Siem Reap, Cambodia:
Of all the places I have travelled in the last 12 months, no country has had the level of poverty of Cambodia. Many families live off of salaries of $1/day, lack adequate nutrition, have access to limited healthcare, and are still the kindest, happiest people anywhere. It doesn’t seem possible to me, but it is. The kids are trained from a very young age (some of them appearing to be no older than four) to beg for money or sell items. Therefore, they lack a normal childhood that most kids in developed countries are so fortunate to have. It also surprised me that amongst such high levels of poverty, that car brands such as Lexus and Range Rover could be found on virtually every street corner? The Cambodian people are so generous and although many know very little English, they have a way of communicating with others in such incredible ways.
The second night in Siem Reap, Sarah and I had seen a free concert advertised and expected authentic Cambodia music. What we got couldn’t have been more different and eye opening. It was a charity performance by Dr. Beat Richner: a Swiss physician who lives in Cambodia. He has been living in Cambodia for over two decades and founded the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital (there are now several in Cambodia). Over 65% of the population in cambodia carries the tuberculosis mycobacterium, children lack immunizations, dengue fever and malaria are rampant, malnutrition is everywhere, and other diseases (hepatitis, typhoid, respiratory infections, and dysentery) are heavily prevalent. It really makes me understand how lucky I truly am to live in a country where medical care is everywhere!!!
The temples: going through Angkor Wat and the other temples in Siem Reap was an amazing experience! Words cannot describe the beauty so here are some pictures that will hopefully do it the justice it deserves. Some of these temples are over a millennium old and are still in tact!
My first glimpse of Angkor Wat
Sitting in Angkor Wat :)
Unreal stone carvings in the walls
We got a little hungry: why not eat some fried bugs in Cambodia??? Legs and all...
Beautiful children all over Cambodia
One of my favorite temples: Two of my favorites were Bayon and Ta Prohm (and many others)
More extravagant works of art
Sunrise at Angkor Wat: a once in a lifetime experience
"Walk a mile in someone else' shoes"
Full circle rainbow: what an amazing day
Scenic lake on our temple walks
Our tuk-tuk drivers daughters: we sure had a wonderful day with them!
Perhentian Islands, Terengganu, Malaysia:
The next weekend (turned into a week), I went on a solo trip to the Perhentian Islands in the North East of Malaysia! After 12 hours on a night bus, I made it to Kuala Besut, and took a one-hour ferry to the most beautiful islands I have seen in Malaysia. I was originally going to stay 2.5 days but I stayed for nearly a week. I was super tired when I arrived in the morning, but I found a cheap dorm, slept for two hours, and started diving!!! I saw bamboo sharks, thousands of tropical fish, barracuda, batfish, trigger fish, porcupine fish, puffer fish, bumphead parrot fish, nutibranchs, a green sea turtle, rabbit fish, pipefish, and dozens more.
At the end of the day I decided that I was addicted to scuba diving (well, I already knew) and I wanted to get my next certification! I started that night working on getting my rescue diver certification: honestly one of the hardest things I have done in my life! The PADI website says it the most demanding but the most rewarding course: they couldn’t be more correct. I spent three days saving divers who were acting as panicked divers, those who were out of air, nonresponsive, had nitrogen narcosis, you name it! My instructor was beyond great and his goal was to “make my life hell”: he succeeded, but I still had fun. I also had to complete an entire dive with no mask and with my eyes open: it is MUCH harder than you would think! I also had to experience what it is like have a panicked diver come up behind you and unknowingly rip the regulator from your mouth, take off your mask, or essentially try and drown you! I was thrown under the water numerous times: at least you can breathe under water when you have a scuba regulator! I have come to realize that a panicked diver is one of the most dangerous things possible! The course was physically strenuous!!!! Having to carry a 90kg person from the water onto shore sure takes it out of you!
After much work, I passed! I AM NOW A RESCUE DIVER!!! I am a way more confident diver and I feel much more prepared for the crazy things that can happen while diving. I find it ironic as well that both my sister and I are divers: but very different. I’ll let Madeline stick to the platforms and springboards while I take on the open ocean :)
Diving has honestly changed my post-undergraduate plans. I had planned on extensively travelling southern Africa or South America next year when I graduate but I have a feeling I might be back in Asia or somewhere in the region to get my divemaster!
The end of one adventure and the start of the next! Tough Goodbyes
Today I took the last exam of my junior year, ending my academic semester in Malaysia. Right now I sit in my room in Malaysia packing up a chapter in my life that is not ready to end. Tonight I leave the beautiful town that I have called home for the last 4 months. Tanjong Malim, a town that most Westerners would never like or come to in the first place, has changed my life. The Malay girls here are polite, poised, soooo hardworking, kind, devout, and quiet for the most part- I think being around them may have improved some of these skills in me. The Malay people are so unlike many people you meet around the world: in a good way. There appears to me to be such little gossip, there is no petty bullying, the teamwork is so much more here than at home, no one is stressed or attached to the clock, everyone has a bright smile on their face, there is no complaining, and the list goes on. It’s hard to describe the culture here but it sure is different than in the states. I love Malaysia more each and every day I am here…the people here who have befriended me are just good people to say the least. I have a new view on Islam, on Asian culture, and I couldn’t have chosen a better country to study abroad in. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that in several hours I will say goodbye to friends that I very well may never see again.
Now starts the real adventure: 2 months backpacking through Laos, Thailand, China, and Australia. I will keep you all posted on the crazy adventures that are ahead of me!!!