Cambodia Continued...

Continued from this Cambodia post. We had seen the 3 major temples and escaped only moderately dehydrated. Having had our fill of ancient history for a little while, we drove out of town to see a little more of the country outside of the temple walls.

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We purchased some rice cooked in Bamboo on the side of the road.

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We walked through a town precariously perched over water. Some villagers make their living fishing, some growing lotus flowers. Everyone but the smallest children working incredibly hard.

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As some of these stops were not tourist draws, we were only ones there - and quite the novelty to every passerby that shouted to us along the way. We expected to get the odd look or maybe even a harassed or asked for money. Its hard to describe the poverty level here. These people have almost nothing so I wouldn't blame them for giving rich foreigners with fancy cameras and a waiting car the evil eye. Instead we got the warmest smiles and welcoming waves by nearly everyone.

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On our final day there, we visited two more temples on the advice of our guide. The first, Bang Melea, was similar to Ta Prohm in that it was overrun by trees. But this one is not quite as well maintained. It has more of a wild feel than the others.

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And our last temple, Banteay Srei, was our least favorite. It was beautiful but it had recently been taken over by a commercial organization that sucked some of the charm out the experience. I hope this group will help preserve these structures and its the price of progress - but I can only hope the other temples don't suffer the same fate.

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Our tour guide, who is also the leader of a charitable organization that subsidizes schools (teachers make just $40 per month there!), asked if we would mind making a pit stop at a grade school to drop off some uniforms. Once again, the gorgeous children of this country surprised us with their charm and warmth. If I had known ahead of time, I would have brought pens or stickers but it was a last minute visit. So we purchased a big bundle of candy and handed that out. These children were so polite - the older kids made sure the younger kids had first crack at the candy and even the youngest children would only take one piece and say thank you.
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Despite the additional help, the schools are in pretty bad shape. If you'd are interested in learning more about helping or donating, check out the Ponheary Ly Foundation website.

Cambodia is a place I will not soon forget. Both its tragic history and its amazing citizens impressed me beyond words. I imagine it will be quite different in the not too distant future but I'm glad we got to experience it as it is now - good and bad. Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of our trip.

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21 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing what sounds like an incredible experience. I have never had the opportunity to travel outside of the US. THrough your stories and pictures you have opened my eyes to a beautiful country.

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  2. Your post, especially about the children was touching. My 17 year old daughter had an awesome experience with kids in Nicaragua a few months ago. Before she left we sent a suitcase full of small Beanie Babies & other toys to give to the kids when she was there. She also gave away much of her clothing, as well. Seeing the need in other countries really makes one grateful for the abundance that we enjoy in our country.

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  3. My brother was in Cambodia two years ago and like you was totally charmed by the people. After reading your posts I think it will have to go on our travel list. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Those little kids are so cute! Your pictures totally capture so much feeling and emotion of each place you visit. You make me want to pack my bags and leave right now :)

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  5. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Your photos of the children are so heart warming. Great post! Doris

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  6. I absolutely love your pictures! Thank you for sharing. Cambodia has been on my list of places to visit soon (precisely for the same reason you have) and I can not wait to experience it all for myself. It sounds like you had a wonderful time.

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  7. These photos are amazing + it looks like an incredible trip. It reminds me of past mission trips. Thanks for sharing this!

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  8. Such beautiful photos. You really captured the feelings of those children. Beautiful, just beautiful.

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  9. Beautiful yet haunting. You always capture so much through your images.

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  10. What beautiful photos! The children make me want to reach out and hug them. I only hope one day I can take a trip such as this. What a great experience.

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  11. When I was a little girl, growing up - I always scoured every issue of National Geographic and thought wow - those photographers must have fun. Now I think that about you.
    pve

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  12. I find it amazing that you go to such exotic lands. The children are beautiful.

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  13. I love the pictures of the children, you captured them beautifully.

    I'm a long time reader of your blog via google reader but just became a follower via friend connect! Your blog is so inspiring, love it.

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  14. What a great experience. I'm pretty sure you've learned a lot from that trip.

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  15. Lovely. Simply lovely. And I have to ask (and hope you'll reply!)... what currency did you use while you were in Cambodia? Before my visit several years ago, I had been following the exchange rate and was looking forward / expecting to use their currency, the Real. I was so disappointed to discover that we were expected to use US Dollars! Even the bank wouldn't sell us Cambodian currency. After all that, I would have loved to have seen it. So... did you, by any chance see, use, or keep it?

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  16. I am so incredibly jealous of you right now!

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  17. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Oh my goodness, the pictures of the children are superb. If you ever doubted your talent as a photographer ........doubt it no more!!!!

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  18. Wow, what incredible images. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    xo,
    cristin

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  19. Amanda Cott12:19 PM

    I know I'm way late to the posting, but in the midst of planning a trip to Cambodia and curious how you found your guide and what mode of transport you found easiest in country.

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