From Cambodia With Love

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

5 December 2018

A land guided by love and respect for humans.

I have never before been to a country where, just for showing up, I feel appreciated, honored and cherished. Every room I enter, even the souvenir shops, I am greeted with hands in prayer position and a gentle bow. It’s as if all that matters is the exchange of kindness. And it’s not just in their country. One evening in Bangkok I wondered around in my Cambodia t-shirt. A man stopped me and offered me a beer because he is from Cambodia and is excited about the connection and that I love his country. This deep cherishing behavior is something I miss and will always remember.

Random cute kid in Cambodia.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

For some reason I find the kids in Cambodia ridiculously cute. So cute, in fact, that I end up taking photos of them frequently. Then I feel kind of creepy, but their parents understand I just find their kids so adorable! One thing I find difficult, however, is seeing young children working. They try to sell to us at every tourist spot, and some look as young as 6. They want us to buy keychains and magnets for $3 but will take $1 for 3.  Apparently school is half a day and they sell the other half.

“It’s a warm country in temperature and in how they relate with one another.”

By mid-afternoon each winter day, I’ve sweat out almost all the water in my body. I can’t imagine being there in summer. I am deeply grateful to our tour guide for carrying cold water and wet washcloths which I use, unabashedly, to wipe the sweat off everywhere I can in public.

Siem Reap.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

The temples are unbelievable. Even though I am “templed out” after three days of sightseeing, I so admire them. Our guide brings us to each one and tells us to “our trip to Heaven.” What this means is, we will have to walk up very steep steps to the top of the temple, and he’ll be waiting for us at the bottom when we have finished. The steps are always steep and high. Definitely challenging for petite legs! Buddha awaits us as do intricate carvings of gods and demons and a large snake being used in a tug-of-war for power.

The food is surprisingly delicious. I learned about the “fish amok” which is excellent, but even a simple chicken dish with cashews is excellent. Coconut smoothies leave me in heaven and the family I’m traveling with finds an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, Genevieve‘s, which has a beautiful story and wonderful food. They employ all sorts of people with no experience in restaurants and help their community – if you go to Siem Reap you must eat here! Upon departing Cambodia I feel sad to be leaving behind such kind people and would love to explore more one day.

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