HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So long, Cambodia

My time in Cambodia came to a close on Sunday, and let me say right off the bat that I plan on going back soon. This past weekend on the Gulf of Thailand was the icing on the cake, and I really enjoyed the country. I would recommend that all of you visit it, especially since most areas are still off the well-worn tourist path. Angkor alone is practically worth the trip, the southern beaches are beautiful, and Phnom Penh may be the most relaxed city I've ever been too. Part of that is because the city still has a lot of developing to do. For example, it was strange to see how empty the skies over the city are - no helicopters, and only the occasional plane, if you were near the airport. However, I think the Khmer people (Cambodian is the nationality, Khmer the ethnicity) are on to something in their approach to daily life. I discussed this previously, but everyone is friendly and helpful. It's so different from the U.S., where people will simply ignore you if you can't do something for them.

Of course, taking a trip to Cambodia will require some adjustments - don't expect to ever ride in a car, don't expect there to be toilet paper in every bathroom, and don't expect to avoid sweating profusely. But, if you simply go with what's given, Cambodia is a wonderful place. All I knew about the place going in was a bit about Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and their systematic murder of several million Cambodians during the 1960's and 70's. (Check out the movie The Killing Fields for a harrowing portrayal of that era.) Cambodians have put these past horrors behind them and seem to be embracing the future.

They love American culture - Hollywood movies are played all over the place. I saw a copy of Inception at a market, but was unsure of the quality since it's still in theatres and didn't buy it. Most clubs play nothing but American music, although they somehow have yet to discover Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, you will hear Ke$ha and Justin Bieber, but the key is to get so drunk that you don't care.

As an American, it is nice to see that our cultural exports are still strong. Of course, I was also able to see how some of the vapid, intellectually insulting political arguments going on in American look to others. Hearing public figures suggest that Islam isn't a religion, for example, is pretty disheartening.

Anyways, I'm excited to be in Vietnam, but I will miss Cambodia. So, to help me remember the two weeks spent there, here are my top 5 favorite moments:
1) This is cheating, but the whole day spent at Angkor was just spectacular.
2) Running through floodwater with Ari, Andee, and Bea while the locals laughed at us.
3) Skinny dipping in the Gulf of Thailand late Saturday night.
4) Spending a day on an island playing beach volleyball, drinking beer, and getting sunburned.
5) Seeing this sunset from a pier at Sihanoukville.

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