On Saturday the 29th of December 2012 I jumped on a plane, leaving what felt like all my sanity behind. I was walking into a journey completely blind.
Cambodia was my destination and I was about to spend the next three and a half weeks away from home. We landed in Bangkok, Thailand where we spent two nights until crossing the boarder via Poi Pet to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Siem Reap was a great introduction to the country! Here we stayed at the Golden Banana Hotel for seven nights. We ate lots of yummy food, drunk cocktails by the pool side and had only a short walk into town. I loved the street markets and restaurants. We were also lucky enough to celebrate New Years Eve in the streets.
I quickly grew to love the Cambodian people. They were so friendly and loving. They treated us like royalty! We made good friends with a monk called Jame, who took a friend and I to visit his village and family. This was an amazing experience. We brought food for his family and felt very honored to meet them. This opened up a whole new world for me.. something I will never forget.
We also visited some of the ruins around Angkor Wat, photographing sunrise and sunset.
On day 10 we traveled to the capital city Phnom Penh where I spent most of the first 24 hours sick in bed, bummer. We stayed at the Boddhi Tree for 5 nights, this was right across the road from the Genocide Museum/S21 Detention Center of the Khmer Rouge. When visiting the museum it felt as though I had walked into a nightmare. I had to pinch myself, what I was seeing was all a reality. These are some of the rooms where people were tortured.
We gave our monk friend Jame money to buy a bus ticket to Phnom Penh. He had never left Siam Reap before and we wanted him to visit the city with us. We also got him a passport while we were there as we one day want to bring him to NZ. It was ours and Jame's first time seeing Choeung Ek/The Killing Fields, another look at Cambodia's recent and tragic history.
Visting the Cambodia trust was another highlight from our time in Phnom Penh. This trust helps and meets the needs of those with disabilities. It was so positive seeing these facilities in a country like Cambodia.
Phnom Penh really set things in stone for me, emotionally it was hard. Being in that space and knowing the tragic past, yet seeing how Cambodia is trying to move forward was an experience all on it's own.
Day 19 brought us to our final destination, Sihanoukville. We spent 3 nights here in beach style huts. I could have stayed a lot longer! The relaxing truly began as I found myself sitting in a deck chair looking out across the South China Sea, cocktail in hand, while being pampered by a crowd of Cambodian ladies who gave me a manicure, pedicure and threaded my legs and eyebrows!
This brings me to day 22, the long and patience testing trip back to Bangkok via the Mat Leak border. We spent another two nights here before returning to NZ. It felt like it was time to head home. I was ready to take back all my memories and unwind from everything I had experienced. It has taken me some time to accept the trip as it was like nothing I had ever done before. I am so grateful to have parents who give me opportunities like these. It has made me a stronger person and taught me many lessons, something that at the end of the day money can't buy.