Southeast Asia Travel Day Five: We slept a little later this morning and still managed to beat most of our group down to breakfast. It’s so quiet and relaxed here. Even with the rush of people coming and going there’s still a peaceful air about things here.
After breakfast, we boarded coach buses to transport us out to the river that would carry us to the floating village on the banks of Tonle Sap Lake. There was one rather lengthy delay with traffic stopped in both directions due to road construction… just a subtle reminder of home.
Tonle Sap Lake. It was nice and hot by the time we reached the boat launch for our cruise around Tonle Sap Lake. There is a whole community that literally lives on the lake. Homes, stores, schools, churches and restaurants float near the shoreline. What’s really interesting is that they don’t use the water for anything–not even washing clothes– because it is pretty muddy and not safe to drink.
There was a young boy on our boat that gave nearly everyone on board a short back and shoulder massage. We were each encouraged to give him a dollar. He goes to school and this was how he helps support his family.
From the boat, we headed to a local restaurant for lunch before returning to the hotel.
Welcome Dinner and Show. Our last night in Cambodia, the entire group that came to Siem Riep for the BOTHS5 pre-cruise were together for the first time. About half were staying at another hotel nearby.
Behind the pool area at our hotel (Raffles) was an open air space with a stage. It was set up– with no better words to describe it—like a large wedding reception. Around the perimeter of the space were many food stations with different foods being prepared, similar to a buffet.
After introductions, the show consisted of young local performers sharing different forms of traditional dance. We recognized a few of them as wait staff from the hotel.
The best part of the evening was a pleasant surprise. We were reunited with a wonderful woman named Janet we met on the Baltic cruise two years ago.
Cambodian Takeaways. Dogs. I saw quite a few dogs in Cambodia. They all appeared to be descendants of the same breed. Dogs in Cambodia are not domesticated the way they are in the U.S. and can be seen wandering about and sometimes sleeping in the parks and streets. I didn’t see much interaction with people; they seemed to just coexist.
Bug Spray and Shorts. We were told ahead of time to bring bug spray for our excursions. It may just be the time of year but we never needed it. We were also told we needed to dress modestly; no bare shoulders and no shorts when visiting temples. As it turned out, this didn’t apply to the ancient ruins or any of the other places we visited in Cambodia. I didn’t even bother to pack shorts because of the advance warning and I really wish I had. With temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, I spent most days soaked in sweat and more uncomfortable than I needed to be.
A Proud and Gracious Culture. In spite of its shortcomings, Cambodians seem to be proud citizens. They are realistic and still thankful for they have. I never got the feeling from anyone we talked with that there was anger towards the government; or a sense of entitlement that so many Americans seem to possess. All the people we saw or met were friendly and gracious. Not one person ever responded with anything less than a smile.
Tourism is still a small but very important part of the economy in Cambodia. The people are well aware that it (tourism) is growing by leaps and bounds in other nearby countries such as Vietnam. A day didn’t go by without multiple people thanking us for choosing to visit their community.
It’s difficult when you visit other cultures and see people that work so hard and have so little—they might have little food or lack conveniences like electricity; yet they still seem happy and content. It makes you stop and reevaluate what you have and what you take for granted.