Our Journey Beyond the Bucket List begins with Cambodia, known today by many as the Land of Smiles.
It is as well, a land stained by the former affliction of the Khmer Rouge, which killed two million civilians (nearly 25% of the population) from 1975 – 1979. It is a tragedy that continues to touch each and every Cambodian; all have lost at least one family member in the genocide. However, Cambodia’s people are slowly rising out of this legacy, as they continue to feed their cultural diversity and strive for a better future through development efforts and positivity.
Today, as you travel through its villages, towns and cities, you see reflections of Cambodia’s historical narrative and future advancement colliding together in a somewhat mixed-match, but seemingly beautiful way. In the capital city of Phnom Penh – French influence is dusted throughout, with colonial houses, broad boulevards and parks. Just outside the city, the landscape suddenly changes as you approach the former detention camps of the communist rule where piles of skulls remain. Around Siem Reap, the mysterious Angkor Archeological Park displays ruins among ancient banyan tree forests that speak of a bygone era of ancient, wealthy trade.
Small villages between these large tourist zones are the real Cambodia – children scurry through washed-out dirt roads, mothers wash clothes outside their huts, ox carts carry produce to small, dusty markets. All of these vivid images make up life for the typical Cambodian citizen; and despite the horror stories they live with from the Khmer Rouge, they wake to enjoy hot, humid days with smiles on their faces.
As we journey together through this series of Cambodia, challenge yourself to learn of the country’s history and become inspired by the stories of its present day heroes.
I don’t want to give too much away, but…here are some hints for who we will hear from over the next few weeks: An expat who knows a thing or two about Cambodian cuisine, a Brazilian traveler touched by her meeting with a Khmer Rouge survivor, A break-dancer helping street kids in Phnom Penh, and an ordinary American doing extraordinary things through local partnerships.
Of course, I will chime in as well with fun interludes along the way.
Let’s get started (with smiles on our faces).
Photo Credit: Copyright Bo Nielsen – Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic