There are some countries which you have an idea of what they look like from media such as movies, but Cambodia is one I had yet to catch a glimpse of – the only popular cameo of the country comes in the first Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. The photo on the left is one I took standing in front of the tree seen in the scene on the right. Soon after this one, there is a scene where Lara goes through a doorway and enters the temple, and we were able to stand in that spot too. This temple is called Ta Prohm for anyone interested in reading more about it.
Arriving in the morning while most everyone else would be landing around midnight our first day, I instantly felt some loneliness and homesickness. But this would turn out to be only temporary. The next day, I began to make some great friends and memories, and those feelings quickly faded away. This goes to show that first impressions are not always everything, and the next morning I took my first pictures of Cambodia, a sunrise over the city from our hotel pool deck (see my previous post).
Over the next 10 days or so, we would explore Phnom Penh, the Tonle Sap River, and Siem Reap, all of which was led by our Cambodian tour guide, Saroun. Despite the country’s recent violent history, he explained to us that Cambodians are very cheerful and positive, and the locals soon came to be my favorite thing about Cambodia. As Americans going abroad post-COVID, we certainly were like a circus passing through town at times, but the people were very friendly and welcoming, with those who spoke English even cracking jokes with us. Apart from their attitude, the Cambodian people also have a greater sense of community than is the case in the US. Whether it’s supporting their local monks through donations of food, or helping out a neighbor in their village, most if not everyone buys into the Cambodian culture. At least around 90% of the population is Buddhist, and this has a large influence on the way that most Cambodians live. None of this is to say that one country is better than the other, but simply that it’s an interesting switch when compared to the melting pot that is the US. If you’re looking to stretch your horizons, I highly recommend visiting Cambodia – without a doubt you will experience at least some culture shock.