A taste of the third world

 

Independence monument in Phnom Penh. Notice Angkor Wat on the flag.

The short week I spent in Cambodia was an important part of my trip. Between the killing fields and Angkor Wat, I got to experience the two most significant sites in the country. Those excursions only lasted a day or two each, so most of my time in Cambodia was spent hanging out. And hanging out in a third world country happens to be very interesting.

Cambodia is an extremely poor country, with over a third of its citizens living on less than a dollar a day. The poverty is everywhere; you can’t avoid it if you tried. Driving through the country allows you to see the majority of Cambodia’s citizens, who farm what they need and can’t afford anything more. As a westerner, I was constantly harassed at cafes by beggars, poor children, and handicapped people. It leaves you feeling both frustrated and sad.

A farm house on the way to Siem Reap

Reading this may leave a sour taste in your mouth, and it probably should. But the experience itself was incredible and eye opening. It really made Vietnam and Thailand seem pretty rich. I’m traveling to immerse myself in completely different cultures and customs. Cambodia successfully fulfilled those needs.

The huge gap between rich and poor in Cambodia is very easy to see. Look for the nice houses surrounded by barbed wire fences, then look next to those houses. That’s where my hostel was probably located. The hostels in Cambodia were dope. I stayed at one in Phnom Penh with a rooftop bar serving free beer during happy hour and 50 cent beers the rest of the night (yes, Cambodia uses the U.S. Dollar). In Siem Reap, Funky Flashpackers had a rooftop bar and beautiful pool. When I wasn’t at Angkor Wat, there was no need to leave the hostel.

Funky Flashpackers hostel in Siem Reap

Also in Siem Reap was the infamous Pub Street, which is similar to Khoa San Road in Bangkok. For $10, I participated in a pub crawl that provided nearly free drinks at every stop. Cambodia may be an impoverished country with a difficult history, but it is a vibrant place that is developing in a big way.

The entrance to Pub Street

 

Matt Weithorn (buddy from college) and I during the Siem Reap pub crawl.

 

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