Flash back to two weeks ago and I am sitting on a warm and beautiful beach with the most ideal breeze blowing past my face while waves of blue and white ripple at my toes. As I sit here basking in God’s glory I remain shocked by my peer’s comment of “there is nothing in Cambodia.” Cambodia definitely has its fair share of issues ,such as mass corruption and a history of genocide, among other issues I addressed in previous posts, but to say there is “nothing here” is simply inaccurate.
Beaches are all over the world but what is unique about the beach in Sihanoukville, one of Cambodia’s coastal provinces, is the presence of Khmer culture even on the beach. Cambodian style restaurants line the beach offering Khmer barbecue and curries. Women come up to you selling fresh caught crab and seafood grilled right on the shore, and others come offering massages and pedicures while you lay in the sand. I never had a beach experience quite like that before.
Back in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling capital city, I experience wild tuk tuk and moto rides where the drivers follow no apparent traffic laws but still manage not to crash (at least not while I have been aboard so far, knock on wood). This city presented its fair share of obstacles for me and took me a while to get used to but once you get past the shock of it all, the fusion of western, Cambodian, and other Southeast Asian culture throughout the city is quite interesting to examine. However, I think that I’ve had the most rewarding experiences in Cambodia by not limiting myself to Phnom Penh.
The first province I went to outside of Phnom Penh was Kandal province, in which we had to take a ferry to get to. I went on a daylong bike ride with peers to the silk island and passed through Kandal on the way. We passed many temples displaying the uniqueness of traditional Cambodian architecture, skinny cows grazing on the side of the road, and convenient stores that sell fresh coconuts out front. When we finally arrived at silk island, it’s small “beach” presented a beautiful adventure.
And we found an old hotel tower to climb, in which we were able to view the vast lushness of the province. Not to mention being able to examine the difference between the silk making process in China to the process in Cambodia, expanding my understanding of simple cross-cultural differences.
The next province I traveled to was the old capital of Cambodia, Oudong Mountain. We traveled there on a rocky bumpy road, closely resembling a highway, with seven people packed into a five seat car and Beyonce belting ballads from my iPhone. That was an adventure in itself.
When we got to our destination, there were numerous booths selling unique Khmer food I had actually never seen before in Phnom Penh. To get to the top of Oudong mountain we hiked up over 500 steps and encountered some occasional monkeys who I assume live in the trees that lined the steps. When we arrived at the top, the view was so breathtaking that the 500+ steps and wild monkey encounters were immediately worth it.
It’s also worth noting that it was on this trip that I tried jack-fruit for the first time and LOVED it.
Last weekend I went to Kampot province with my friend who is currently studying abroad in China. Kampot is a beautiful province with so much unique beauty, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Each Cambodian adventure keeps getting better for me!
Aside from the adventures I’ve had, I’ve also made a few Cambodian friends who have unique perspectives and enlightening conversation.
For example, while I was in Sihanoukville my co-worker shared his thoughts on life and religion that are influenced by his cultural background and identity. And eating with him and going to places he recommended helped me gain an authentic Cambodian experience.
I was also lucky enough to meet a half black Cambodian girl my age who also lives in Phnom Penh! When we first met, we had an immediate connection and somewhat of a unique shared experience as black women living in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. She’s amazing and I am always eager to hear her perspective on things.
As I continue to meet new people, embark on new adventures, and triumph over obstacles, I am grateful for my experience in Cambodia as well as my experiences throughout the greater Asian continent. These experiences continue to expand my mind and mature my understanding of the world.