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Adventures with John & Nina – The Unbelievable Country of Cambodia

by Nina Sabin ~ Travel

As with many of the countries we have visited, we start by praying for the location God would like us to experience. Then we go to a world map and visually see the location. Now, there is google maps and even google earth to find the location of countries, but in 2005 google maps was just starting and we didn’t have access to that technology. Through traveling we are becoming experts in geography.

Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Since we have visited all those surrounding countries; Cambodia was the next logical place to visit.

With each of our journeys, there is always something that stands out in our minds from our experience with that trip. For Cambodia, that was all the incredible Wats (Buddhist and Hindu Temples). Throughout our adventure we visited many famous Wats which I will go into more detail later in this blog.

The first city we visited was Phnom Penh. This is the capital of Cambodia. The main attractions for tourists to visit in this city are: Silver Pagoda; also known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha, the National Museum; where there is over 5000 pieces of history and it is the repository of the Kingdom’s cultural wealth, and located on a man-made hill twenty-seven meters high in the middle of Phnom Penh is Wat Phnom. The surrounding atmosphere with fortune tellers, mystics, faith healers, and elephant rides is what makes Wat Phnomso unique.

Before leaving Phnom Penh we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the Killing Fields. This is definitely a place that John really enjoyed exploring. However, it was not that something my girls or I wanted to see, but there was a beautiful stream for us to walk around. While the girls and I were checking out the nature around the stream, John viewed the many skulls that were piled high in the 17-story building in the center of the Killing Fields. There are over 8000 skulls of the 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves; many of them transported here after detention and torture in Toul Sleng. This place is a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

Instead of traveling on the road, we decided to take a ferry from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Along the way we saw scenic views of the Cambodian rural life along the riverbank. The boat wasn’t exactly what we expected. All seats are inside and you felt like you were in a sardine can, but we could look out the windows and once in a while we went to the steel door to look out and get fresh air.

Unfortunately, our youngest daughter had a fever and was not doing well when we arrived in Siem Reap. For those of you know when traveling, sickness can happen and can affect your plans. The blessing of being overseas is you can get almost any medication without a prescription. After we arrived in Sim Reap and met our guide, he took us to the local pharmacy and we bought Penicillin. Within a few days of rest, liquids, and antibiotics our daughter’s fever subsided. Praise God, because you never know what you may contract when traveling. Though we do know when going to other countries we need to check ahead of time what inoculations are necessary; for Cambodia, it is important to take Mefloquine to avoid Malaria.

As I mentioned earlier, Cambodia is known for Wats.  The most famous one is Angkor Wat. It is so majestic when you view it.  Had any of the main temples, especially Angkor Wat been built anywhere else they would be as famous or as visited as the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the Coliseum or the Pyramids of Egypt. Angkor is without doubt one of the most breathtaking architectural masterpieces left standing in the world today. Without witnessing them first hand, it is impossible to gauge the enormity of the structure. Everything is built on a massive scale and one can only imagine the awe felt by ancient visitors when the civilization was at its peak. Angkor Wat is a legacy of the might that was once the Khmer Empire, a detailed history of which has been carved into the many walls of this fortified temple of the Wat.

Angkor Wat was only one of the amazing places we saw while in Siem Reap. Not too far from Angkor Wat is Phnom Bakheng. It is certainly the highest temple in Angkor. To get there, you need to climb up a small path during 10 to 15 minutes. The mountain side of the path is full of spider nests. We saw this huge spider (banana spider) our guide just walk passed it and said it is great boiled with rice. Later, we found many of the meals entailed some type of bug for protein. Our guide said one of his wife’s jobs was to take the termites off of their hut during the day for their family dinner.

Once we arrived at the top, we had to climb stairs and then finally we were on top of the temple. From the top we saw the splendid panoramic view of the forest and the surrounding of Angkor park up to Siem Reap. On the way down we had a rain storm, all we had with us was a large umbrella that the three of us shared. My youngest daughter was already down the mountain sipping tea with the guide. She has always been a much faster hiker. If you remember Romancing the Stone movie, at any moment we thought we would slip in the mud and slide down the mountain in a mud slide, just like Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

Before finishing this blog, I wanted to share about two other interesting temples we visited and the paths around the temples. Ta Prohm was where Tomb Raider was filmed. It was so incredible to be at a place where this movie was filmed. I could just imagine being Angelina Jolie doing one of her scenes. The other temple, Beng Mealea, was where the Two Brothers movie was filmed. This is the movie of the two tigers who were separated a young age. There are trees overgrown throughout the temple. We actually had to climb walls to get around this temple. I could envision the tigers moving throughout each of the chambers. One thing we had to be careful of was staying on the paths to the temples. If we didn’t, we could have stepped on landmines. Landmines were placed throughout the area to avoid enemies. It was a fascinating experience to explore these amazing relics.

One last note, when going to Cambodia, be careful not to order anything with cheese. We order a pizza and an omelet both had what they call fish cheese. It actually had tiny fish heads in the cheese. It is definitely something we are fine with never tasting again.

Stay tuned for our next blog, It’s All Greek to Me.

Don’t forget if you are planning a trip to check out our itineraries.

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