A new country in my heart

As our trip continues East we reach the Kingdom of Cambodia. At the border with Thailand one can already tell that change is coming. Cambodia is exceptional. On our way to Siem Riep I started noticing a few things, the most obvious is poverty. Infrastructure is precarious and Sorry Villages are everywhere. The locals are skinny, short, sun scorched skin and usually boasting a big friendly smile. Laughter is rather common. And that surprised me.
The real Cambodia.

Butcher. No ice or soap anywhere near.

Lotus farm. You can eat the seeds as snacks. They are supposed to be sweet.

Alligator farm. These bad boys are worth a lot of money.

The base of the continent: rice!

Biking trough the county side.

More than just a warning, a life philosophy around here.

Siem Riep is an aberration. The good kind, mind you. A Westerner can find almost anything it misses. The temples of Ankor Wat, Ankor Thon and etc are as magnificent as expected. I struggled to imagine how the temples would look like on their glorious days. There's simply no frame of reference in my mind. When I went to Rome a few years ago, I could imagine myself fighting with Russell Crow on the arena of the Colosseum while thousands of people cheer for blood as a vicious tiger is about to join the show. Hollywood creates a lot of good content for a few selected civilizations, even fantasy (Thank you Peter Jackson), some times over and over again ( Hercules again?!) instead of trying new things. I'm pretty sure the ancient Khmer empire is full of amazing material for movies, series, games, books and what have you. I hope somebody make it happen and we have something fresh.
Marvelous temples

Protectors of sacred temples: Lion & Naga

Angkor Wat sunrise


This tree need stones to grow big

Apsaras everywhere. Symbols of party!

The coldest Strangling Ficus of the forest

Selfie with the stoner face!

The Chinese Tourist Horde was there, celebrating their New Year. They have money, are hungry, are thirsty, armed with selfie sticks, taking pictures with their tablets, swarming over everything, their buses crowd parking lots and clog small streets. They are unstoppable and I'm afraid they'll take over the world before I'm ready.
Happy Chinese New Year! Goat!

They kind of become the attraction

Where do all these picture go?
Goats decoration on a Christmas-like tree

Thankfully the Horde was not in Battambang, a quite little town in the west but with two truly unique experiences: the bamboo train and the bat cave. The former is an one hour tourist trap. But it's loud, shaky and fast: one of my definitions of fun! The latter is a nature show off, millions of bats flying out of their nest in search of food. It takes more than one hour for all the bats to fly out and as they cluster in the sky you start to wonder if you're seeing the Black Smoke of Lost. Pro tip: climb up to the giant Buddha face on the rock for a perfect view and no bat pee.
Riding the baboo train is awesome!

Fast, shaky and loud: fun!

Huge Naga sculpture

Made out of recovered guns and firearms

Bats, millions of hungry bats

Buddha statue overlooking the valley

For our last stop we went for the big city, the Pearl of Asia, Phnom Penhn. I heard only bad stories about it even tough the guides told a different thing. Luckily, I enjoyed it, a lot. The city was beautifully planned by the French and the locals added their typical touch resulting in an authentic ordered chaos. The city has everything, from thousands of street food cars to chic shopping malls with even "mansions next to slums", a classic arrangement back in Brazil. The city can also tell a dark chapter in the country's history: the Khmer Rouge (Red). A terrible sad story that is also neglected by Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Genocide, communism, war, mass murder, crazy leaders, brainwash, fear and violence. The horrors are still vivid for a few "lucky" victims. I met one of the survivors, I was in his cell at S21, I saw him crying in a video trying to cope with the past, I almost bought his book. As I walked through the killing fields, between dozens of mass graves and avoiding human remains that frequently unearth, a torrent of feelings rushed through me. I wiped my shy tears and shook away the dread. How come these atrocities are still possible?! How can people be so insane?! It boggles me deeply.
Skyscrapers of the big city

Scooters are the blood of Asia!

Cambodia museum

Lying Vishnu?

The end of another day in the growing city

I love you. Okay!

After all the hell that the Khmer Rouge brought upon the nation, I can understand why and how the county is in the current state and why so many people want to help (Thanks Angie and Brad). Now I know why Cambodians are so happy: they are free and can have a future. They are thankful for what they have now.
Paying respect to the victims

9 floors of human remains

Corridors of terror

A dark purpose

VIP cells
We stayed only 10 days but Cambodia will forever be in my heart. It's really special.


P.S.: We also met a some really cool people in Cambodia: Jade, Coach, Tiago and Hak! Big hugs to all of you.