When most people hear “Cambodia”, this is what comes to mind:
1. The Khmer Rouge
2. Laura Croft
3. Angkor Wat
4. Nobody really gets past #3… but if you did, “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Even though that was in Thailand).
6. Asian Women
7. The Mekong River
8. Not Thailand.
9. The French
A valid list, but definitely not accurate. Not in the purest sense of Cambodia. When most people book their tour du monde, their Cambodian stop over generally involves the Killing Fields, Angkor Wat, and some form of Khmer curry.
Hopefully you’ve gained a greater sense of Cambodian geography and culture through the past seven months here at alohakuwait. I’m here today to expand your knowledge a step further. It’s high time I paid homage to that great road trip—from Phnom Penh to the Thai border. Most people speed through on an afternoon bus, in transition from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. They see the stretch from Koh Kong to the Mekong river as a boring, bumpy ride that stands in the way of their Southeast Asian experience.
Well, Cambodia’s got a lot of secrets in her hidden Southwestern passage…
But, since I came from a family of pig farmers, let’s be honest with ourselves.
The pigs. Stick ’em in barrels, stack ’em on trucks, slide ’em in trailors. There is no modest way to transport pigs anywhere in the world. Any country that tells you otherwise is lying to you.
As you wind your way along highway 4, the road begins to climb through heavily forested hills. The slopes become steeper, and the homes become sparser. It feels as if you have left the populated world behind. Just as you are ready to pull over to marvel at the beauty of it all, a turn off is provided for you.
And what a turn off it is. I had driven past this specific stopping point numerous times on the way to the beach, and never noticed the troupe of monkeys that live in this stunning valley. Man, if you never pulled over, you would never SEE the stunning valley! There are myriad Buddhist shrines, and the monkeys are not seen as pests but rather positive additions to mother earth. Look at this killer playground they’ve got!
Nothing says road trip like sipping on a cold soda and watching some monkeys.
Or were the monkeys watching us? I wonder what they wrote about me in their blog…
Like I said, this turn off was really pretty awesome. There were monks, chanting, shrines, monkeys, rituals, and of course, tubes of Pringles and fresh-cut pineapple for sale. What more could you want?
So where else do you go but the Crab Chack. Home of the tastiest crab in Koh Kong.
And while you wait for said crab, you can relax on their swing with your sister, dipping your toes in the water, sipping on a well-deserved Anchor or two. Paradise.
I have previously blogged about the Rainbow Lodge in Koh Kong, but I have found yet another place of passion. Welcome to Thmorda Garden Riverside Resort. You can lounge on the shore of the river, and kayak in the mangroves all afternoon. The best part? You’ve got this entire place all to yourself.
And their patio is fantastic.
Morning in Koh Kong: Such a kaleidoscope of colors. Why rush through on the way to something better? You can’t find a superlative to this.
We did spend a few days in the luxury of Koh Kong and Southwestern Cambodia, and then we moseyed on to Thailand. On the road, my dad (who was visiting with my sister!!!) snapped a photo of something I have so long overlooked: the spirit houses. You see them everywhere, but I hadn’t really though twice about them until my dad brought it up.
Spirit houses are common in Southeast Asia, and are placed in a particular spot of your home, business, or natural area (often at the base of trees). They are a place for the spirits to be appeased—or to reside—depending on who you talk to. It is believed that so long as you keep the spirits happy, you will live a prosperous life. Sometimes spirits is synonymous with ghosts. I recently had a seventeen year old student tell me he was afraid of ghosts. I had to ask around to determine that he was talking about the spirits, which are very prevalent in Thai and Cambodian culture.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Take a road trip. Explore your home. Find something new. Stop at a place you’ve never stopped at before. Take a picture of something you’ve seen a million times. Maybe you’ll find monkeys. Maybe you’ll find spirits. Maybe you’ll find love.