As promised, for those of you who didn’t fall asleep in part 1 of my Asia adventures, here is the second part about my favourite place I’ve been to so far – Camp Cambodia! (shorter I promise!)
On the 24th September, after a long day of travelling from Borneo to Cambodia (MORE flights!!), I arrived late afternoon in to Phnom Penh…I must admit, after seeing the view from the plane when coming in to land, I was starting to wonder if I would need to canoe around Cambodia… it was the rainy season!
I obtained my visa for $25 and headed through to arrivals where I was met by the legend that is Bunlay, the Country Manager for Cambodia. It was great to finally meet him and hear some of the history as we headed to our accommodation in the city. We then headed out for dinner so I could settle in and I experienced my first ride on a Tuk Tuk! The heat was more intense than Borneo, so I was pleased to experience the breeze!
The next morning I was up early, ready for breakfast, as the day started with a trip to The Killing Fields. Having read all about the history and the tragedy that was Khmer Rouge, this was top of my list of things I wanted to visit whilst in Cambodia. I was given the audio tour and went off around the site alone which was an incredibly emotional experience and absolutely pulled on my heart strings more than I imagined! I shall mention at this point that all the tourist sites I visit on my trip are incorporated in to your Gap Year programme, so I won’t go in to too much detail so you get the full experience yourself!
Next stop was a short drive to the nearby S21 prison (Tuol Sleng Museum) which was where some of the prisoners were kept before being transported to The Killing Fields. This was a very eerie place to visit as there is still the torture equipment/beds/cells/chains still in tact, and you can learn all about the awful things that happened here. I’ll keep it at that though! On the way out I met with one of the survivors of S21, Chum Mey, who was there selling his book all about what it was like from his eyes, this was also very emotional and surreal to meet someone who experience these terrible things! Word of advice, if you want to read his book then do buy it here…I didn’t and regretted it straight away, I then paid a lot more to buy it at Siem Reap Airport.
So, moving on from here Bunlay and I started our journey towards Siem Reap, and time to visit my first camp…well, I suppose it can’t all be touist attractions…
Camp Beng Pae!
After a drive down a very long road off the beaten track, we arrived at Beng Pae. This is our newest Camp in Cambodia and was constructed in time to be used for the summer. It is a really good size camp with 2 big sleeping houses at each side. Behind the camp is the forest, which is pretty cool. There are lots of plans to develop this camp so we will see a lot of progress over the upcoming months! There is a tree nursery that we have started here, so part of the projects will be collecting the seeds from the forest and planting them, then when they are big enough, plant them back in to the forest. It’s also about a 15 minute walk to the other projects from this camp. The projects are working at the local school to repaint the buildings, refurbish classrooms etc and building houses in the local community. The current houses are starting to fall down and are quite small for an entire family.
We then had an overnight further towards Siem Reap before the next day visiting my final camp in Cambodia…
This was our first camp in Cambodia, and you can tell it’s been around for a while as it feels like home when you walk in! Again, slightly off the beaten track and opposite a temple, you come across this amazing place amidst the forest! Here we were greeted by Han the Camp Manager, who is awesome! I was shown around and really wanted to stay here. I was then shown the accommodation which is a really cool traditional longhouse before we headed to explore the current project. A short distance away we were in the community where the main focus at the moment is at the School. It’s not in terrible condition, but the teachers make excuses not to turn up and teach as they don’t have accommodation, so at the moment this is what we are building from scratch. Our volunteers are working very hard on it, and we are hoping for this to be finished by the end of next year. Bunlay would also like to create an area where the kids can play etc, as it’s quite overgrown at the moment with just a small swing and climbing frame. There is also some cool activities that you do at both camps I’ve mentioned, There will normally be around 1 – 2 hours allocated to making the local crafts such as bracelets and basket making. In Beng Mealea something I found super cool is when you arrive, you are blessed in the local temple by a Monk and given a lucky bracelet! Beng Mealea temple is nearby to explore as well, which is part of your programme! (Of course, I visited here too!)
I was then then taken back to Siem Reap to stay overnight, as the next day was the final day of my trip, and my oh my was it the best day I could hope for! I was picked up at 5am and taken to no other than Angkor Wat temple to watch the sunrise! Around 200 tourists and I gathered at the water in front of the temple to watch this beautiful place light up as the sun rose in the sky – and I bagged a front row seat #keen. This has to be one of my favourite sunrises to date as it was such a magical place to be. I even stopped cursing how early it was for a good half an hour I’d say! The rest of my day was made up of some more fun stuff and visiting the other Temples; Bayon & Ta Prohm with a cheeky souvenir trip to the market (hint* take spending money here and haggle away!!!)…I’m sure you don’t want me to brag about that though and ruin your experience so I shall end things here. I had my final dinner at Pub Street and had a lovely meal where Angelina Jolie had also eaten, popped for a quick massage (They do go hand in hand, honest!) and tried to get to sleep as I began the long flight the next day. At this point I tried to stay awake as long as possible so I didn’t have to face the reality of the UK the following day. Booooo my trip was over.
To sum up my trip in Asia, I can honestly say it was the most unforgettable experience of my life, and worth the 3 year wait to go and visit! Both Borneo and Cambodia will have a special place in my heart, and so have the people I met along the way. I sincerely hope I can go back again some time in the near future. Thank you Camps International!
Thanks for reading!