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i have so much to say now that i'm back from cambodia and vietnam but few words can entirely capture the whole experience of being in countries so different from other countries i've been to. both countries were amazing. angkor wat in siem reap was a step back in history, and a step towards a sprained ankle. hobbled around with an elephant's calf for a week but it was so worth it. ta prohm and the bayon's architecture was mindblowing for a civilization from so long ago.

and then it was to phnom penh where we were caught in a flood and we were stranded on the streets with murky muddy water that came up to knee level. the kids playing it the water and swimming in the roads made the whole experience so much more enjoyable and happier, save for the fact that my flip flops snapped and i tripped on a curb (coz you can't see them when the water's that deep) and my camera decided to go for a dip in the water to cool off.

went off to sihanoukville by the coast and it was just two days of lazing by the beaches eating seafood, listening to the waves, reading my book and getting my fair share of massages. partying in sihanoukville was crazy with newly made friends from france and the uk. didn't help we were all pretty wasted and the abundance of CPGs (Cambodian Party Girls) made the whole night much more laughable in retrospect. and who could ever forget the t shirt and towel fight back in the room.

then it was back to phnom penh to see tuol sleng genocide museum and the killing fields which was a terribly sombre affair. the khmer rouge regime was a monstrosity and witnessing for yourself where the mass graves were located and seeing the place where pol pot's clique conducted their interrogations and locked up people was just bone chilling. the stupa at the killing fields was stacked with the unearthed skulls of those buried in the killing fields and it was just disturbing to see their empty hollow eyes stare out at you. you somehow feel their desperation and the helplessness. they were defenceless and had no way out. yet in the killing fields, you see grass growing in the holes where the bodies were recovered and it somehow seemed to represent a salient hope for the cambodian people. that life continues and flourishes despite its dark past and history. and i guess closure's really all they want now, and the chance to finally move on. the cambodian people are a strong bunch i guess, but when you see the children on the streets who come up to you tugging at your sleeves for money or to get you to buy something from them, or when you see landmine victims crawling on the beaches begging for money, it's quite hard to say no when you want to help. you can't help everyone and giving them money just keeps them on the streets. it's conflicting sometimes, but the resilience is there.

and then it was off to ho chi minh city in vietnam. now i wasn't too impressed with phnom penh, it being the capital of cambodia and all. it was messy and dirty and just chaotic everywhere. but ho chi minh was a totally different story. it was messy, yes, but there was this semblance of an order amidst the chaos. saw the cu chi tunnels and their underground system was very impressive and tactical. crawled for three hundred metres with liang and we were dying, and this was only one small part of an immense system that covered hundreds of kilometres all the way to the saigon river. and then there was the cao dai temple which, without meaning to be offensive, was perplexing. it's a vietnamese religion founded in the early 1900s and believers worship amongst many others, jesus, guan yin and lao tzu. the entrance of a temple has a painting with three of its patron saints in it - victor hugo, sun yat-sen and some vietnamese poet. it was really a mix of culture and influences. but the most perturbing thing about the whole thing was the cao dai symbol. an eye. it was just piercing and penetrating. yet, watching their afternoon prayer was an experience in itself, with hymns in an unknown language. it was uplifting actually. and of course, the highlight of the trip was my swanky new tattoo. three hours of sheer pain but it was all worth it :)

i guess at the end of the trip, i'm just happy to be where i am now. despite the elephant ankle and the demise of my camera, the trip was inspiring. the countryside was mesmerising - the tranquility and the innocence of untouched beauty and land. understanding the turbulent history of two of our neighbours puts alot of things in perspective. singapore's entrenched in a region with such a violent history it cannot be ignored. we talk about hitler and germany in world war two, and we talk about rwanda and darfur in recent times, but there's so much still ongoing that needs to be done to rebuild such a torn up country. we said we've learnt our lessons after the defeat of the nazis, but the pol pot regime occurred as recently as 1980. much more needs to be done to rehabilitate its people but as of now, camdodia deserves all our respect for its natural beauty, it's ancient heritage and painful history.

it was a well deserved break from everything i guess, and to think. receiving your message in ho chi minh was reassuring so thank you. and travelling with liang was probably the best choice i guess. it's hard to find like-minded people who do not bore you even after 10 days of facing each other 24 hours. so yes, kudos to ROGER. roger that. haha

photos are on facebook. my photos end at phnom penh after my camera's dip in the water. rest of the days are with ROGER.