Hello all! Coming to you on a very balmy night (about a million humid degrees) with no mosquito left hungry. Jaime and I are covered in whelts from their incessant hunger for Westerners! Our travel buddies, Tobi and Valentina, so graciously recommended Tiger Balm as an anecdote which has worked wonders. Nonetheless, my ridiculous whelts - sometimes twice the size of a quarter - continue to be a reason for local Cambodians to point and laugh. At this point, I'm used to it
So, since we last touched base (after visiting the temples of Angkor Wat) we had one last night in Siem Reap and spent it going out to dinner with fellow travellers and indulging in FANTASTIC 30 minute foot massages for only $2.50 each! We both found it amazing after days and days of being on our feet. We then took an early morning bus to Phnom Penh, which was quite a bizarre experience. We kept joking that we were the only travellers that we had heard of who hadn't yet made it on a scam bus. Well, we finally made our way on a scam bus! The bus forgot to come pick us up at our hostel, then we had a strange bus change just out of town. We stopped at rouge roadside markets/toilets every 100km so that the drivers could make a commission on our purchases there. We also stopped in front of random people's houses along the way to pile motorcycles and people in the lower compartment of the double decker bus, where it was well over 100 degrees with no air conditioning! Luckily, though, we made it to the capital city in one piece and found our new home until Wednesday, Okay Guesthouse, which truly is just ''ok''. They "arrange" for your transportation and charge extra to make a couple of bucks, make accusations that you haven't paid for things and they even lost 2 of our socks doing the laundry! I just remind myself with a smile - it's all part of the experience
Our time in Phnom Penh has been pretty intense. The people here are very poor and constantly trying to get money out of you - the tuk-tuk drivers, children holding newborns, beggars missing limbs, the whole bit. It's quite difficult to see how many of these people live. We had an encounter with a boy probably about 10 years old who was sniffing glue from a bag, eyes bloodshot and he had a hard time walking. It was heartbreaking. There is also an abundance of people that are blind and missing limbs from landmines. Shocking fact: There are still 6 million landmines in rural areas of Cambodia that have not been excavated! (Don't worry Mom) We have been extremely careful to stay on the beaten path and we are nowhere near these areas since staying in the big cities. Yesterday we toured the main prison run by the Khmer Rouge and The Killing Fields where the Cambodian genocide took place in Phnom Penh only 30 years ago! There were still bones and clothes remaining from the mass graves that have been dug up, but there are still many graves have yet to be unearthed. Again, it was truly heartbreaking and shocking that the human race is capable of such gruesome acts - and it was so recent!
On a lighter note, we just had our first real drip coffee from a "westerner type cafe". Typically, southeast Asians serve instant Nescafe which, if used to the wonders of Seattle coffee, is just terrible. I am in a very happy place right now because of it
We have one last full day in Phnom Penh before taking a boat south to Ho Chi Minh, Vietman. We scratched our plan to go to Laos for the ecotour we planned to take in the jungle (so spontaneous, huh?) because it is really out of the way. We get to keep travelling with our new friends and save 4 days of travelling in the meantime! Laos has officially been added to our list of places to visit later. As an American, we think it will be a great experience to visit Vietnam. Many of the travellers we met say that Vietnam is not to be missed. Saigon - here we come!
Thinking of you all - Kym