Cambodia Tour 2019

Farewell Cambodia

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Today was sadly our very last full day in Cambodia. We started off with a stroll down to another local guesthouse named ‘Bread of Life’ where we congregated in a meeting room. This was our final debrief day. Stacie spoke to us about the different things we have learnt in our time here in Cambodia; we explored emotions of hope, anger, sadness and excitement.

Through this debrief we were also able to discuss the notion of ‘reverse culture shock’.In Cambodia we were aware of our brand new experiences, however, when we return back to Adelaide we will be surrounded by the unfamiliar familiar as we look at our lives through a new lens. After morning tea, we discussed advocacy and explored the different ways that we can continue to make an impact on this cause back at home. To provoke change you need four things: Passion, Need, Skills and Influence. We were then challenged to plan exactly how we would begin our advocacy journeys.

After a few rest hours of hanging out in the pool and with our friends we headed off to dinner at ‘Footprint Café’. Here, 100% of the profits go towards environmental causes! To end the day we bartered our way through the night markets collecting our final bits and bobs before heading back home from a satisfying two weeks.

It’s safe to say that we have all experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity here in Cambodia with Woodcroft and Rok Kern. We have all been challenged both emotionally and mentally - as we attempt to comprehend the realities right in front of our eyes.

We have made friends, met some of the kindest people, eaten some tradition Khmer food, witnessed indescribable sights; some horrifying, confronting, challenging, beautiful and inspiring. We will all be sad to say goodbye to our friends Saray and Stacie who have put so much time, effort and love into this program and us - ensuring we experienced this country and their culture in the truest light. We will come back from this trip with growth and a set of new eyes on the world.


 

The City of Temples

Monday, December 09, 2019

A very early start today meant we were ready to leave the hotel by 6.30 am. We were met by Stacie and Saro, our guide for the day. A (relatively) cold snap has descended upon Siem Reap and an early morning Tuk Tuk to the Angkor Wat ticket office and then onto the Heritage Site was very fresh. With some of our track records at getting up in the morning and the fact that Angkor Wat gets very overcrowded, we opted not to try and capture the sunrise over the iconic temple.

Our visit to The City of Temples began at Ta Prohm. Many may know this temple as the starring set design within Tomb Raider featuring Angelina Jolie. The beautiful scenery, with ancient trees reclaiming their territory and forcing their alien-like roots through the ancient stones of the temple, prompted the taking of many instagram-able pictures causing a scene and disrupting the tranquil environment. Being there so early meant that we could experience the tranquility of this stunning environment and explore the area unhindered by other tourists.

Wat Thom was the next destination on our itinerary. The first temple in this complex was Angkor Thom. There, we crossed the ‘bridge into heaven’ and were told by Saro that if our bodies were clean we’d be allowed in - those of us who had showered that morning felt very smug! A troop of monkeys paraded around the perimeter of the temple and this caused excitement within the group as it was the first time we had seen such beautiful animals in their wild habitat. They were very cheeky and the sight of one stealing a tourist’s hat caused much hilarity.

Bayon, a temple made for the Buddhists which was briefly converted to Hindu, and has since returned to Buddhism, was our third stop for the morning. Whilst exploring the temple Maryam became best friends with a lizard and whilst declining the stairs of death a photographer believed our frightened faces were hilarious and photographed them. Vast stone faces (216 in total by Maya’s maths) looked in all directions surrounded the temple watching the increasing number of tourists from around the world. We were given space to explore the temple on our own for a short period of time and although we lost a couple of group members we were able to regroup and find our way to a delicious lunch.

Fortified, we walked across a small paddock and found ourselves awestruck to see the undeniable beauty of what is known as the one and only Angkor Wat. A long trek ensured we were able to see the temple and learn about the history of the buildings. We admired the intricate details of the architectural designs.

 

With a couple of hours rest up our sleeves, we made our way to the night markets where we immersed ourselves in shopping, eating and exploring the crazy, chaotic streets of Siem Reap.

Maya, Kate, Jordyn xx

 

Farewell Phnom Penh... hello Siem Reap!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Today was both filled with sadness and joy, it was an early morning start with hotel checkout at 7:30am! (The crack of sparrows). After inhaling our breakfast 5 minutes before our last tuk tuk ride in Phnom Penh, we were on our way to Siem Reap! Our final goodbyes to our loyal and loving tuk tuk drivers brought tears to our eyes, their kind smiles will be an everlasting memory of our time in Cambodia!

At 8:45am, no later, we embarked on our 6 hour bus trip to Siem Reap. Our lunch stop was ironically called “the stop,” they served us some 5 star food (very impressed). We definitely left with full bellies and smiley faces.

I think we can all agree that the city Siem Reap is home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery, filled with gorgeous trees and a jaw dropping river. We were also very pleased with our new villa where we all have double beds.

For dinner we all enjoyed meals at “the old house”. Soon after we experienced the first markets in Siem reap, where we scored some great bargains.

At 8:00pm we we’re all lucky enough to see a circus show performed by phare, who are a group of students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak artistic centre. They aim to aid young Cambodians with free education and offer therapy through different forms of art. They rotate between different stories every few nights, surrounding different social issues in Cambodia. Tonight was incredible as we were all able to witness singing, different dances, acrobatics, a live band and acting. 

    


By Maddy, Chloe and Tahlia

 

Power, not privilege.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Today we revisited the CIF office in Phnom Penh to do a workshop that Stacie had set up for us. We discussed the power that we have due to our fortune of growing up in Australia compared to that of people growing up in developing countries. We used the term power instead of ‘privilege’ during this session as ‘privilege’ is a buzz word which has come to have a negative stigma surrounding it.


We discussed our ‘power’ under the umbrellas of politics, legal issues, finances, health, social situations, and. This workshop developed our understanding of how our ‘power’ can be used to help.

After this workshop we played some traditional games that the Khmai people play during Khmai new year, through these games we were able to get a better feel for the Khmai culture and connect with the CIF workers. This was great fun with plenty of laughs.

After this we had lunch with the CIF staff where we could have fish, chicken, bok Choy, and rice.

After lunch we finished off our time at the CIF office by presenting our findings on topics based on Cambodian culture which we were given on the first day. These topics included religion, community, children in society, and death and celebrations.

 

Later we visited the Justees,who made our Rok-Kern Rokkers shirts for our trip. It was an eye-opening experience entering the area, as all the families were living under tin roofs, which was different to the areas we had been to before in Cambodia.

Upon visiting the Justees, we learnt about their work in the community, specifically in helping boys finish their schooling and find jobs to help them and their families get out of poverty. We all then had the opportunity to buy a Justees top.

 

To finish off our last day in Phnom Penh we took a boat trip along the Mekong River to watch the sunset and see our final glimpses of Phnom Penh before our departure to Siem Riep.

 

We then finished the night out for dinner at eleven which is Cambodia’s first 99% plastic-free restaurant.

By Amy and Jess

 

New friends, Khmer delicacies and games!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Today was an important day for our group as we woke up earlier than we usually do before the rooster crowed its first crow. We ate pork and rice for breakfast, which is the Khmer equivalent of bacon and eggs. We then quickly made time to watch some k pop music videos, which put a smile on each and every dial, before jumping back onto the bus for our journey. Part of the way a jam sesh ensued with all of us singing along to eighties classics, back to the big city.

Our first stop was at the CIF headquarters in Svay Riep. We discussed with Kylie and Serneii who are physiotherapists, about the importance of their ABLE project, which helps place children with disabilities into foster care. After an in-depth workshop on what their roles are and the amazing work they do in the community, we unpacked and labelled all the toys we had bought at the mall just a few days prior.


We also met more workers and learnt about their stories, it was also interesting to hear them speak and communicate in their native tongue, with Serai translating for us. After we had been introduced to the staff and got to know them a little bit we headed to Sereni’s family house for lunch and an opportunity to hear more about their lives and the lives of people in that province.

The lunch cooked by Sereni’s family was one we will never forget. The authentic recipes were very memorable. After we had tried a range of Khmer delicacies, we taught the workers how to play games such as Uno, Snakes and ladders, and Jenga. The games got fun as we also got to practice numbers and conversation skills.


Finally, we went back on our way to Phnom Phen where Mr Graham didn't allow another round of karaoke as he wanted to sleep. After arriving back to the hotel we set off for dinner where we enjoyed conversing on reaching the halfway mark of our trip. Overall we can't wait to experience the next days in Siem Riep and seeing what awaits us.

Abby, Maryam and Pheobe

An emotional visit to Choeung Ek

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Today we visited the Killing fields in Choeung Ek. We learnt that this was one of 20,000 mass graves during the Khmer Rouge regime, with 1 in 4 Cambodians losing their lives between 1975 and 1979 (approximately 1.38 million). This was a very confronting experience, and much like our visit to Tuol Sleng, an audio tour guided us around the site explaining specific land marks, whilst also sharing personal anecdotes and stories of both the survivors and the soldiers. Although this experience was harrowing and traumatic, it is one we have all be thankful to learn. Educating ourselves more about this incomprehensible period of recent history and expanding our knowledge of the world around us has definitely been a journey we will never forget.


The second half of our day consisted of a tasty lunch at ‘Jar of Clay’Cafe, before heading on a bus to the rural Cambodian province of Svay Rieng. We met two new staff members from Children in Families; Lisa and Serenii. Upon said arrival to the rural province we practised our stitching skills, and each “attempted” to create our own cross stitch pattern; with the help of many a local, we were able to achieve this. Women in rural Cambodia use cross stitch as a way to socialise while also making a profit off their wonderful works, it is safe to say ours wouldn’t sell for much. Not only were women helping us but many of the local children came to show us how it was done. This was a great way to get to know not only our whole group more, but also the community as a whole. After a confronting morning and a long travel we were all ready to hit the hay, ready for our crack of sparrow rise the next morning to travel back to the city.


Thank you for listening and following our Cambodian journey.

Abby, Phoebe and Maryam.

Today we delighted our taste buds!

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Our morning started off cooler than usual, with less humidity and a sleep in. We headed off into the tuk tuks to la table Khmer, where we met our two teachers - who would teach us how to cook a traditional Khmer meal.

To begin, we went to the wholesale markets to learn about the routine of grocery shopping in Cambodia and where our ingredients were sourced. The markets were vibrant and visceral with many lively sea animals!

Back at the kitchen we prepared a three course meal of green mango salad (including salt, sugar, carrot, green mangos, peanuts and chillies), either fish or chicken curry wrapped in leaf baskets and finally, for dessert, sticky rice. It was a very fun experience for us all and encouraged us to step out of our western comfort zone.

We then spent some time resting and preparing for our rural trip back at our hotel before heading off to the Russian markets to test our bartering abilities!


We then headed to the Prince Phnom Pehn sky bar, eclipse, and drank mocktails while watching over the amazing skyline of Cambodia.

Goodbye for now! - Caity and Amy

Day four was filled with fun!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

សួស្តី (hello)

A late start today meant that we were up and ready by 9am. A 20 minute tuk tuk ride took us to the Palace where Norodom Sihamoni the King of Cambodia lives. Here we also saw the coronation room and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

 

Before our next stop at Wat Phnom we had a much needed refreshing drink break to cool us all down. Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple which stands 27 meters above the ground. We explored this temple for around 30 minutes before having a delicious lunch at Khmer Saravan.

 

After lunch we headed in the tuk tuks to Living Arts Cambodia at the National Museum where we took part in dance lessons. This was a new and exciting experience for most of us, and we all really enjoyed viewing and learning traditional, folk and social Cambodian dances. All together today was a fun day full of new experiences and memories.

 

លាហើយ (Goodbye) by Abby and Kate

Cambodia Day 3!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Suostei! (Hello)

Our names are Tahlia and Maya and today we will be sharing with you a glimpse of day 3 of our mission trip to Cambodia.

After the emotional strain left on us after yesterday’s trip to S21, it was important that today’s events consisted of more light-hearted activities.

The day began with our last language lesson, where we revised what we learnt yesterday and expanded our vocabulary by learning new sentences and sayings, but what was most useful was learning how to count from one to fifty. We were even able to incorporate our new skills when buying from the local markets and ordering food at dinnertime.

The photo below shows some of the students and teachers taking part in a memory game evolving numbers.

 

Our favourite part of today was when we went to the wholesale markets to buy necessities and toys for disabled children who are supported by the CIF organisation. This was an important task for us as we were able to positively impact the lives of these disadvantaged children.

After this we made a short trip to the mall and the bookstore to ensure all the essential needs of these children were met through what we were able to purchase. It was a heart-warming experience as we not only felt content by being able to give, but we will also be able to see how these new resources will greatly impact the future of these children in a positive way.

 

We finished off the day by allowing ourselves some time to unwind with laughs and smiles, especially as today was the BLACK FRIDAY SALES!!! Don’t worry about us, because we definitely did not miss out… some of these purchases were out of this world…!

 

Leahaey!! (Goodbye)

Today we met our teacher!

Friday, November 29, 2019

This morning was an 8am start, where we headed to Gateway to Khmer Language School and met our lovely teacher, Sam Phors. During this lesson we learnt greetings and titles for all ages and formalities.

 

 

We then took the tuk tuks to M’Lup Russey which is an organisation that work alongside Children in Families to reintegrate children from orphanages back into their loving families. We got together in groups and did a case study where we discussed what we would do to keep children out of orphanages.

 

After this session we headed for lunch and arrived at 772 restaurant after being stuck in some peak hour traffic due to being stuck behind the stinkiest garbage truck in the world. We had a banquet of different Khmer dishes from soups, to noodles, rice and stir-fry.

During the afternoon we went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. This was the most confronting experience the majority of us had ever witnessed. This was a school that the Khmer Rouge used as a prison and torture camp during the Pol Pot regime from 1975-79.

Each of us had an audio guide and listened to first hand experiences. It allowed us to understand the events more personally and realise that we’re so lucky in this lottery of life. After this we debriefed and reflected on what we had heard and seen and finished with lighting of candles to remember the dead, the survivors and others that were affected.

 

We have reset tonight with some comfort food and are looking forward to a new day tomorrow.

For now, ជំរាបលា (chum reap leah)- “goodbye” from Jess and Jordyn.