The biggest religious structure on the planet, crashing a funeral on NYE, trekking in the jungle, beautiful beaches (Day 92)

All of these things I have experienced in Cambodia in the last 10 days. It has been an excellent country to visit. I have stayed here much longer than I expected. Before I get into this craziness, I should mention how shocked I was to learn about the horrible history of Cambodia. Wars, genocide, famine, this country has seen many hard times — but the craziest part is how *recent* it all happened.  For example, the genocide took place just 30 years ago.  I won’t go into it here, but you can read about it if you are interested.

I am not much of a religious guy. So, I don’t get too excited about all the churches, temples, monasteries, stupas, etc, that are frequented by travellers (although I try). However, Cambodia is home to the largest religious building on Earth. Now, that is something. The building is the Angkor Wat near Siem Reap. It is surrounded by a moat big enough to water-ski on. It took 300,000 men and 500,000 (!!) elephants to build! Incredible! Can you imagine trying to manage that many elephants/people?? I couldn’t get a good picture, but here is one from the web.

Who you looking at?  One of the 216 massive faces at the Bayon temple, one of Angkor’s finest

I spent a few days in the capital of Phnom Penh learning about Cambodian history and snapped this pic.  Only in Asia…

I bused up to the NE province of the country called Rattanakiri.  That night I experienced the weirdest New Years Eve of my life:

A guy I was travelling with and I found ourselves in this small town in the middle of nowhere on NYE. We wandered the streets looking for ANY place where we could find a beer. We banded together with some other travelers doing the same thing.  We got shot down by every place that looked even remotely open.  Late in the night, we came across a yard full of Cambodians partying. We approached them to ask if we could buy some beer. Better yet, they invited us to party with them. We spent the night drinking beer and rice wine, dancing to Shakira, and trying to communicate with these guys. Eventually we discovered it was a funeral! We got invited into the house to see the corpse and pay our respects. We politely declined. So, that is how I crashed a Cambodian funeral for NYE. The things that happen to you when you travel…

Btw, I have an idea for next NYE that involves some reader interaction (if there is anybody still reading at that point…).  I will be in South America.  Since I can’t be at home with friends and family, I would like to arrange a time where I can take down a NYE drink with you all, even though we are far apart.  I think it could be fun for a bunch of people around the world having a NYE drink at the same instant.  This is just a heads up.  More on that in a years time…

I then spent two days trekking through the jungle of NE Cambodia near the Laos border. Wow, the jungle is thick. Lots of vines and other such odd plants. It is hot, humid and nasty in there. We spent the night in hammocks that had mosquito nets. Apparently this is the best way to sleep in the jungle. The other thing I noticed is the weird noises that are made during the night in the jungle. They are not sounds you will hear in your typical North American forest. Creepy. Anyway, I had two good guys as companions.  We didn’t have a guide and got quite lost.  A great adventure.

Our transportation to the jungle was this already overloaded truck.  This is classic Asia.  We climbed on top of it all with our packs.  As one of my friends put it as the truck pulled up, “This is what it is all about”.  Well said.

My accommodations in the jungle

So, after all this travelling, I needed a vacation :) So, I have come to Sihanoukville, a beach town in Cambodia, for a little rest and relaxation. The beaches are beautiful, the beer cheap, and the tourists friendly. It is a good place to hang for a while. Yesterday I did some snorkeling, hung out on remote beaches, and had a seafood BBQ. Last night I preceded to drink too much and sleep on the beach.  Anyway, this is the lifestyle.  Sometimes the life a traveler can be hard. Right now is not one of those times :)

A beach in Thailand??  Nay, this place exists on an island off the coast of Cambodia

Btw, for those are into the map, I have updated it.  In a few days I will slide over to Vietnam. Talk to you then…

PS: Congrats to Team Canada for winning the World Junior Championships for the 5th year in a row! Sweet :)

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4 Responses to The biggest religious structure on the planet, crashing a funeral on NYE, trekking in the jungle, beautiful beaches (Day 92)

  1. Boris says:

    Does this mean you didn\’t go to Siem Reap? I understand you prefer to rough it in the jungle instead of seeing temples, but the temples of Angkor are a must buddy. My personal favourite: Bayon.

  2. Shawn says:

    Ya, I went to Siem Reap and saw a few of the temples of Angkor. I called out Angkor Wat in this blog post, but Bayon was great, too. I now think it is deserving of a pic in the post, so I have added one :) Also, I enjoyed Ta Prohm — after all the things we do to her, it is good to see Mother Nature winning a battle as it slowly destroys that unmaintained temple :)

  3. Jay says:

    Warlock, when i was travelling through South America i came across a book at a hostel that I read called "The Last Executioner" by Nic Dunlop. It was all about the Khumer Rouge, Pol pot and the genocides…what an intense history. If you ever see that book, it is worth a read. I\’ve been a terrible blog-follower, but you know how things go sometimes here in whistler. Life is good. Have you heard about our insane snow pack? We thought last year\’s dec 4th crust was bad…. this year we have a similar rain crust BUT with facets above and below that will not go away. Rumour has it the Peak chair won\’t open at all this year! Can you believe that? I\’ve still been having fun. Went up to Cerise Creek for the night with Rob and some of the gang, skiied some nice trees (rocking the Karhu\’s like a mo fo) and drank port and wiskey in the hut. Keep on rockin\’ in the free world.Jay

  4. Shawn says:

    Jay — I heard about the snowpack from Mur. Crazy!! I can\’t imagine the Peak Chair not opening. My mind is blown. Murray has reminded me how good last winter was. He asks me if the horseshoe hurt when I took it out of my ass ;) Anyway, nice job on still earning some turns. And I am very glad the Karhus are treating you well :)>> and drank port and wiskey in the hut. Ah, the Whistler life… nice!

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