[A quick note to avoid any confusion... we are a little behind on the blog posts... We left Cambodia a few weeks ago but have been having too much fun to get around to posting until now!]
Last night we turned in our keys, said our goodbyes, and concluded our 5-month tour around Southeast Asia. We could have easily stayed a few more months, even another year, but it was time to move on.
To send a proper farewell to the region, we jumped on the back of a motorscooter this past weekend with our friend Bon and headed out into the countryside to see the Angkor temples one last time.
We left our itinerary for the day entirely in Bon’s hands, who took us on a 50 kilometer ride out of town to his favorite temple, Bantey Srei. True to local-style, we rode 3-deep on his motorscooter for the hour that it took us to reach the temple…
We could see why it was his favorite. Its scale was miniature compared to other Angkor sites– like a dollhouse more than a grand temple, where we had to duck to reach the inner sanctums– and its bas relief carvings depicting scenes from ancient scripture were deeper and more ornate than any we’d seen before.
Then we hopped back on the moto and zoomed off to visit the one and only Angkor Wat, one last time…
As we started back toward town at the end of the day, a moment of hilarity ensued as I jumped on the back of the moto and Bon took off– not realizing we had left Scott standing in the dust 15 feet back. That got us all laughing and giddy for the long ride home, and from then, on nothing we said, no matter how serious, got off without a snicker or cracked joke.
We said goodbye to Bon, then strolled over to Art Deli where we told our favorite barista that we we wouldn’t be coming into the shop anymore – not for a long while, anyway.
That night, we ate at one of our favorite local restaurants, Chamka, and a young backpacker who had just flown into town asked us why we were so clearly enamored by Cambodia. It’s a question that always seems to catch me off-guard– mostly because it’s one I have been trying to answer for myself.
I knew the answer teetered around one simple realization– it’s simply impossible to spend time in Cambodia and remain an outside observer– it’s the kind of place that pulls you in and doesn’t let go easily. It’s the wedding (or funeral!) that takes place in the middle of the street for everyone to see… it’s the sounds of the neighbors that penetrate your every windowpane, every crack in the floorboards… it’s the stories of the people that you may know for only a brief moment in time that somehow manage to leave an indelible mark.
For me, it was the people that I worked with every day–
–the people whose stories fascinated me and humbled me–
–people who I barley knew, like the young HIV patients I met in the countryside, and the patients whose stories were told to me only through the lens of the microscope.
Thinking back to our conversation at the restaurant, I realized what my true reasons were– but they were reasons that couldn’t have been easily conveyed to anyone –they were reasons that she would have to discover for herself.
So goodbye, Cambodia and Southeast Asia! Thank you for an incredible 5 months – we will miss you, and we will be back!!