Dreams are important to have, and fortunately, they now and then come true. Also for the local people in Cambodia, who dream of seeing Angkor Wat.
Sitting in the sun and waiting for the bus that is going to drive us to Siem Reap – the home of the thousand year old Khmer empires biggest temples in Cambodia (which is not to be mistaken with The Red Khmer from the 1970’s).
We say goodbye to Phnom Penh, which has given us some great experiences, which we will never forget and it is a town that we most definitely want to come back to some day.
Right now, we are sitting and digesting the experience of the city’s colourful, gaudy, smelly, brutal, honest, sultry, poor, shabby, but also beautiful, sunny, warm, flourishing and friendly atmosphere.
The food market, we had to pass every day, where the traders actually lived right on top of the badly reeking, semi-rotten fish waste, but where people were smiling and forthcoming, will always be imprinted in my mind.
Likewise, the experiences with The Red Khmers prison of death Toul Sleng and the extermination camp Choeung Ek/Killing Fields are kind of difficult to relate to. Today, we still see glimpses of despondency, grief and hopelessness in the eyes of the Cambodians. Everyone had a family member or a good friend that were murdered during Pol Pots Red Khmer regime of horror in the 1970’s. No one could trust each other back then, and the uncertainty and constant fear are still present though just a shadow of what it once were.
However, we have also gotten new friends in Phnom Penh. Two Buddhist monks, that absolutely had to show us their monastery and insisted on inviting us into their room for a cozy chat. Oh, how surprising and incredibly pleasant it was! They were two kind, young men that wanted to know more about life and the society in Northern Europe, and moreover, eagerly explained how life in the monastery in Phnom Penh and in Cambodia on the whole was for them.
Now, we are just, as I mentioned, waiting for the bus to Siem Reap, the sun beats down from an unclouded sky, and we really want to go now! We chit-chat and complain a bit about the wait and are then interrupted by a blond woman.
“Oh, are you from Denmark?”
We stare at her and had not really noticed her until now.
Well, yes we are.
And so is she. Angela, as she is called, moved to Cambodia a couple of years ago, when she all of a sudden got the opportunity to live out her dream: A hotel in the beach town of Sihanoukville.
Angela is very pleased to live in Cambodia, but it is actually nice to meet other Danes now and then.
Angela is traveling with a group of local Cambodians that seem completely giddy by the fact that they are going to travel with the bus. She explains us that her fellow travelers work at her hotel and now that they have helped her making her dream come true, she wants to do the same for them.
She tells us that her hotel employees have never seen the fabulous Angkor-temples near Siem Reap – they have actually never been on a trip before. Therefore, she arranged the bus trip so that her employees would get to see the Angkor-temples, which means the whole world to them and their national awareness. A place they never would have thought, they got to experience.
Angela’s story touches our hearts. It is suddenly fully understandable, why her fellow travelers look like small children on Christmas Eve that just cannot stand still out of sheer excitement. Imagine that we travel around with our backpacks and almost as a matter of course go to Siem Reap to see the old Khmer-temples as a part of our journey around Southeast Asia, while the local Cambodians dream about this trip their whole life.
That is the kind of experiences that put our life and our own opportunities in perspective.
Furthermore, that is why, it is so important to travel, because you learn to reflect on how different life is and how different the big dreams are for other people and for oneself.
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