Further Afield

I read a lot about Laos and Cambodia in the weeks before I left and ended up fixating on two things: how hot it was going to be, and the potential for catching scary mosquito-borne diseases. Before I’d started reading travel blogs, dengue fever was just a band, not a bone-crushing infection. To complicate matters, I’d recently been diagnosed with a form of lupus that required me to be neurotic about sun exposure, so I wound up obsessing over UV right along with heat and bugs (but not necessarily in that order). That’s the kind of neurotic I am.

In Cambodia, I was apparently the only female under the age of 40 (okay, 42) with sun or mosquito paranoia – everyone had on breezy sundresses or spaghetti-strap camisoles with shorts, bare legs and flip flops. You know, like normal people wear in the summer. I had on a long-sleeved shirt, pants, hiking shoes and a gigantic hat. Take that, vanity! I looked like an employee from Lion Country Safari. It’s a good thing I was too paranoid to care.

Anyway.

The next day, our svelte, young Cambodian guide Be (pronounced “bay”) convinced Mel and I to venture outside Siem Reap to see some sights off the beaten track (he didn’t actually say off the beaten track), and we set off into the countryside. The first stop was Kbal Spean, 50 km northeast – a carved riverbed at the top of a windy trail that made its way through the trees.

Be, in his uniform of pressed trousers, button-down shirt and leather slides, barely broke a sweat. I don’t think he even got dusty.

many lingas (symbols of Shiva)

the river dumped into a beautiful waterfall

Then we drove to Banteay Srei (one of the smallest sites of Angkor), a pink sandstone Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and intricately, lavishly carved – even more than the Bayon in Angkor Thom, if that was possible.

The outer sections were still being renovated,

but the interior was mostly restored and incredibly beautiful.

Finally, we stopped at the Cambodian Landmine Museum, which functions as an educational center and the base for an NGO run by a former Khmer Rouge soldier who is now a demining activist. The facility also houses disadvantaged children affected by landmines. You can read more about it here.

deactivated mines and other ordnance

We watched a video about the museum’s founder, Aki Ra, in the museum’s media corner.

helpful demining tips

I had no idea there was so much unexploded ordnance still around in Cambodia – millions of units. Hundreds of people still die every year.

Everyone tells you, don’t stray off the paths.

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