I was sad to leave calm, simple and beautiful Laos. But it’s time for a new adventure. This morning I flew into the capital of Phnom Pehn Cambodia. We have come during the start of the Water Festival. Cambodia’s biggest annual festival. During this huge party the city of Phnom Pehn doubles its population.
Where did I stay?
The streets were packed with backpackers, locals and tons of street children. It was very overwhelming. To add to the chaos of our visit to the capital we were introduced to Cambodia’s dark history.
Cambodia has a sad and secret past. Until only a few years ago the country to locked down. No tourists, no press, nothing. Wild the world turned on, Cambodia was in the midst of a mass genocide. Over two million educated, elderly and “different” Laotian people were brutally murdered by the Khmer Rouge. We visit the ‘Killing Fields’ mass graves and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. We even met one of the survivors of imprisonment. It was all very chilling. especially because it only ended a decade ago. While walking through the Killing Fields you could see teeth and bones eroding from their graves up through the top soil. It was very sad and eye-opening. People can truly be evil to each other.
Before dinner Sam and I went out to explore the Water Festival. It was insane. Extremely crowded and loud. We saw fireworks and dancing. Then witnessed the water boat parade. It was a great site, but we both felt on edge the whole time. I was pretty worried about pickpocketing because everyone was packed so close together. There were also many beggars and it was very heartbreaking.
Because of the Water Festival the restaurant that Contiki usually takes tours was closed. So we went to a similar place where former disadvantaged youth are trained in hospitality. It was a strange…strange dinner. Our restaurant was right on the river and we were seated partially outside. The entire meal we were surrounded by poverty, street kids and beggars. It was really rough. I don’t think anyone really enjoyed their meals. It’s hard to eat when there are starving people staring at you.
Afterwards I was walking back to the hotel with some of the boys when one guy gave $10 to a street kid selling bracelets. Suddenly we were surrounded by a horde of street boys all selling bracelets. They all wanted American Dollars. When I said I didn’t have any I was harassed by the kids. Then it became so overwhelming and scary that we all started running back to the hotel. Once inside we thought we were safe…but the kids were sharking around the hotel. Flipping us the bird and tapping on the windows.
Needless to say we were all to traumatized to go out again that night.
Welcome to Cambodia!