Tomb Raiders: the Cambodia story

Of all the places on my extensive bucket list, Cambodia really wasn’t one of them. I knew nothing about the place other than the volume of seedy middle aged men we would send to Phnom Penh and that wasn’t much of a selling point.

When I was offered a week there, all expenses paid (aside from a minuscule participation fee) I was so intrigued. I can honestly say Angkor Wat and Lara Croft was about the extent of my knowledge. Time to learn a new destination with a bunch of gorgeous agents. This was to be my second ever solo trip (I hadn’t met any of the other agents before) and I was newly single too! Bring it on I said.

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Meet The Beauty Faces!

We flew Malaysian airlines, I fell asleep in the airport and almost got left behind (the usual) and soon we arrived in the mad capital, Phnom Penh.

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What we found on arrival was somewhat to be expected; a big smoggy city with a heavy amount of poverty. What we didn’t expect was that every person we had a conversation with turned out to be absolutely beautiful. We had one of the kindest souls in the world as our guide. A beautiful gentleman so full of stories and history it was impossible not to be absorbed by him. We also didn’t mind the fact that he referred to us as beautiful movie stars at every opportunity… Oh go on then.

White skin is so coveted in Asia that we found skin whitening products in the 7/11s. Nothing worse than a whitening emergency! How bizarre that opposingly we strive for a flawless tan. I guess we all want what we can’t have. Being white certainly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to that scorching sun. Exploring temples in 40 degrees but needing to have our knees and shoulders covered out of respect certainly taught us that. I just don’t know how they do those layers, but it’ll be worth it when their skin stays flawless and we end up like leather!

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Our first big day of exploring we travelled in cyclos with the fittest men of all time riding us around. Bugger that for a laugh! 

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We saw the palace before heading out to the most horrendous place I have ever been. The Killing Fields.

A wee history lesson for those, like me, who sadly haven’t been educated on the genocide that occurred in Cambodia only 35 years ago at the hands of their evil leader, Pol Pot. For 4 years he tortured and murdered his people. He brainwashed children, and created an army of blood thirsty young men who committed the most disgusting acts I have ever heard. I won’t repeat. There were bones sticking out of the paths we walked on. There were blood stains on the walls of the cells and ‘laboratories’.

I visited a concentration camp while in Germany and, though I’m not comparing tragedies, the feeling I got in this place was tenfold anything I had felt before. I was sick. But you know what’s more important? The fact that we educate ourselves on these things, because although they may not have affected us personally, they were still human beings. These things happen all over the world every day. We are all humans, we can’t help where we are born, and it is our duty to protect people; the people who can’t stand up for themselves. This man was evil and no one stepped in until it was too late.

Cambodia lost almost 2 million people during those 4 years. He wiped out 25% of his own population. Try wrap your head around that.

I pray we use our compassion and nothing like this ever happens again. People are only as powerful as others make them. Lets just look after this planet of ours as best we can. We’re all made of the same stuff on the inside.

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After learning so much and feeling rather hollow, we were treated to a wonderful night of cocktails and food. Needless to say, we needed a drink. So drink we did!

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We were also lucky to experience a little cruise up the Mekong and some roof top cocktails before we left behind a wild and interesting city.

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The modes of transport were as fun as the night life. Broom broom! Sure I can fit 5 of you in the back of my 2 seater…

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After some more exploring and watching old European men brush over haggard looking ladies while trying to polish off our local beers, Siem Reap here we come!

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And now for the complete other side of the spectrum, we entered an almost untouched paradise of rice paddies, temples and 5* resorts with still one of the greatest clubbing strips I’ve ever visited.

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Pub street!!! More on that later…

We had some wonderful downtime on arrival. Our hotel was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in.

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We did some wonderful hotel inspections, including the one Angelina stayed in while filming Tomb Raider. The next day we got lucky enough to spend 12 hours exploring the most incredible historical sights, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

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Add them to your bucket list. I would return to Siem Reap in a heart beat. We had so much fun. Too much, some might stay. Elana and I opted to skip the cooking class in favour of becoming acquainted with our bathroom floors. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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I owe a lot of my self development to this trip, but the thing I will always be the most thankful for is meeting one of my best friends. Elana is a top egg. I admire her so much. She’s a friend for life; she’s helped me through my shittest times and helped me celebrate my best. She’s not one for mushy shit but I love her and she knows it.

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Cambodia’s Next Top Models.

I think one of the most beautiful experiences we had was getting to spend one of our afternoons at an orphanage. It wasn’t on the original itinerary but a few of the girls expressed their desire to visit one. Heartbreakingly, there are a lot of orphaned children in Cambodia. The one we visited in particular specialised in the education of deaf and blind children. They were the funniest little beings.

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We taught them some cool hand shakes and had a laugh at the selfies they somehow knew how to take on our phones. They loved seeing pictures of themselves. The faces were classic. Before heading out there we popped to the shops and stocked up on some toys and art supplies for them too. It was nice to know we could offer something, even if it was just a bit of a giggle and something different. It was clear the teachers cared about them very much.

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I loved my trip to Cambodia. It’s up there as one of my favourites. It was eye opening and scary, interesting and upsetting, and worth every single moment. I’d love to go back and explore the beaches on the south coast. Back on the list she goes!

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I hope I’ve inspired a few of you to add her too.

Thanks for reading!

Lots of love

Harleigh Q

xo

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