Category Archives: Cambodia

Battambong, Cambodia

Instead of spending the night at the seedy border crossing (into Thailand) of Poipet, I went to Battambong, which was rumored to  be a beautiful river town along the way.  To my surprise, as I arrived around 5pm, the entire town was closing shop.  The women in the markets were packing up their produce, shops were locking up, and traffic nearly ceased to exist when the sun went down. 

Luckily, I had a few hours during the daytime to rent a tuktuk and explore the countryside.  What I saw was a slice of Cambodian life that I hadn’t been able to see or appreciate in any of the larger cities: families producing rice noodles, women making delicious sticky rice in bamboo, and of course, the Cambodian delicacy: the rotten fish market.  I spent the day taste testing my way through the villages…until I arrived at the rotten fish market, at which point I went home to get ready for Thailand.

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Nonprofit Spotlight: Cambodian Landmine Museum – Siem Reap, Cambodia

At age 10, Aki Ra was initiated as a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge and tasked with laying mine fields.  At age 14, he defected and began working with the Vietnamese to undo the damage of the Khmer Rouge regime.  With an estimated 6 million landmines actively remaining in Cambodia, Aki Ra’s life’s work has been demining the Cambodian countryside and establishing the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Fund to show the world the consequences of war.  Behind the Museum, off-limits to tourists, are several dormatories, where Aki and his wife house, educate, and take care of dozens of children who have been maimed by the remaining landmines.

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Siem Reap & Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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It was a long bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, but a nice change to see the countryside instead of flying from city to city.  Along the way, I stopped at Tonle Sap Lake — the largest lake in South Asia — to see the floating villages.  On the lake sit hundreds of buoyed houses, schools, and stores that comprise the Cambodian and Vietnamese fishing communities known as the “floating villages.”

After so many bustling cities, Siem Reap was a breath of fresh air.  Partially owing to the fact that it is entirely walkable and that no building is allowed to be over 5 stories high, it is a charming city that is filled with large markets and small boutiques, local eats and upscale restaurants.  Siem Reap is also the gateway to the magnificent Angkor Temples.  I spent nearly two full days temple-hopping and didn’t even come close to seeing them all.  My favorite was Ta Prohm, famous from Tomb Raider; it reminded me of the Jungle Book.   The temple had been deserted for about 100 years and the jungle has reclaimed the man-made complex as its own.

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Nonprofit Spotlight: City Cycling Tours – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

City Cyclos provides a great way to see Phnom Penh while supporting a great cause.  I took a one hour tour of the city via cyclo — a bicycle with an attached carriage.  The cyclo drivers were formerly homeless; this organization provides them with not only employment, but also shelter and  health care education.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Cambodians call it “the city where heaven meets hell.” On the one hand, Phnom Penh is a beautiful city; it sprawls along the river, with wide, tree-lined boulevards and French colonial villas. But on the other hand, Cambodia’s dark history of genocide and civil war is never far from the surface ; it is especially apparent that fewer than 3% of the population is older than 65.

I cannot appropriately address my visit to the Tuol Sleng Prison/Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. However, I will note that I had a chance opportunity to meet a survivor of the S-21 prison, of which there were only 7 (of 21,000 prisoners). His name is Mr. Bou Meng and learning his story helped me better understand what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime and the subsequent years of civil war.

One of the most inspirational aspects of Phnom Penh is the number of nonprofit organizations working to rehabilitate the city. One such organization is Friends International, which runs a number of social enterprises including several restaurants that train former street children. I had dinner one evening at Romdeng, located in the gardens of a french villa, which specializes in Cambodian cuisine – including crispy, deep-friend tarantula with garlic-lime dipping sauce – yum!

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March schedule

March travel plans are nearly finished:

  • End of February – arrive in Israel to attend my cousin’s wedding on March 1st
  • March 3 /4 – fly to/arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
  • March 5 – Hanoi, Vietnam
  • March 6-8 – trekking through the hill villages of Sapa, Vietnam (Cat Cat, Ta Van, Cua May, Su Pan)
  • March 9 – Halong Bay, Vietnam
  • March 10-11 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • March 12-13 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • March 14-16 – Sieam Reap/Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • March 17 – Battambang, Cambodia
  • March 18 – Bangkok, Thailand
  • March 19-20 – Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • March 21-23 – Yangon, Burma
  • March 24-27 – meet up with a childhood friend, location TBD

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