Where to begin….Let’s start with the bus ride into Siem Reap, Cambodia. The bus from Bangkok was a pleasant 8 hour drive. Not bad at all. As we pulled into Cambodia we had to get out and walk through the departure line for Thailand, across the border, then continue walking into Cambodia to get our visa. Cambodia’s border crossing consists of an outdoor building and that’s about it. Once we are done we walked about a half mile to the bus and immediately were approached by a young girl with her hands together, puppy dog eyes, begging. Kids are taught to beg to the tourists. It’s horrible because you feel so bad. We sat on the bus and had a bird’ s eye view of the life of a Cambodian. They live in huts and walk barefoot. While we were in the bus, a girl came up to our bus driver begging (see pic below) he gave her some orange juice. Her little brother is in the background. Its all really sad to see and I can see why Angelina Jolie was compelled to adopt a child from here.
We met a girl from Chicago while standing in line and she was explaining to us that she just got back from holiday and is returning to teach elementary school here. She got her teaching certificate in Chicago and taught her first year in Cambodia. So of course we had many questions. The school she teaches at is an NGO. Which is a private school. What’s different about this private school is the couple who owns the Hyatt hotels built this school for Cambodian kids. They came to visit Cambodia back in the 90s and felt it was necessary to build a school ( which it is…we will get into that later). It has only been open for 7 years.It is pre-k to 12th grade and the Cambodian kids must take a test to get in (60 kids a year get in). They are then groomed in a modern high tech environment. All American teachers and all American curriculum (even American history). The hopes are to have all these kids attend American Universities once they are done. She also mentioned she made a visit to a typical Cambodian school and there is hardly any teaching going on. The kids just run amuck.
Now Cambodia facts. They use the US dollar here (it’s very weird). There is a 35% literacy rate. Half of the cambodian population is under 21. They speak Khmer and is one of the most ethnically homogenous nations in Asia, with 96% of its population Khmer. They are still recovering from recent war and a horrible leader. In 1975 to 1979 the Khmer Rouge period started ( Pol Pot) and they took over Cambodia.The four-year period cost approximately 2 million lives through the combined result of political executions, starvations and forced labor. Due to the large numbers, the deaths during the rule of the Khmer Rouge are considered a genocide, and commonly known as the Cambodian Holocaust. The Khmer Rouge took power at the end of the Cambodian Civil war. Khmer Rouge rule and the wars that came both before and after decimated Cambodia on every level. Cambodia became, and still is, one of the world’s poorest nations.
Now on to the good stuff! We absolutely adore Cambodians. They are so freakin cute. They giggle and laugh at every thing and are some the nicest people we have met. We hired a driver for the day ( $35 from 5 am to 6 pm…lets not even get into pricing here) and we want to steal him. If you make a Cambodian laugh…they are your best friend. We arrived to our hotel to cold towels and a cocunut drink. Then we were told we have been upgraded to a suite.
A living room, 2 balconies, 2 bathrooms, his and her closet, his and her sinks, soaking tub and rain shower! All for $37 a night!! Yes please!! The staff is amazing and wait on you hand and foot. It really is like being at The Ritz. Which is weird considering where we are.
Now on to the really good stuff!! The main attraction in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat and the surrounding the surrounding temples. You may recognize one (Ta Phrom) from Angelina Jolie’s movie Lara Croft: Tomb Radier. These temples are amazing. Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the World. Unesco Just held their annual conference here to honor the temples. Angkor Wat, which means city of temples, was built in the 12th century, and was originally about the size of Los Angeles. Needless to say, even waking up to see the sunrise there, we were only able to see the main temples in the complex. One sad thing was you get bombarded by little kids from them temples. They followed us all the way to the car! They say 3 for $1…as you get closer to the car. ..it’s 4 for $1. We couldnt help but laugh because it was something out of a movie. The last time we looked out the window it was 7 for $1. Hahha. In the pic she is holding 5 for $1. There are tons more pictures. We will most likely post them on Facebook shortly. Enjoy!