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Cambodia Smiles

If you have two weeks of PTO (personal time off) at work this year and you yearn for that all encompassing, exotic destination, then go straight to the HR lady/man/website and put in for vacation to Cambodia.  Don’t wait.  Go to Cambodia and be greeted with an enthusiastic “hello!” from its friendly people.

Cambodia has it all.  

[full album link here]

Nightlife, bustle, vice in Phnom Penh.  

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Sobering recent history of Khmer Rouge with the Killing Fields and the Tuol Seng Genocide Museum.

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Rich ancient history and beauty of Angkor Wat.

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Sublime Bayon.

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Night market shopping and cajoling with other travelers after dark in Siem Reap.

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Unspoiled, under developed, hippyish and oh so perfect Otres Beach

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Island hopping without all the tourist fuss of Thailand.

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Bucolic countryside around Battambang.

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The French colonial architectural legacy throughout.

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And maybe the nicest thing about Cambodia is its smile.  Its many, many smiles.

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I loved my time in Cambodia.  What a gem.  Been there, done that, got the tank top.

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Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

My bungalow is called Mushroom Point

It’s on a soft red dirt road across from Otres Beach

Paul, who checked me in wore yellow Angry Birds pajamas

I could stay a while

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Month One highlights, lowlights, & the days between

Highlights:

  • Myanmar (Burma)
    – Everything about the trip far exceeded expectations. The people, the golden pagodas, a discordant roar of change. A country’s newly found freedom of speech and expression. High hopes for the future and signs of the ancient past everywhere.
  • Pai, Thailand
    – Meeting a small group of Americans, Brits, and Germans in Chiang Mai and making an unplanned motorcycle voyage up into the mountains. The Darling View hostel was fantastic.

Pai

  • FINALLY getting Filipino dual citizenship and the passport that goes with it
  • First visit to Bambike HQ in Tarlac

Bambuilders

  • Songkran in Bangkok
  • Buddhism

Monks in Mandalay

Lowlights:

  • Anything in Celsius with a 3- or 4- handle
    It was so hot in Bagan it made my skeleton ache
  • Digestive issues (more specifically, projectile vomit in a non-western outhouse) brought on by “fresh” shrimp, which turned out to be “live” shrimp and didn’t sit well in Chiang Mai

'Fresh' shrimp

  • Pink eye
  • The ‘grey’ market money changers in Myanmar
    – At some point they’ll just have to start accepting $USD that has even a slight crease in it
  • Poverty beside the palaces in Mandalay
Some of the the good and bad between:
  • The number of Western travelers in Thailand (-)
    • Most of their tattoos
    • Overhearing in the pool in Pai about the girl who just got the “C*NT” tattoo on her abdomen covered up with a lotus
    • Overhearing on the way back into the hostel in Bangkok: “Did you catch the Muay Thai fight?” “It was sick”
  • 7 Eleven (+/-)
  • Discovering Bangkok to be cleaner and have much more civilized traffic than Manila (+/-)
  • Having to leave your passport in order to rent a motorcycle in Thailand (-)
  • Daily brownouts in Myanmar (-)
  • Tech that is changing travel: Kindle, iPhone, Google Maps, Hostelworld.com (++)
  • Taking out time for blogging (+/–)
  • Being offered the ‘happy ending’ (-300 baht)
  • Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know (+/-)
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Hemmingway (++)
After all the good and the not as good, still feeling like pure gold. Up next, a few days in Phnom Penh followed by a week at a beach bungalow in Sihanoukville to explore Cambodia’s southern coast. Working furiously to get my photos from Burma up onto Facebook soon.

Sule Pagoda, Yangon