Siem Reap (vacation part III)

11:52 PM Jmo 0 Comments

Because sleep is for the wicked, it was an interesting and early start to the day. The night previous we booked our airport bus reservation and had good enough sense to pack up our Thai treasures so we'd be ready to hit the road. At 7am Kate and I gathered in the lobby of our hostel with a few others and waited for the van. We sat there in groggy silence only to be startled by a huge Thai man standing inside the automatic door frame. The group of backpackers, and even the hostel staff, just looked up at his massive belly with a doe eyed look. "AIRPORT!", he exclaimed. Ah, yes. Of course we were to be getting into this man's van. Yes. Of course. So we get in and pick up others from various hostels along the way. Kate and I noticed that the word "airport" became less and less articulate and intelligible with each stop. "Airport!" slowly became "Aiporre!" which then turned to "Uhhpuht!" It made for a fun ride.

Thai airport security was strange. We never really felt like we made it through any official checkpoint or immigration cue. We just made our way to the gate really. Which was nice. Our flight was only 45 minutes after all. And a fabulous 45 minutes it was! (I swear every Asian airline I've travelled with so far has been great. The only US airline that beats them is Delta.) Kate and I were deemed responsible enough to be seated in the emergency exit row. With Fight Club quotes abound, we were even fed. Niceuhh! The Siem Reap airport was also a security breeze. Kate and I were a little nervous about this because we chose to purchase our visa upon arrival (The Kingdom of Cambodia requires that you obtain a tourist visa to enter the country.). But it was super simple and the Cambodian immigration officials even had us jump to the front of the line past a huge group of tourists to process our passports. Strange. But we weren't complaining!
We left the airport and were greeted by a wall of tuk tuk drivers all holding up signs with last names on them. There was even a Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery! We searched for a bit to find Kate's name, then boom! There he was: Mr. Dorn. We didn't know it at the time, but our tuk tuk driver would be an essential and adorable component to our time in Cambodia. Love at first tuk tuk? Maybe. More on that later...
Our first tuk tuk experience was amazing and well worth the wait. Our cruise from the airport to downtown Siem Reap took about 15-20 minutes and the entire time you couldn't help but feel like you were on an amusement park ride. Arriving at our hostel our bodies were full of even more endorphins because of how beautiful this place was. Walking along the path up to the front desk was like walking through a little jungle oasis. Full of statues, flowers, and hammocks to rest weary travelling legs. To finish our "check in" we were escorted to the hostel restaurant where we were given free drinks, snacks, and a suggestion to schedule our free massage. Yes, this place was amazing. "Splurging" on $14 a night never felt so good. A member of the staff took us up to our room on the second floor and we were blown away once again. Our room was beautiful. We had our own balcony, beds covered in fresh orchid petals, and a bathtub. That's it. I'm never leaving. My mind immediately went to the future. I could just...quit life for a couple months and live here, right?

Before we left for the afternoon, we swung about in the hammocks for a couple minutes just because we could. We pulled ourselves out of the netting and decided to head into the main part of the city in search of food. Cambodian food! I've never had it before so I couldn't wait to try. Downtown Siem Reap was adorable. It was definitely set up to appeal to European tourists, that's for sure. But it still had a charm all it's own. We decided on a little cafe restaurant amongst the cobblestone alley cross-streets. We dove right in and tried amok. Amok is a traditional Cambodian dish of fish, vegetables, and coconut milk cooked inside of a banana leaf. So good. We paired it with rice and a Cambodian beer for a whole $3. A draft beer was fifty cents. Really. Paying our bill was another eye opening experience. We tried to pay for out bill, together, with a ten. They were scrambling to make change. The restaurant just didn't have the money. This was the only time this happened either.
We sat outside along the street to take in some first impressions of Siem Reap. It wasn't long until we were approached and the brightly painted faux-European cafe streets began to show their true underbelly. We were tourists, obviously, so we were targets. Kate was approached by a young boy trying to sell her books. After some time she finally gave in and bought a book on the Killing Fields. He worked so hard to get her $5. He asked where we were from and not a breath later after saying we were from the USA he began reciting facts. "USA. Captial: Washington DC. President: Barack Obama. Population: 314 million..." It was heartbreaking and was the first of many begging children we encountered. You couldn't help but give in.
After lunch we walked around the local markets and encountered more. In Thailand, sure, they would ask you to buy things. But in Cambodia it was a whole different story. Every stall we walked passed we were being asked "What do you want, lady?", "What will you buy?", "Buy something please?" It was a constant stream of "Sorry, no thank you." pouring out of my mouth. And I felt like a horrible person. How could you choose?
We walked around for a bit more and came across this storefront lined with paintings. Selling paintings to tourists is a common thing in Cambodia, come to find out. Families work together to produce pieces to sell and the work is quite beautiful. Sure, some were a little formulaic but they were truly great and honest pieces. Some of the brushwork was truly fantastic. We looked through dusty stacks of stretched canvas paintings and I decided to buy a couple. At $10 a piece how could I not?! The woman selling them was beautiful and demure and walked about the store with her daughter. From the two paintings I bought, one was painted by her husband and the other was painted by her uncle. So great. Kate bought a couple bags from her and the little daughter brought back her change with two hands open faced. Too cute.
We stayed out a little longer but we were tired and decided to head back. But, where was back? Where were we? Siem Reap got us a little turned around. Kate and I prided ourselves on our sense of direction when it came to navigating around Bangkok, but when in this city we were lost. We tried to familiarize ourselves with landmarks: The Night Market, Pub Street, etc. but still no luck. We were lost and everything looked the same. We walked a little further, thinking we knew the way to go, and we were abruptly stopped by a rougher looking neighborhood and a pile of rubble. Nope! Wrong way. After some internal debating and a couple bruises to our ego, we decided to hop in a tuk tuk to take us home.
We arrived back to our hostel with a couple moments to rest before our scheduled welcome massage. The massage was...interesting. Apparently every country in South East Asia has their own style of massage regardless of how close they are in proximity. In Cambodia they focus on the legs. Let's just say that if I would've of know that I probably wouldn't of been wearing shorts. Also, there was a lot of slapping involved. haha A good nights sleep was in order. Especially considering we hired our tuk tuk to take us to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise at 5am the next morning. -"Don't. Stop. Me. Nooooow!"

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat was nice but it wasn't as surreal as I thought it would be. I thought it would be this truly awe inspiring moment for me. But really, as I stood there watching it surrounded by hundreds of other tourists, I realized I just wanted to be inside exploring! Enough of this looking at it business. Let's go get our Indiana Jones on!
We walked up the stone walkway to climb the stairs to the entrance of the temple. It was fantastic! Every surface was carved in beautiful relief. There were pictures of gods and goddesses, animals and plant life, mandalas, khmer, and even some Chinese characters. I loved it. What I loved even more was the fact that you essentially had free reign to walk whenever you wanted throughout the temple. There were no ropes or glass. You had the feeling that when walking into a room you were the first person to be there since it was a functioning temple. It felt so exploratory. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and I was stepping foot inside. I felt privileged and humbled. It was a photographer's dream. Kate said that it was impossible to take a bad picture. So true. Everything was beautiful. Every facade provided the eye with something new to take in. So great.
After exploring Angkor Wat, Dorn insisted that we head over to this restaurant inside the temple grounds. He didn't seemed extremely impressed with it when we asked if it was good and something we should do. But I think it was something that most of the other tourists did and he was confused as to why we were questioning eating there. So we went. It was a strange fusion of Chinese food and foreigner friendly options. The food was forgettable...the bathroom experience however was not. I stood in line next to this elderly lady who looked like she lounged regularly next to her Palm Springs home while summoning over pool boys. She didn't feel like waiting any longer so she went into the Men's. When she came out she looked at me and said in her gravely smokers voice "Oh, go on honey. It's clean." Ok, why not? As I stepped forward to go in, a bathroom attendant hurled a huge bucket of water that he just filled up from a basin into the stall. Well, alright then. If it wasn't clean then. It was now! The entire placed was soaked and it made for a rather interesting time.
We paid our bill and hopped back in our tuk tuk to Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom was my favorite temple in Angkor. To get to the temple you had to cross a bridge and pass underneath an incredible archway with a carved face atop the pediment. Lining the bridge was statue after statue; guards I'm sure. Dorn dropped us off and drove through to the other side to meet us so that we would have ample photo taking time. We met him on the other side, hopped back in, and went up to the temple. As we got out he gave us both a bottle of water and sent us on our way. Angkor Thom (or the Bayon), like I said, was my favorite place in Angkor. This was truly the surreal playground I was looking for. The facades of the temple were also covered in relief carvings as well but they seemed to be more narrative rather than iconic like Angkor Wat. The ruins were also more open to the air. Climbing and exploring here felt just as adventurous. The Bayon is known for the large faces carved into the stone throughout. My favorite part.
Leaving the Bayon you could walk around the kingdom grounds of Angkor for hours; visiting ruin after ruin. They were extremely well restored and kept which made it even more amazing that we pretty much could go wherever we wanted. Our last temple was our last "must see" to check off our list. Angkor Phom became recently famous because of one of the Tomb Raider movies. I've never seen it, but I've seen the temple grounds online and couldn't wait to see them in person. Angkor Phom is famous for it's trees. Trees have grown out of the ruins, pushing and displacing stones in their way to create incredibly beautiful organic masterpieces. And wouldn't ya know it? My camera was dying! And my phone! Kate's was too! Therefore, I was dying.
Leaving the temples were rough though. After each temple there were little shops and stalls set up to grab tourists. As you walked passed, or at least tried to, you were approached and at times surrounded by people trying to get you to buy everything from drinks to postcards. Groups of children would come up and stroke your arms, tell you how beautiful you were, and how they needed a dollar to go to school. It was hard to resist and hard to look away. But you couldn't help but feel that they were trapped in some form of child trafficking and to support it was wrong. But then Kate and I thought, in this immediate situation, is it better or worse for this child to go back to their employer empty handed? Needless to say, I came home with a postcard. I couldn't help it. Group after group came up to us. And at one point Kate and I were literally surrounded by girls trying to sell us bracelets. "3 for a dolla! 5 for a dolla! 10 for a dolla!" What really kicked me in the stomach was that some of the bracelets had the American flag on them. It's hard to explain what Kate and I were feeling. We made it to our tuk tuk and Dorn was laughing at us. I think he could tell we were a little shook up but I'm sure he was used to it. We took off for our last temple and turned around to see that the girls were now chasing us on their bicycles. Unreal and truly heartbreaking. Kate and I needed a break. It was time to head back to our hostel for a bit... But! Before we headed back we stopped at another outdoor cafe to have lunch. We were constantly being approached again and again and I started not being able to handle it so well. I didn't want to ignore anyone, really I didn't. But if you talked to every single person that came by, more and more would come because they would see an opportunity. It was difficult and exhausting. But then a man came up to us in a wheelchair and I couldn't ignore him. He had a pile of paintings on his lap to sell and he couldn't be more excited to show them to me. I engaged him and Kate couldn't help but roll her eyes. "You're not going to make it here!" She was right. At this rate neither of us would survive long in Cambodia.
So the man started showing me his work. I didn't look, but I'm assuming he was in the wheelchair because of a land mine injury. Many of the people we were approached by were. We saw men without hands, eyes, or feet. Some of them led through the streets by children. But this man was a little different than the others. He seemed just as excited about showing me his work as he probably was at the thought of making some money. He was adorable and goofy. Looking through his work, I noticed a little theme. They were all self portraits in a way. He painted a little icon of himself, in a wheelchair, in every scene. He was getting more and more excited at I flipped through his work. Then we stopped at a piece and he said, "That's me! That's me and a monk!" It was so cute I couldn't help but have a little fun. "That's you!?", I said pointing to the little wheelchair figure with a smile. He became even more excited and reiterated the fact that, yes, that was indeed him and a monk. Well! That one was sold. I thumbed through some more and found one for my Uncle and he leaned in and said that he'd give me a discount if I got three. Kate looked at me. And I said, "Ok! This one!" All three of us laughed. All for different reasons: One out of disbelief. One out of acceptance of a soon to be empty wallet. And one because he was about to rake in a decent amount of dough. I handed him the money, his eyes darted about quickly to make sure no one saw, and he stuffed the money into his shirt and left.
We headed back to our hostel for a bit to reflect and gather what energy we could for the night. Kate fell asleep, sideways on her bed, with her phone in her hand. And I opted to take advantage of having a bathtub for the first time in 5 months! It was a let down. The water was ...warm at best. And it smelled like copper. Though! I did have a nice flashback of staying with my family and dog in a tiny U.P. motel room. haha Coming out smelling like a penny...
The both of us emerged from our comatose states and made our way to the balcony. Our balcony. We sat out there for a couple of hours drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and spotting lizards. (Kate's secret talent by the way.) The sun went down and we decided to head out for some nightlife and dessert. We ended up at a restaurant called Triangle. It was at an amazing rooftop location near Pub Street and was called 'Triangle' for a reason. It jutted out into the intersection below like the point of a triangle. Such a great view. So we ate (I had a small sampling of traditional Cambodian desserts.), drank, people watched, and made friends with our waiter. His name was Ti and wanted to know where we were from and wanted to practice his English. So cute. The people of Cambodia are some of the sweetest you will ever encounter. By far.

The next morning we had another early start. We met Dorn outside around 7am to begin the trek to the 'Floating Village'. It was far outside of Siem Reap, but the drive out was incredible. I don't think we could've experienced a more authentic view of Cambodia. (From the safety of our tuk tuk at least.) We passed by bright green marsh fields contrasted by the saturated red of the dirt road. We passed by children standing by the roadside and little villages the seemed to sprout up on whim. Some of the children waved, some smiled, and some even danced as we passed by. We made it to the ticket station and it was the last outpost until we reached the Floating Village -which was still 4km away! Not that far I know, but this road...psshhh. Saying that the road out to the village was "dirt" would be a white-lied-compliment to the road. I'm sorry road, but you were awful. Kate and I were worried about Dorn's tuk tuk. We thought we were going to break an axle. And if we did! We were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by marsh and mangroves, and a rocky 4km walk back to the last station. Adventure! Well, long story short, we didn't break down. We made it there and were quickly escorted to our own private longboat. We were lucky enough to have Dorn come along with us for the ride.
The 'Floating Village', impossible to explain. I feel like any attempt I make will fall short but I'll try. To get to the village we went through the murky waters of a narrow river lined with fishermen. As we passed by, the men would stop working with their nets and follow us with their eyes until we were out of sight. I didn't know whether to look away or smile awkwardly. I'm sure I did an embarrassing combination of the two. Once we reached the village we were greeted by an olfactory experience like no other. The smell of polluted water, fish innards, and whatever else lurked along the shoreline permeated you. The houses, or settlements, themselves were constructed out of scrap materials of all kinds, hoisted up onto stilts: hence the name The Floating Village. There was an overwhelming amount of children compared to adults. Many of them were working as if they were adults though. Towing boats, mending nets, gathering sticks and other materials to no doubt use to fix a home. The children were stunningly beautiful though. Incredible features and such kind faces. As we passed by, much like on the roadside, some would wave and some would even say hello! But one little group of children wading in the water shocked Kate and I. As we passed by they smiled and...wait for it, wait for it... Gangnam Styled. Yep. I can not make this up. Pretty adorable.
It was an incredible experience. Kate and I sat silent for the entire tour. We just took everything in. Reflecting on our privileges, judgements, and world views no doubt. How could you not? Travel makes you a richer and better person; it makes you realize things about yourself. It puts things into perspective that you may have never realized needed putting into perspective.
Once we made our way through the entirety of the village the river flowed out into a massive lake. We sat out in the middle of the lake for a while, bobbing up and down, with the engine abruptly turned off. When that engine turned off, I must say it was a "Have you talked to Dan?" moment for me. It was unexpected and the calm that was brought on afterwards was erie. But we sat there for a bit longer and it turned out to be calming and beautiful. Dorn asked if we wanted to eat at the floating restaurant just at the inlet of the river. We said yes, but the language barrier turned our "Yes" into a "No". Haha, oops. So we made our way back through the village to get to our tuk tuk. But as we headed back we encountered a boat full of Asian tourists. It was a pretty full boat and we noticed children started flocking from the banks of the river. Boys, girls, some were naked even, running towards this boat. Then we saw why. The tourists were throwing packages of Ramen at them. By the handful and taking photos. I didn't know how to feel about this. Sure, it was food. But did they have to throw it at them like animals in a zoo or chickens being fed feed on a farm? No. The children were in arms reach. And I'm sure they would've made an effort to be even closer knowing they were going to be given something. I don't know. Something about the whole scene just... bugged me.

Once we left, we tried to make our way to The Bayon to ride an elephant but we had to reschedule for the morning. With our morning planned we headed back to our hostel for some more decompression and a good old fashioned "time-out". We headed out to Triangle again for some rooftop people watching and ...Korean lessons?? Our waiter, whom we met the other night (Not Ti, but a different man.), was an amazing sweetheart. He genuinely wanted to talk to us and enjoy company together. We ended up talking about Korea (Cambodia gets their fair share of Korean tourists.) and he knew some Korean phrases. We taught him a few more and even managed to toss in a little bit of French in there. I can't stress enough how cute he was. Oh! And I almost forgot. Haha. As we sat down, he complimented us on our choice of view. He even said, "And ah yes, you can even see the bee." The bee? Like, there's a statue of a bee somewhere? Kate and I scanned the skyline only to find what was right in front of us. There was definitely a HUGE bee hive nestled into one the rooftop trees opposite of us. We started laughing and our cuteness of a waiter said, "Not angry bee." Ok. We will take your word for it.
We spent our time on the rooftop with some Angkor beer and an artistic game Kate came up with. (Note: if you think Kate and I were just walking around Cambodia hammered all the time -not the case. It was hot and humid. We sweat it out. Don't worry.) Anyhoo! Kate's game was to snipe the best photo you could from our rooftop vantage point. The first category was 'Best Facial Expression'. Kate won. She, in a very Pulitzer Prize winning National Geographic kinda way, managed to capture a man (a fellow foreigner) flipping her off. Someone caught on to our game and wasn't pleased, haha! The next category was 'Abstract'. I won that one with a woman's face obscured by an overhead neon light. Fun game. I must remember this.
After Triangle we met up with some friends from Korea who happened to be traveling through Cambodia as well. We went to a famous foreigner bar called Angkor What? Get it? So clever. Anyways, this place turned out to be pretty ridiculous. All young walks of life that you would imagine to be traveling through Cambodia strolled through there at one point or another during the night. Let's just say by the end of the night I held a praying mantis, wrote my name on more surfaces than I can remember and came home with a free t-shirt because someone thought it would be a good idea to buy a bucket of gin and tonic. That night, the Cambodian climate did not save me.

The next morning, our final day, we woke up a little groggy and thinking [Angkor] What happened last night?? (Sorry. I had to.) But there was no time to question the activities of the night previous because we had an elephant to ride. Dorn whizzed us away in the tuk tuk once again to Angkor Wat. We parked and Dorn walked us over to buy tickets for my final bucket list check mark of this trip. We climbed up a set of stairs to a platform anchored by a tree to climb into our "elephant basket" -I guess you could call it. The basket was mounted onto the shoulders of the elephant and our guide sat around his neck. The guide steered the elephant by nudging behind his ears with his bare feet. The ride was rocky. More rocky than Kate and I anticipated. Rocky to the point we thought something wasn't quite right. We looked around at a few other elephants and patrons and noticed that...their ride didn't look so intense. But Kate and I just laughed it off; thinking that our peaceful morning elephant ride should turn into a roller coaster befitting of us. But then things got a little scary. Our elephant decided to veer off the path, stop, and back up. As he was backing up he started making these chirping noises which meant he was upset about something. I thought to myself: "Ok. If he rears up. We're dead." Our guide seemed just as worried. but he managed to nudge him back on to the path. But then he did it again and started throwing leaves and dirt around; making the same noises and this time side-stepping off the path. Just as scary. And then, for the final nerve-racking moment of my dream-come-true elephant ride, he veered off the path again and headed towards a tree. He stuck his trunk up into the leaves to, what appeared to be, eat some leaves. At the exact same moment Kate said, "Aww, how cute!" he wrapped his trunk around a branch and proceeded to pull the entire tree down. Limbs were splitting and snapping and the trunk was cracking. Cracking right next to us with the potential to land on us. Our handler finally got the elephant to let go and head back towards the path. Kate and I were full of nervous (what the hell just happened) laughter. Our guide was even laughing. So we made it to the end of our route and hopped off. I tried to get a photo with our disgruntled friend but even that was a little risky. Enough excitement for one morning. Of course though I was concerned for the well being of these animals. I would never want to support anything that I believed to be harmful to these little guys. They all seemed well kept and fed. Our guy was just not having it that day.

We headed back to our hostel to check out. It was a sad event, but it needed to be done. I had an appointment at 11am with my tattoo artist so we made our way there after having one final lunch in the hotel restaurant. When we paid for our restaurant bill we wanted to tip the staff. Kate handed our main waitress two dollars and she was so overwhelmed that she couldn't take the money. She froze, clinging to her chest. The bus boy behind her was looking at her like she was insane, no doubt thinking to himself "What are you doing?? Take the money!" But after some awkward exchange we split up the two dollars, giving one to the bus boy and one to the waitress. Just another moment that cemented the people of Cambodia forever in my heart.
My tattoo artist was a cool guy. He was a French expat, covered in nautical tattoos -including! a shark on his wrist done in an old school sailor style. Yep. It was meant to be. I got a Mamma and baby elephant on the inside of my light bicep to represent my Grandma and I. Watched, protected, always carrying her with me. Wherever I travel to. Like I've said before, she would've loved traveling. The work took about an hour and a half and the pain really wasn't too bad.
With no hostel to return to, we bummed around town a bit more in the hot sun. We stopped at a little cafe and had smoothies and one last fresh spring roll plate (4 for 4). Falling in suit with every other street side meal in Cambodia, we were approached. But this time it was extreme. A man, lit a hoop on fire with kerosene, and tumbled through it. He jumped once, blew out the flames, and came around with a bag asking for money for his performance.

Kate and I were spent and couldn't take walking through another market having to turn down vendor after vendor. So we opted to sit down and rest on the bridge between the two markets. We sat there for a couple hours at least. We watched children play in the river, speculated as to the nationality of tourists, and enjoyed some moments of silence. At one point a boy and his little brother, shirtless shoeless and covered in crumbs and dirt, walked over to me and asked me for a dollar. I was down to my last two so I said no and that I was sorry. They skipped away a little upset, but made their way to another group further down the bridge. Of course I felt like an ass. But in my head I thought, ok, I just go a tattoo, I'm baking in the sun right now, and I will probably need at least some water at one point today. Our plane wasn't until 10pm at night. But Kate and I watched the boys further down the bridge. The other group they approached gave them a bottle of water and they pranced away clutching it. Dammit. Those two boys weren't working for anyone. For all we know they may only have each other. I immediately regretted my selfish water thought. Luckily, an hour or so later, they came back through the covered bridge. They looked at me but remembered that I said no the last pass through. But I called them over and said "Here! Dollar?" The lit up. I handed the big brother the dollar and he jumped up in the air, spun around, and held it up like it was Simba from the Lion King. Him, who I assumed was his little brother, and their friend danced away off the bridge and across the street. I couldn't handle it. My eyes welled up.

Our time resting on the bridge gave us a little energy to walk around a bit more to take in the last bits of Cambodia. We ended up going to this extremely cute cafe that we passed by before and vowed to return. It was called Old Wooden House and was situated in a cute little alleyway. It was essentially an "old wooden house", raised up on stilts, surrounded by hammocks and seating made of palm tree trunks. We were the only ones there and sat underneath the house in a couple of hammocks. I spent my last dollar on a coconut and Kate bought us two shots of Cambodian rice wine. The flavor names were pretty complex (mango-lime-something-rather) and the drinks themselves were really sweet. A black and white dog darted around the grounds climbing on tables and sniffing out his next meal. It was another quiet moment. Another moment to look back on all we've seen and done. Another time to remember that we've only been gone a week.
The sun set but it still wasn't time to leave for the airport just yet. Kate and I we're hitting the point of  exhaustion and I'm not going to lie, my tattoo wasn't feeling the best. We spotted a cafe across the street that looked interesting and advertised air conditioning. Sounds good. The interior remind us both of the Milk Bar scene out of A Clockwork Orange. Everything was white and mod and the side wall had a full length chase built into it where people could lay about and drink their shakes. The air conditioning felt good since my arm was...kinda on fire. It definitely didn't feel good and I didn't feel good either. I was a sweaty mess with plastic wrapped around my arm. Blehh. But a man sat down next to us, noticed my tattoo (he got one that day as well) and introduced himself. He completed our interesting cast of characters that we met on this trip. His name was Fernando but his last name (which I can't remember) was Japanese. He was born in Japan but grew up in Brazil. He now works for a Brazilian travel company which organizes tours and he is essentially their "worldly tour guide". He accompanies groups of tourists to destinations around the world for work. He speaks Portuguese, English, and claims that his Japanese isn't on par -though I doubt that. Oh yeah, and he's been to 35 countries. He was incredibly intelligent and interesting. After he was done with his Cambodian tour group he was going to travel around South East Asia for a couple weeks by himself. People like that amaze and inspire me. Life's too short not to travel South East Asia for a couple weeks, right?

To add to the emotional monsoon that was Cambodia, as we walked back to our hostel to meet Dorn and head to the airport, we passed by this little open air school. The children were learning English by singing Wonderwall by Oasis. As we were walking by all of a sudden we hear 20 little voices chime in with "Today is gunna be the day that they're gunna throw it back to you..." Absolutely adorable. And the last straw to be pulled to officially open the flood gates. We listened for a bit and confirmed that yes, one day we will come back and volunteer as teachers. We had to.

I almost forgot about Operation Bun! How could I?! Ok, Operation Bun was a covert operation designed by Kate and I to not only give Dorn a big tip upon departing at the airport, but also give him a... cinnamon roll. haha! I don't know. At some point in the trip Kate and I decided that we felt kinda awful having Dorn drive around all day, dropping us off at restaurants, and what not and we never saw him eat once. So at first we thought we'd invite him to eat with us one time. But he was so shy and timid that we thought that might freak him out more than anything. So I thought, hey, one day let's just bring food with us in the tuk tuk and we will all share together. Good idea, but there was never really a moment to do so. So, we ended up with Dorn's cinnamon roll. In Kate's purse. So, as we headed to the airport we confirmed that Operation Bun was a go. Affirmative. *radio static* Deliver the package to the target.
We pulled up to the airport and had a really sweet goodbye. We wanted to keep in contact, as did Dorn, so we exchanged names and low and behold we are all friends on Facebook now. Kate handed over the bun and tip and Dorn said that he hopes we come back next year. Ughh. I hope so too!

That was our trip. Amazing, incredible, eye-opening, humbling, enriching. I would do it all over again.
But I'm home. I've been home. ("Korean" home. Sorry Mom!) Everyone that I talk to about this trip are shocked that it was only a week. As am I. It felt like forever. A good forever. We just packed in so much and experienced so much. I wouldn't have it any other way. Til next time!
For my next vacation I'm looking into Nepal. Or Japan. Or Singapore. We shall see what the summer holds! Can't wait.


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