create a new country from "Year Zero," he, and his child soldiers, the Khmer Rouge, systematically killed over 3 million people from a country of roughly 7 million. I'll spare you the details here, but please check out my photo album to learn more about the "killing fields" as it is called. Other sources of good information are the movie, "The Killing Fields" and the book "First they killed my father." To be honest, I didn't like the perspective of the movie much but I did enjoy the book and found it very informative.
Again, we're talking 1979 when this all went down. That means that anyone I met from age 31 and over lived through this terror. And yet, they love to smile, love to have fun, and love Americans. Inspiring to me. So, as you can tell, I found Cambodia to be very friendly. I was also impressed with how widely, and well-spoken English was throughout the country. I can honestly say that of all the countries I've visited on this trip, I found Cambodia to have the most English speakers (well, Australia and New Zealand might be close runners ups).
Other impressions on Cambodia—
*The electricity goes out—a lot (but usually comes back within a few minutes or hours)--I was told the government does this on purpose to regulate usage
*There is a constant shortage of menus in restaurants. They hand you one for about 25 people to share and guard it with their life. This is true in most of SE Asia as well.
*They like to wear pajamas as clothes. Yup, that's it. Not sure how to explain that one either.
*It's cheap (not Thailand cheap but nothing has been so far) but still cheap (like 25 cent beer cheap).
*They mostly use US dollars (although some border towns use Thailand baht but change is sometimes given back in Cambodian Riel. Like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, there are no coins, which makes carrying the money much more convenient.
It was both nice and not so nice to know what I was spending on things. I have to admit that using foreign currency, it sometimes feels like play money and doesn't really have the same impact as when I know for certain what I'm spending. Oh well, good thing it's only money. Speaking of money, ATMs can be hard to come by in Cambodia and charge $6 when used. I have to thank Canada for investing there because your ATMs are free, all over the country, and saved me a $6 fee every time I needed money. This is something that all foreigners and tuk tuk drivers know and it was common practice for a tuk tuk to drive you to a Canadian ATM on the way to anywhere else (all the drivers knew where they were).