Ah, Cambodge! What can I say about you that hasn’t been said a thousand times before?! Well, maybe a few words. If you insist, Internet, if you insist.

I will never get tired of taking pictures of palm trees. NEVER.

I absolutely loved my Tet vacation to Vietnam’s southwestern neighbor, the Kingdom of Cambodia. This was my first time just goin’ to another country, checkin’ it out, you know. This entailed all sorts of new things like border crossings and currency exchange.

I mean, look how close I am to Cambodia! I’m practically there already, might as well go see what’s what, right?

I’ve got a ton of photos, so consider these next few entries in the blog my finally getting down on paper the memories, moments, sights, musings, and observations that I made over the course of 8 days in early 2014.

One more thing – I wanted to add some more history into these, but virtually everything I learned was after I visited. To give you a sense of me when I took these pictures, I’ll keep the historical commentary short and relevant, and try and let my pictures speak for themselves.

So dim the lights, make yourself some rice dish or whatever you’re into right now, and click through…

It had been a very crazy and stressful week prior to Tet. I almost considered skipping the trip altogether. I’m glad I didn’t. What followed was 8 days of deeply-needed unwinding on what felt like a cellular level.

No-‘Nam’s Land… the state between the States. That state being sunny.

I ended up traveling with my friend, Erin. Our leg of the journey was a 10 buck bus ride to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Our plan was to travel light and stay in a hostel for that first night, before heading up to Siem Reap.

It was a six hour bus ride. I regretted not bringing a book. Hey, look! There’s the Mekong River – the same Mekong that goes by Saigon and into the Vietnamese Delta!

Serious. Tuk Tuks everywhere. Export this shit.
The countryside looked a lot like Vietnam – the most visible differences are the architecture, the written language, and, once we got into the city, the tuk tuk drivers.
Let me take a minute to just hand my praise to the tuk tuk! These are basically rickshaw cars attached to a motorbike. They can hold up to four people and rates are reasonable. I wish we had them in Ho Chi Minh City! They are fabulous.

Speaking of rates, here’s some of the money I spent upon disembarking – notice the USD! That’s right… Cambodia’s de facto currency is good ol’ greenbacks. The ATMs all give out either Cambodian currency or bucks. It was a rude awakening to see just how fast I could spend my money on vacation!

We stayed in a hostel called Me Mates Villa, just a block from the palace grounds and two blocks from the river. It was very comfortable, and only 5 bucks a night! I can see the appeal, for sure.

At some point in the next year I’m hoping to do some traveling myself – now that I know what a fairly nice hostel is like, I’m eager to take a longer trip! Gotta bust out that backpack I love so much…

We only had one night here in the capital, so we decided to walk around and find some food.

This was a sprawling campus opposite one side of the palace grounds (which had a huge wall around them). We couldn’t figure out what it was…

…until we got to this sign.

Either construction, or a rehearsal for Stomp: Cambodia. But seriously, this was my first visible indication that Cambodia was a different beast from Vietnam entirely. Over the coming week I would come to understand that almost no aspect of modern life has escaped unscathed from the 20 years of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Regime.

Look, a pretty house! I can’t resist a pretty building. I don’t even know what this structure is.

We couldn’t enter this huge plaza we passed, but these statues in the center begged for me to take a picture. They were but a taste of things to come….

I hope running through pigeons is fun for always!

Just one shot of the expansive royal grounds.

I lied, two shots. Take a gander, plebeians.

The river walk and central plaza were a magnet for nannies, food vendors, fishermen, children, and foreigners. More of this unique architecture, in my current favorite colors! Coincidentally, these are Tet colors, too. Smaller, functioning buddhist temples adorned it on either side, with people making offerings by the time we strolled past again in early evening.

The river hosted most, if not all, of the flags of the world. I don’t know if there was any order to them.

These two kids were messing with a turtle they had caught. Like Southern Vietnam, water is a strong part of daily life for many Cambodians. In this country, however, it goes to 11… as you will see in my next entry!

This was my experience in Phnom Penh. We didn’t go to the Killing Fields or visit a museum – it was almost dusk by the time we got there – but the vibe of the town was a great way to start our vacation. It was laidback – a softly babbling brook after the Level 5 rapids that HCMC can sometimes feel like. After dinner overlooking the river we found a bookstore (they’re everywhere here!), bought a couple books (Erin: First They Killed My Father, Me: The Book Thief and Stamping Butterflies – TBK=yupreallygreat, SB=meeehhhhhhhhyeahoknotsuperbutitsscifisoIgiveitapass), and headed back to the hostel.

Since our speedboat (!) to Siem Reap left at 7am the next morning, we headed back and relaxed before an early bed. We were on our way!

Stay tuned for a speedboat trip up the biggest freshwater lake in SE Asia, and The Real World: Siem Reap Edition, coming soon!