Our visit to Cambodia was an interesting experience. I never really managed to get a grip of the country, I was confused, to say the least.
Cambodia was to me a country full of contradictions, and although I was happy to leave I would like to return again some time to see more.
In the end, these are the travel experiences that I treasure the most. The country made me love it and hate it at the same time.
These feelings are hard to write down or to explain to others, and often I can’t quite point out exactly what made me feel so great or bad about a place.
But here are some impressions that for me sum up a bit about the Cambodian people:
1. The Women Wear Pajamas All Day Long
Really, it’s not a pajama-looking outfit, they actually are real pajamas with teddy bears and everything. They wear it as casual outfits, and not just at home but sometimes even at work on the street.
When they dress up, they wear the most amazing outfits.
There was a wedding in a village we stayed, and for some reason most of the men seemed to stay at home or at the shop while their wifes went to the wedding – they looked absolutely stunning.
2. They Eat Anything!
Thick, juicy fried spiders in broth? No? How about some cockroaches?
This is no joke, no tourism stall for eager people to try disgusting things – this is real.
Deep fried tarantulas is a common snack all over Cambodia on the streets in small villages and markets in Phnom Pehn.
I’m not just talking about yucky things when I say they eat anything, it’s things like empty, plain baguettes: I’ve never seen plain baguettes without any topping being so commonly consumed and enjoyed as much as here.
3. They Speak English Very Well
I was surprised to see how many people spoke English so well, some even spoke with an Australian or American accent!
Kids, tuk tuk drivers and random people, they all spoke English really well in the cities.
Nathan was wearing broken glasses (better than nothing when it’s that sunny) on a bus from Laos to Cambodia, and no-one noticed until we crossed over into Cambodia, then a few 20-something guys on the bus noticed and thought it was SO funny – they couldn’t stop looking, and laughed for like 15 mins!
This was one of many situations in which we found Cambodians laughing at things we in the West wouldn’t at all consider funny – it was as though they had the same humor as an 8 year old – which I think was so great to see.
That freedom to just let go, be curious and laugh at anything was one of the best things about the Cambodian people, and it’s something which I think is lacking in the West.
5. The Country Has Not Recovered But The People Move On
I thought I knew more than I did, and seeing how the country has far from recovered from the horrific recent history was difficult to deal with.
The people have been betrayed from so many different sides, both from their own people as well as others.
The impact from the land mines was sad to witness, and so was Tuol Sleng.
But despite the fact that the criminals behind the Khmer Rouge still haven’t faced any consequences for their actions, and despite the fact that 45 people died from old land mines in 2010 – the people seem to want to leave it all behind – and forget…
Despite all the terrible things done to these people, they still put up such a bright face.
They smile and laugh often, but the ways they dealt with confrontation made me wonder.
Are they suppressing it?
While we were there the Thailand/Cambodia border started shooting at each other and people were killed on both sides.
Our tuk tuk driver told us the same night, in a very strange way. He laughed about it, nervously, so we had to ask him if he was telling us the truth – he was serious for a moment, but then he smiled and laughed again.
I wanted to ask more, but it was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about it.
Have you been to Cambodia? what were some of your impressions of the people there?