This is a guest post written by Juliette Lebas. She is originally from France but is currently studying at BUIC (Bangkok University International College) in Thailand. Juliette has a passion for travel and new experiences and we are happy to have her as a guest blogger for Wonderlost! Learn more about Juliette in her interview with Eva here. Enjoy!
In March, I went to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for 5 days. It was a short trip between two weeks of classes but I wish I could have stayed longer. Of course it was enough to see Siem Reap and the Angkor temples, but I would have loved getting to know more places and of course the culture. But these 5 days were already enough to make me love this country, its people and its wonders.
On the first day, after a short night of two hours sleep, we went to see the sunrise at the Angkor temple, where we spent almost 8 hours walking around and visiting amazing temples. It was really different from the one I saw in Thailand, which was great as it made me discover something new. However, it is obviously a place crowded with many tourists which make it lose a little of its magic.
A thing I really hated and broke my heart is these three kids, probably between 3 and 5 years old, walking around the restaurants trying to sell you souvenirs. The oldest one of them was the only one talking to us in English, saying sentences such as “We made these bracelets ourselves, only $1 please ma’am”. When we actually tried to talk to them, we found out that they only knew a few sentences by heart to sell their products, but were not able to say anything else. We also saw their parents inside the restaurant keeping an eye on them, making sure that they were trying to sell their things.
We also saw these two really young kids, probably around 2 or 3, looking for food or things they could use in the trash. It was heartbreaking to see kids that young trying to survive in the middle of all the tourists passing by without even looking at them. The day after, my friend Anna and I decided to go to a floating village (as it was dry season it wasn’t exactly floating), one hour away from Siem Reap. When we got there, we realized that contrary to the rest of Cambodian people, the people of this village were not able to speak English. However, they had the biggest smile on their face and were always willing to greet us or even let their kids play with us. These people were living in crazy conditions and yet were never complaining about anything and always smiling. This was the biggest lesson from my exchange so far. Seeing these people willing to share a moment, a smile, a laugh, and always ready to give to the others despite their living conditions made me realize how life was supposed to be lived.
In a more general way, Cambodian people are some of the nicest and funniest I met in my life. They are always messing around, making jokes, smiling, laughing, talking to you and so on. They don’t have the “commercial smile” some Thai people can have (“Oh you’re not going to buy this? Suddenly my face looks a lot more harsh, funny uh?”) and are taking every chance they got to spend a great time. In Siem Reap, they see thousands of tourists every day and yet they don’t get bored of it and will always be nice and respectful to you.
Anna and I also went to the War museum where we saw all the weapons, tanks, planes which were exposed in a field. Our guide lost his whole family (except his grandmother) during the war and had a lot of emotion in his eyes when he was talking about the history of his family especially. It was really hard to hear his stories, to look at the pictures of the victims and to realize how short ago the war happened.
When I say I felt in love with Cambodia, I should say that it was more with its people and their way of mind, because even if Cambodia was an amazing country (and I hope I’ll go back one day to see more), what really got me is the people’s sympathy and constant good mood. I would definitely recommend you to visit Cambodia, it’s both an amazing country to see and a great life lesson to learn.
PS : Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of pictures from this trip, but you can find the full video on my YouTube channel.