CAMBODIA SIEM REAP 2016: Wat Thmey (Killing Fields) & Tonle Sap Floating Villages

By Cathy H - 6:55 PM

On the last full day of my stay in Cambodia, I began the day with a tuktuk ride to Wat Thmey, a mini version of the "killing fields" in Phnom Pehn since I did not have time to travel to that city to see the actual killing fields. It was very eye opening reading personal accounts of the Khmer people that underwent the massacre and the suffering that affected over 1.7 million Cambodians.  The case of skulls was a sombering reminder of the horrific event that took place in Cambodian history. 

In the afternoon, me and my tour group embarked on a one hour ride to a rural lake/river area with "floating villages" which was one of the most shocking part of the trip for me. It was low tide season so there was very little water for the fishermen to fish in.  The villages were piled up with sticks and cheap metal roofs. There was probably no sewage system or electricity.  The whole river was a yellow mud color and I stepped one foot into this questionable mud matter, which was quite hilarious but terrifying at the same time. At the end of the river, we got off to another poor village where we were immediately being pestered by hawkers to buy pencils and books for the "poor school children" since the tour guide took us to see a "classroom" which was a makeshift outdoor space with desks and chairs on the dirt floor. The kids were singing "Old MacDonalds" and were probably forced to sing English to put on a show of pity for the foreign tourists. It seemed very staged to me and I did not know what to think of it. Though the children were in true poverty conditions, the tourists were obviously being exploited and manipulated into buying things for the village people and children- which were probably returned back to the hawkers to make more profit.  It was a uncomfortable experience "touring" third world poverty conditions and villages where people lived. It was like the village people were in a zoo and we were just walking around taking pictures with shocked looks on our faces. This was my first experience with third world poverty, and I felt like I was in a World Vision Informercial. I thought back to all my "problems" in my first world life and felt very ashamed to have complained about those things when halfway across the world, people were still living like this. I did not know what to make of it quite frankly, but was grateful to see this floating village and the fishermen that made a livelihood here because it opened my eyes to the realities of the developing world. We live in the same world, but we have such different lives. Which made me think about birthright lottery and why some of us got to live 5 star lives while some others lived in conditions like place. The world is grossly unfair, to be honest.

Overall, I have to say that Cambodia was my favourite place in the trip. I got exactly what I came from- from friendships, to trying Khmer food, to getting a taste of the culture and seeing the conditions of the poorest Southeast Asian country. The whole trip was a unforgettable experience, but Cambodia definitely has a special place in my heart now. I am very grateful I pulled off this trip by myself because it was all so daunting at first, riding 6 planes in 9 days and having so many places planned out. Nothing went wrong and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. This trip gave me confidence and empowerment as a person, especially as a solo female traveller because I depended on myself for everything. Southeast Asian was everything I had ever expected and more. 

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