Cambodia: Je suis arrivée!

Originally posted on tinyletter.com/Terhys on January 9th, 2015.

Happy New Year! Four weeks ago I had three separate, life-changing conversations that set in motion a series of irreversible events: I quit my job, found a replacement for my apartment, and decided to travel without a return date.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on a trip of unknown length to a region of the world where I had never been.

Today, what seemed like an impossible dream is now my reality, and I’m so so grateful I made the leap.

To my convincing conversationalists and family: thank you for sparking in me the confidence to pursue happiness, and thank you for your continued, unwavering support.

Ahem.

Now let’s get to fun stuff! You can check out pictures of my travels on Instagram; my username is @Terhyspix. (As an aside, @Terhys was already taken! That is literally the first time my name has been unavailable for use.) There are gems on Insta you won’t see in this newsletter.

Cambodia was a blast. After 26 hours of travel (Here’s something interesting: you swell when you fly long distances, apparently. For the first week I was here, my feet looked like two foot balloons and my hands like inflated gloves!! How’s that for imagery?) I made it to Siem Reap to see the majestic Angkor Wat.

Temple built with stone. There is a giant stone face at the top of the temple. There is a doorway at the foot of the temple.
Temple at Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples comprise a complex built in the early 12th century by the Hindu King Suryavarman II; in my head I refer to them as Angkor Wat & Friends. I can’t even begin to imagine what the temples must’ve been like in their heyday; nearly every inch of Angkor Wat is covered in decorative carvings which depict scenes from the ancient Hindu epic, Ramayana (worth checking out, it’s pretty fascinating). There were also likely gold and precious stones adorning the buildings and reflecting pools surrounding the complex, making the temples even more impressive to behold.

Low relief etching with bad guy Ravana with multiple arms each holding spears.
Low reilef carving of many-armed Ravana in battle in a temple at Angkor Wat.

Some of the temples were used in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Tomb Raider (the filming of which famously began Angelina Jolie’s love affair with Cambodia and humanitarian work). Also Beyoncé was just there, so.

After Siem Reap, I visited smaller towns called Battambang and Pailin, which were a lot more laid back than the tourist mecca that is Siem Reap. Battambang was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, and one can tour caves that were used to house bodies of their countless victims. Pailin still is a Khmer stronghold, with aging members of the Khmer Rouge still residing in the town. The Khmer Rouge wiped out a generation and scarred Cambodia pretty heavily; it’s chilling to think this happened only 30 some years ago.

To segue into something happier, Cambodian food is delicious and cheap; dominant flavors include sour and spice, and they often use lemongrass, lime, and chilis. Freshwater fish from the huge Tonlé Sap are widely eaten, and make up one of Camobdia’s famous dishes, Fish Amok. As is the case in most places, street food reigns supreme! I did treat myself to a fancy tasting menu at an exclusive restaurant, which set me back $28 for 6 courses. With most food costing $1-3 , the meal oddly felt both extravagant and cheap.

A white temple with a golden roof, a group of houses with tin roofs and wooden walls that are floating on the river near the banks.
Communities live on and adjacent to Lake Tonlé Sap, Cambodia.
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