It’s incredible to think that after all we’ve done in Cambodia, the entire team is still rushing through the markets of Siem Reap to buy last minute souvenirs and gifts, before our long journey home. This just goes to show how immense and diverse this maze of a market is.
Whilst this makes it seem like we’ve only been shopping, we’ve had plenty of time to do some incredible things and create memories that will last a life time.
Visiting what was once the world’s largest city, exploring Angkor Wat was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for the entire team. It was exciting to walk through the ancient stone constructions that are covered with leaves and vines from the jungle, which is starting to reclaim them. When we finally reached the top of Angkor Wat itself, the view of the jungle that surrounded it was like nothing any of us had ever seen before!
However, the view of the jungle during our trek was very different compared to that of Wat. Being guided through the dense jungle by some of Cambodia’s best guides, in my opinion at least, was another unforgettable part of this expedition. Khey and Vannak were invaluable when showing us some amazing pieces of nature, such as the water vine. This made the experience of trekking through the jungle so much more immersive, and at the same time, made us forget how much we were all sweating due to the clammy jungle climate.
Our short time at Sihanoukville was both necessary and luxurious, and it was the perfect way to spend Christmas together as a team. The cool water from the Gulf of Thailand and the warm glow from the sun was the ultimate relaxation combination and was well received by Team Cambodia after an intense first two weeks.
Week one was spent volunteering at the Children’s Development Organisation in Siem Reap. There were always jobs to be done to help improve the site and benefit the charity. Whilst some tasks like the metal bending were mundane, the presence of the children and the help of volunteers, such as Julian and Mom, made the whole experience worthwhile.
Phnom Penh was both historically and culturally eye opening. Our tours through sites such as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields showed us the horrific past of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime. It was amazing to think that these tragic events happened less than half a century ago and the whole team was deeply moved by what we saw. We also had a chance to be tourists for the day when walking around the grounds of the Royal Palace, which were beautifully maintained. We noticed that the impressive golden topped buildings of the Palace contrasted the poverty stricken surroundings, that the average Cambodian experiences daily.
There was nothing average about the bamboo train in Battambang, which we got to ride on our whistle stop tour of this typical Cambodian city. The train whisked us away from the hustle and bustle of town centre, into a remote village that lay at the end of this the mismatched railway track. The team were relieved to make it back to the hotel that night, but everybody had a smile on their face.
Looking back on everything we’ve done in the last 26 days, there are no regrets. The challenges and opportunities we’ve faced as a team have been as immense and diverse as the night markets of Siem Reap, which we are still keen to explore on our last evening. We’ve had more highs than there are peaks in the Cardamom mountains, more eye openers than there are spiders in the jungle and built stronger friendships than the foundations of Angkor Wat.
“Do you know what could make this moment better? Nothing.”
By Kenneth Steel and Bradley Carter