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Don’t Listen to Anyone Who Says “Stay Away From Cambodia”

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


We debated and debated during our travels through Laos whether or not we should go to Cambodia. Before leaving the U.S. way back in Aug., we were dead set on going, but once we arrived in southeast Asia, many other travels told us to skip the country-such a shame. We have only been in Cambodia for five days, but we have loved every minute of it. I’m so glad we decided not to listen to other travelers and go with our gut feeling. Cambodians are some of the nicest people we have met during our travels. Yes, there is a lot of poverty. Yes, there are a lot of beggers, but you can’t really blame them. This country has only been on the mend since the year 2000. They are working hard to get tourism back on track and it’s a shame when anyone discourages people from coming here.

We arrived in Phnom Penh in the early afternoon (we took a flight from Laos) and suffered a bit of culture shock with the fast pace way of life here. Much different from Laos-there were cars and mopeds and tuk-tuks everywhere. Traffic was unbelievable. In theory, they should be following the same driving rules as the U.S.-drive on the right, yield to on-coming traffic, etc. Not the case. Besides overloading the scooters…five, sometimes six people per scooter (amazing to see), most of the time they were driving into on coming traffic, down the wrong side of the street. No one abides by stop signs, it’s only a “suggestion” to stop. Mostly, they just slow and swerve. Surprisingly, the way they drive just seems to work. We never saw one accident.

There are many sites to see in Phnom Penh and it’s a great way to learn Cambodia’s history. Especially the recent events with the Khmer Rouge-mass genocide that started in the mid-seventies, where Khmer Rouge (a.k.a. Cambodians) were killing Cambodians for no rhyme or reason, resulting in over 2 million people (that’s 25% of the population) being murdered. There definitely is a noticeable age gap. There are many young people and many old people, but not as many middle aged. Very sad. One particular tourist site to visit is the S21 prison, where the Khmer Rouge detained prisoners (not just Cambodians, but even a few Australians and Americans, Japanese, Thais, etc.). These people were usually accused of being spies. They were tortured by various methods-electric shocks, beatings, etc. to get the prisoners to “confess.” The Khmer Rouge killed anyone-men, women, babies, their own mothers and fathers. They killed people simply because they wore glasses or spoke another language, all in an attempt to wipe out the intelligent and breed the subservient. At the killing fields a few miles away, they would beat their prisoners, slice their throats and toss their bodies into open graves. Once separated from their mothers, babies were held by the ankles and bashed against trees. Their dead bodies were tossed into the pile like the rest.

For the history alone, I would encourage anyone to come to Cambodia. These people are trying so hard to rebuild their society and we are so glad we got to visit Phnom Penh before the word gets out on how amazing it is.

This is the capital of Laos???

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


Vientiane isn’t like most capitals of a country.  First off, only 250,000 people live here and it feels more like a town than a capital. No high-rise buildings, very little traffic and I only remember one stop light.  Normally, it’s not too exciting to write about food, but the one thing this cozy little city does have is good, cheap restaurants and we found the mother load our first night.  We hooked up with Mark and Jerre, our new travel buds from Connecticut for a glass of wine before going to an Italian/French restaurant (French being the most popular tourist food because Laos used to be a French colony).  The food was some of the best we have eaten since leaving on our trip, probably some of the best food I have ever eaten, period.  We had steaks with fancy French sauces and fresh vegetables and homemade chocolate cake.  I would go back to Vientiane just to eat at this restaurant!  And the kicker was that for the four of us to eat, including wine and appetizers, the bill was around 30 dollars- for 4 people!!!  The next night we were all trying to decide where to eat and we figured, why mess with perfection, let’s go back to the same place.  It’s a little embarrassing since there are so many restaurants in the city, but once again we had another great meal.  This time of lasagna and spaghetti. We finished the night off at a bar that was full of local Laos and a local band that were singing their hearts out to American cover songs.  Who knew “Zombie” by the Cranberries was so popular half way around the world?

Laos is a communist country but you would hardly ever know it.  One of the few times that you do realize it, is when you  take a look at your watch and realize you’re going to be locked out of your hotel room because you’re out after curfew!  In Vientiane we had to be back at our hotel before 11:30 pm or else they lock the front doors and close up the gates and we would be out on the street.  Some hotels are not so strict on this rule but our place was, so on our last night, we had to run home to make our curfew.  We made it with about three minutes to spare, pretty funny stuff.

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
img_4116.jpgimg_4110.jpgimg_4086.jpgimg_4047.jpgjump.jpg Try saying that a few times. Our one week in Luang ... [Continue reading this entry]

New Pictures of Laos

Friday, February 8th, 2008
new.JPGIMG_3920.JPG I just spent about 3 hours getting all our pictures onto disk and then uploaded to the internet. Thank god these Lao kids know ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fried Bat, A Laos specialty

Thursday, February 7th, 2008
rat.jpgbat.jpg The Gourmet eating continued today as I strolled through one of the local markets early this morning. I woke up early and not wanting to wake Christy up I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rain, Cold and the Mighty Mekong River

Thursday, February 7th, 2008
img_3853.jpgimg_3856.jpgimg_3844.jpg Since we arrived in southeast Asia, everyone has been telling us that Laos is not to be missed. Within a few hours of ... [Continue reading this entry]