I want to share with you some of my experiences from my recent journey to Cambodia … what a journey it was..
Even a week seemed daunting, this was something I had never done before. A new place, new people, a new challenge. I grabbed it with both hands and went in head first, I still think now that’s the best way.
I was so excited yet extremely nervous, but these were good nerves. The thought of a new adventure was so thrilling and once I had packed, re-packed, emptied everything out in a huge pile on the floor and packed (AGAIN) – I was finally able to set off on my journey to South-east Asia.
Gathering my excited yet sleepy teachers together and heading off to the wonderful depths of Heathrow was just a drop in the ocean of the up and coming 7 days!
Wow-what a marvellous place! The heat is what I noticed first, Cambodia is extremely warm! (Please consider this when packing). You will always need to carry water and drink at least 4 litres a day. This may seem a lot more than your usual but you will need it. It’s so important to remain hydrated because you will be losing a lot of water through sweat, phew!
The grinning cheery face of our lovely Asia director Rory was our next encounter! Whisked away for lunch and a stretch of the legs was a godsend.
The food in Cambodia is ace! If you like flavours, rice, noodles and lots of scrummy fruit and veg – you’re in for a treat. You will never go hungry, a lot of the restaurants also have a ‘western’ option, but I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone – you won’t be disappointed!
Have you seen a wonder of the world? Angkor Wat was my first insight into the interesting history of Cambodia, oh my what a place! The world’s largest religious monument really is a true beauty. The monks that stroll the grounds going about their daily duties are fascinating and I was lucky enough to be given a blessing by one which was magical to say the least.
After experiencing the Kulen Mountains and National Park, another beauty, we visited Camp Beng Mealea where Han greeted us with his big grin and gave us a tour of the camp. It was brilliant, so clean and comfy and the staff are just as wonderful as the country, you won’t see a grumpy face!
We took a stroll around the outskirts of the camp and popped into a local community centre full of excitable Cambodian children from the nearby village practising their English and working together. The chorus of “Hello’s” and sheer volume of smiley faces all squashed together on wooden benches was both heart-warming and wrenching. With just one teacher and a lack of resources, it was these moments which make you really appreciate what you have and why you are on expedition.
Considering the living conditions of the villages, visiting a school at playtime completely blew me away. Never have I seen so many happy, smiling faces! The children were so pleased to see us and have some new friends to play with, laughing, squealing and running around. With a tear in my eye and a few muddy footprints later, you realise that money really can’t buy you happiness and these children know no different. They make do with what they have and enjoy life as much as possible. Something which will stay with me forever.
From the wooden rickety living conditions to a Royal Palace! What an interesting place, learning about the history of the kingdom that is Cambodia as you walk around the compound full of bright flowers and glistening gold statures. Wondering how the communities surrounding the palace walls think of this over exuberant home of the king.
Visiting the genocide museum S21 followed by the famous (for all the wrong reasons) ‘Killing Fields’ was a heartbreaker. The Khmer Rouge regime isn’t something I learnt about at school, but I wish I did. To fully understand what Cambodians went through and the turmoil they faced is impossible for an outsider. You would never believe these smiley, happy, inviting faces and their ancestors are the victims of such wrong doing. The way the people of Cambodia are living and coping now is admirable and something you have to witness yourself to really appreciate.
I have been so lucky to visit such a great place and the journey I took will stay with me forever. To anyone lucky enough to visit such a place or considering visiting, you must. It’s not up for debate, do it! Get fundraising, get on that plane and explore the extraordinary country that is Cambodia.
Until the next time…