People often ask which country that I visited during my trip was my favorite. At first I want to answer like someone who is asked which of their children is their favorite; “each one was unique and special in its own way.” And that’s kind of true, I did love all the countries for different reasons, but …Cambodia. The answer is definitely Cambodia. Kate deserves the “I told you so” award for putting Siem Reap, Cambodia on our itinerary, because it had not made it onto my initial list of animal-centric destinations.
Just to be clear, I was excited to see Angkor Wat. Despite being neither religious nor spiritual, I am VERY into castles and stone things, so Angkor Wat was definitely in my wheel house. Other than that, however, I knew very little about Cambodia, and planned to just bop along for whatever Kate had on the docket. Maybe it was because of my lack of expectations/knowledge about everything else in the country, but if Angkor Wat was an 8 (out of 10) on the Lillian excitement scale, everything else about Cambodia was an 11. If this is the only post of mine that you read, the point is Cambodia is for you, and you should go there. If your only interest in the entire world is saving money, Cambodia is for you. Do you like temples? Go to Cambodia! Do you like riding ATVs? Go to Cambodia! Like iced coffee? Cambodia! Monkeys? Cambodia! Fun pants? Cambodia! Fancy hotels? Cambodia! Strangely forceful massages? Cambodia! See where I’m going here? The only way Cambodia isn’t for you is if you like overpaying for things and frowning.
Another reason Cambodia made such an impression on me was that it actually got me interested in history. And by history I mean using Google/Wikipedia for something other than checking in on celebrity children. I have the capacity to retain historical information for approximately the amount of time it takes to cram for a final. As a result, the references to Cambodia’s tragic history mentioned during our travels rang some rusty bells, but mostly left Kate and I feeling ignorant. We would spend the day typing notes into our phones to look up later whenever we had wifi. I’m gonna be honest, “Vietnam War” was on there. It’s not that we had no idea what it was, but we just didn’t remember the details. My memory felt it was more important to remember forever that polar bears have black skin and clear fur (you’re welcome). After our nightly edification about the Khmer Rouge, and hearing about the resilience of the people of Phnom Penh, Kate and I felt an even greater appreciation for the people of Cambodia. We were also sad to leave without a visit to Phnom Penh, the center for most of Cambodia’s history. I can’t make any specific recommendations about the city because I haven’t been there, but I do suggest doing a quick read up ahead of time and deciding for yourself if it’s something you would be interested in. Or leave yourself some wiggle room, because maybe you’re like me and you’re culture bone won’t start twitching till you get there!