A scene from National Geographic

Sunday, Feb. 13

Cambodia only sounds like an intimidating place.

That’s due to its fairly recent, violent history.

But the country has transformed into a safe and rewarding place to travel.

Located between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, tourists are flocking to Cambodia from Europe and North America to experience everything it has to offer.

In Siem Reap (in the north), the food is cheap. You can get a pint of beer for 50 cents and a glass of wine for $1.75.

Pub Street is lined with bars and restaurants that serve traditional Khmer food, Italian, Chinese and even Mexican dishes.

It’s located between two markets, which both sell handmade goods, clothes and trinkets.

And the locals are the proudest and most helpful we’ve come across yes.

But nothing beats the sights.

Following our three-day adventure through the Angkor Wat Kingdom, Matt and I did another tour today.

We visited Kompong Phhluk, a village built on stilts.

It’s about 16 km from Siem Reap, on the flood plains of the Tonle Sap Lake.

The homes tower on stilts, some 10 metres high, to protect themselves from the wet season. (It’s currently the dry season.)

Following a boat ride down the main river, we transfered over to a tiny, flat canoe.

A small woman using a long paddle slowly toured us to the mouth of the lake, where we once again transfered back into our boat.

We felt like we were shooting a scene for National Geographic.

We watched young boys trying to catch fish with their bare hands, men detangling their fishing nets and woman trading fruit between boats.

Next, we walked through the village.

We could hear the odd battery-operated TV blaring from inside the thatched huts, which had entire families captivated.

A couple of kiosks were selling warm cans of Coke and Sprite, a few women were hanging laundry and a handful of children were chasing each other down the dirt road.

At the local school, we handed out books and pencils to the young students. It was on a first come first serve basis, so kids were running from across the village with their arms stretched upwards, begging us for something new.

Following our village excursion, our tuk-tuk driver, Vibol, took us back to the house he grew up in for some dinner.

A family in Chilliwack has sponsored Vibol and his young daughter to learn English. We were put in touch with him through a mutual friend.

Following a two-hour tuk-tuk ride through the countryside, we arrived at a village that Vibol said has never before been visited by tourists.

Shortly after arriving, we were each offered a coconut.

We sat and drank it from a straw as the entire family, approximately 10 adults and 10 kids, watched in silence.

Only two people in the family spoke English.

It made for an interesting evening, full of polite nodding and smiling.

After watching the men and kids catch some small fish from the ditch in their back yard, they fried us a special meal of fish and rice.

We had to kindly turn down the fish.

Again, the family sat in silence and watched us eat.

It was one of the most awkward, rewarding and amazing days we’ve experienced.


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