All aboard! Let’s take to a journey across the fresh water lake where the sky is breezy, and the boats are sailing. Our last day of Siem Reap, we were taking a trip to the floating village at the big lake of Siem Reap call Tonle Sap. Tonle Sap is a habitat village located in the middle of the big lake where there is floating schools, floating restaurants, floating houses, etc. This village has people on motor boats to go places to places while tourist ferries come across to the floating village to check out some wonderful views and the lifestyle of its atmosphere. The moment we arrived to the dock, I was the last person to get into the ferries. I winded up to the far end of the seat where the loud engine is at. While the engine was on, I was getting splash of water by the motor of the engine. This was no fun, until my tour guide suggested me that I should sit at the very front of the ferries. I’m like heck yes! I was standing at the peak of the ferries as if I was tip-toeing my feet like Rosie from the Titanic movie. The breeze was nice, and I was able to take some awesome photos from my DLSR camera. According to the tour guide, we came into the wrong time to explore Tonle Sap, because the river and the lake are somewhat shallow. There is no rainy season in June, and I believe it begins on July or August. From my viewpoint, the scenery looks kind of drought and dried, but it still have enough water for us to set sail. The ferries was slowing down a bit when were almost to the floating village. Next thing you know, they were two men in each of the three motorboats immediately rushed to our ferries and grabbed the side of the ferries. They were holding tight on the ferries and didn’t want to let go. The tour guide was confused and doesn’t know what’s going on. The tour guide asked the men from the motorboats in what’s going on. Based on their respond they said, you have to take our small motorboats if you want to go to the floating village. The tour guide was still confused. So he asked the captain of the ferries, and he said that this ferries cannot go any farther due to the shallowness of the river. And then he advised us to take the motorboats to the floating village instead. Dr. Chigas was very skeptical, because he saw few ferries went by to the floating villages. But since we were stuck and we don’t have any better option, we had to take the motorboats’ service. The men charged us two dollar for each person, and we had to split up into two groups. I was the first person to walk to the motorboat, and immediately, three men from separated motorboat reached out from their hand and tell me to sit down to their motorboat from left to right as if they were a bunch of hungry Tuk Tuk drivers ready to make business. We were forced to take their service and pay for their service if we want to check out the floating village. After the trip of the floating village, in the end, the tour guide was still confused and frustrated in why other ferries manage to go to the floating village without the motorboats. Once we arrived to the dock, the tour guide filed a complaint to the ferries service, because we didn’t know that we have to use the motorboats to go across the floating village. I told everyone that the hold time that we were attacked by “pirates”! If you think about it, these pirates came to our ferries and asked for our money! It’s either we gave them money to go to the floating village or head back to the dock. Overall, these pirates did give us good service in bringing up places to places in the floating village. We get to check out restaurant and a place where they store real life crocodiles for dinner. It was a great experience in having these pirates carrying out our voyage.
Oh my goodness, this is it! My very very very first time checking out one of the seven world wonder in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is the holiest ancient temple in the heart of Cambodia. It has historical contexts based on the Hinduism history and the great war of the Khmer Empire. Everyone like to explore this ancient temple like Indian – Jones style. For me particularly, I love looking at ancient pictures of the wall as if I’m reading it from a comic book. My mind was totally zoned out and I was imagining a comicbook action between the ancient soldiers versus the Hindu gods. Sometime, I worn my headphone on to listen some cinematic music while looking at the wall. It was totally epic. My entire trip in Angkor Wat, I was mesmerized of the beauty of the temple. I can’t believe my ancestors built this massive building in the ancient day. The rocks were completely heavy and the sculptures were everywhere. Sometime, there are some drawing on the wall that is left unfinished. I learned a lot from observing Angkor Wat and I’m glad that we have a tour guide to give us a history lesson about Angkor Wat. You wouldn’t believe the amazing history behind Angkor Wat.
Cambodian kickboxing is the authentic martial art that hold values to its sport and tradition. A Khmer word for kickboxing is “Pradel Serey” meaning “free fight” based on the context. This sport is absolutely brutal, because you are allow to use elbows, knees, and sheens. Unlike boxing, using your elbow to deliver a blow is like a blunt knife and using your knee and sheen is like sledge hammer. I’ve been practicing Cambodian Kickboxing for almost four years in Lowell. So far, I still haven’t been to one kickboxing gym yet in Cambodia. I thought it’s going to be very popular here since it’s their original sport. I heard very few gyms are open yet I still have a hard time finding it. One time in Kulen mountain, we went to explore the waterfall and check out the enormous Buddha temple in the village. For some reason, I have a crazy imagination in looking for the sensei of Pradel Serey in the village just like a Chinese movie. Usually, a wise sensei or fighter live up in the mountain, or near the waterfall. Also, this place is a perfect place for fighter to maintain their faith at the Buddha temple. Usually, Cambodian martial artists are faithful to the Buddha religion. I guess is just my imagination or I just watch too many kung fu movies. Unfortunately, I found no sensei in this village. This place is your everyday village in the countryside of Siem Reap. While everyone is enjoying swimming at the waterfall, I was exploring to other side of the waterfall in the unoccupied area. With my plain t-shirt, Levi jean, and my chuck sneakers, I was walking through bushes, branches, and rock just to get to the other side of the waterfall. Then I hop off from the ground and land on the boulder laying on the stream. I was standing on top of the boulder and test out the platform. It was a suitable place for me to practice my martial art. It’s not an everyday thing for martial artist to train their body outdoor near the waterfall and the stream. I was training my body like a kung fu man training their body in a Chinese film. I was doing Cambodian kickboxing, yoga, and tai chi. I was concentrating my energy by listening the flow of the waterfall. I’d been there for a good 15 minutes until a local child saw me and decide to join me with my training. I was aware of his present, but I ignore his present since I was really into my training. Next thing I know, he was duplicating my moves. We were punching together and kicking together. We were making read sound and noises while we were training. He was giggling thought out training. In the end, he was exhausted then sat down on his butt and I was giggling. Since there was language barrier between us and my khmer is still elementary, I was using sign language to communicate him better while I was speaking English. I was giving him some final lesson before I let him go. Surprisingly, he know some English. This is how it’s go:
Me: if you want to become good, (pointing my head) always learn a lot
Him: Learn a lot!
Me: when you learn a lot, (flex my biceps) you become stronger.
Me: but always remember that you always need (pounding my left chest) a good heart.
After that day, it got me questioning: what do kids do to keep themselves busy while living in Kulen mountain? When I was up to the mountain, I feel like there is barely any activities for kid. There was no soccer field, they barely have toys, no technology whatsoever, and I think I don’t even play tag or something. There’s not even a school or a club that can teach them art or music; not even a Pradel Serey gym. I feel like there is barely any activities to encourage them in learn new thing. To me, I think having activity help them to become more discipline; just like learning Pradel Serey in how my master taught me. In reality, I think the only things that kids do here are doing chores at home and help their family with farming. I can see a huge difference in being a kid in Cambodia and used to be a kid in America.
It was too early for us to wake up, and I’m still running in the American time. My roommates and I were packing clothes and all the stuff we need to survive five days at Siem Reap. We were leaving from Thursday morning thru Monday night. We were happy to have AUPP to help us organized everything for our trip to Siem Reap. They were a great help in giving us transportation to the Bus station and helping us booked tickets for our trip. My AUPP classmate Sievlan was the main coordinator of our four days trip. She had gotten everything organized for us in exploring Siem Reap. We were fortunate to have Sievlan to be our main tourist to Siem Reap since it is her native city. Once we arrived to the bus station, we there one hour early of our schedule. I was surprise of the number of tourists from all over the country. Just hearing from their foreign language, I heard one from French, Germany, Korean, and some with a British and Australian accents. So far while I’m in abroad, I only met two Americans, but majority time I encountered Europeans. They were some African-descendant and Middle-Eastern tourists also in Cambodia which I find it pretty cool to see them here. I just find it fascinating that there is a diverse of tourists take an interest in exploring Cambodia. Anyway back to the story, the bus station has a lot of things to offer. You can take a bus to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh city, and Vientiane other than the national area like Sihanoukville or Siem Reap. I believe Cambodia it’s a perfect place for tourists who want to explore some part of the Southeast-Asian region since Cambodia is the center of everything. Having the bus may sound convenient, but the only problem is that the ride is ridiculously long. A ride to Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is about six hours long! That’s like going to Boston to New York City approximately. The bus we went to was clean and somewhat spacy. They also accommodated us with snack and water during the trip. There is WiFi in the bus, but it was straight up unusuable. During the trip on the highway, the road was very narrow. It was a two way traffic freeway, but driver can pass the car in front of them. It’s so weird, because in America, majority of the highways have three lanes going one way. Also, they were lot of scooter drivers riding the freeway and often the bus intend to pass them constantly. The bus driver always honk his horn every three seconds every time there is a scooter drivers. It was obnoxious at first, but we were used to it later on. The scary part about scooter driver is that they carry their family on the scooter. I saw the mother sitting behind the scooter driver while holding her sleeping toddler onto her arm. I’d seen one son sit on front of the scooter driver and two of the son sit on the back. Sometime, I see cars carrying out their family or a pick up truck. But majority of time, I always see the whole family sat together in one small scooter. Imagine bringing your family in a small scooter for a long road trip. Perhaps this is the lower class lifestyle in having a long road trip. It could be cheaper to bring a scooter for a long road trip, but it’s very time consuming and it is extremely risky cause’ you don’t know what would happen to you once you stranded in the highway. We were granted to have two stops at the restaurants. The restaurants were built for bus passengers or tourists specifically since some of the foods are pretty expensive to eat for a Cambodian price. Out of everything during the long road trip, I couldn’t stand taking a nap while I’m at the bus. I was enjoying seeing the beautiful view in seeing the countryside of Cambodia. There were so many palm trees and cows in every area. There’s even mountain filled with trees that I can see from the distance. I enjoyed watching the view during the trip. I believed everyone should experience a long bus ride at least once to see the beauty of Cambodia. You learn a lot by just observing the view.
Tuk Tuk is your local taxi driver commonly in the urban city like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Tuk Tuk is originated in Thailand, but Tuk Tuk in Cambodia is the most convenient driver you’ll be finding in the busiest urban city of Cambodia. For me particular, although I am 100 percent pure Cambodian descendant, a lot of Tuk Tuk driver ask me for a ride in English. Right off the bat, they know that I am a pure foreigner probably the richness of my skin color and the unusual clothing I wear. Every time we got off from the four-six hours drive from a long bus drive in a freeway, “hungry” Tuk Tuk drivers immediately lined up at the bus station and hastily asked the tourists if they want to take a ride to the Tuk Tuk. I’m the easiest target, because of my obvious look. They know I’m Cambodian – American, so it’s not easy to fool them. One time, a Tuk Tuk driver from Phnom Penh asked me if I need a ride and I replied back to him an English. I know my friends told me that if a Tuk Tuk driver talk to me in English, I should be replying back in Khmer. If I do, I would have disguise as a local and have a reasonable price like $3 dollar since they like to overcharge foreigners. This person in Phnom Penh particularly almost charge us $15 just to give us a 5 minutes ride to the apartment. I was mad cause’ they were a total scam artist. Luckily my friends speak fluent khmer and able to bargain with him in making the price 5 dollars for six people. In Siem Reap, they are swarm of Tuk Tuk drivers more than Phnom Penh. Siem Reap is known the most tourist-friendly place since majority of natives are capable in speaking foreign languages such as English, French, and Korean. Tuk Tuk drivers would run to me and asked if I need ride like every ten seconds I walk around the blocks. Usually, I denied their offer, since they are keep on coming. I think all the Tuk Tuk drivers are required to speak English in order to receive service. Tuk Tuk drivers love to be approachable in asking tourists if they need a ride. Usually, they charge in a ridiculous price just to earn extra. The price with Tuk Tuk is never stable or consistent. That’s why you’re bargain skills need to come in play. A suitable price should be 2-5 dollars depending on the destination and the amount of people. Beyond that, you should be skeptical. Regardless of the business of the Tuk Tuk driver, it’s a life time experience because you feel like you are in a wagon and you can enjoy the view while you at. Tuk Tuk drivers are usually respectful and courteous to their customers. If it’s raining outside, they feel obligated to put the tent down on the wagon to protect us. So far, I have never encounter a Tuk Tuk driver who is unfriendly. Tuk Tuk is worth the experience especially that you can watch the amazing view right to your seat.
Everyone likes a good massage! One time, my cousin from Seattle suggested me that I should get my feet wet in Cambodia, literally. He told me I should go find a fish tank at the local market in Siem Reap and dip my feet, so the fishes can “eat” it. I don’t know if he was talking about fishes or piranhas, but according to him, these fishes eat the dead cells living in your foot. He said it feels more like a massage and you are getting the benefit for your feet. I was totally up for it, because the word “massage” excites me enough. Once I arrived to the night market of Siem Reap, they were variety of local markets offering fish massage in front of the booth. I saw a foreign lady with a French or Swedish accent chilling on the fish tank like it is no tomorrow. She seemed so relaxed while a school of fishes nibbling her feet. I was excited to take the opportunity that I immediately slapped the two dollars to the owner’s hand. The moment I almost placed my feet in, those fishes look extremely hungry. I was nervous and fearful that I started with my pinky toe. One of the fish bites my toe, and I was hopping my butt off the bench. I was truly scared now. I dipped my feet one or two seconds at the time. My “good” friends with an East-Asian accent grabbed my knees and held down my leg against the bottom of the tank. Next thing I know, they were swarm of fishes nibbling my hairy ankle and feet as if it was a Chinese buffet. I know for sure, my Cambodian flesh was not in the menu, so I jumped out again and shook all crazy. My two “good” friends were laughing their butt off. My “good” friends were so generous that they recorded me while I was freaking out. Then she asked the owner to take a quick photo of me with her and her friend. I’m like “H” to the “NO”. I grabbed the side pole tight like a teddy bear, because I’m scare she might dumped me to the fish tank. After 30 seconds of “tug-of-war,” she finally dragged me to sit next to her by the fish tank and I was fidgeting my body while the owner was taking a picture of us. He told me to hold still and I told him to take the photo faster! They all laughed. It was not a cool experience, but it was fun experience overall. The two ladies said a farewell to me formally in the Cambodian bow. Now, I was alone sitting in the tank by myself and trying to man up. It took me 15 minutes to get used to it, and I was started to feel the massage. Just to let know, I am extremely ticklish, but I’m glad I manage to resist the tickles from the fishes nibble.
In my very first day shopping in Cambodia, the very first market I went to is a local market in the Tuol Sleng Area. The first thing I was fascinated is the books they were selling. I was very curious what kind of books they sell in a foreign country. While I was checking the book lying on top of the front desk, the lady was pressuring me in buying the books right away. Obviously, this is a common method in every Cambodia flea markets that they are really hasty in making you buying the souvenir. Nonetheless, looking through all the books in the market, majority of them are in English texts and the subject of the books are history contexts about the Angkor and the Khmer Rouge era. They were novels all about the Khmer Rouge era. One of the Cambodian local asked if they are any books written in Khmer. The merchandiser said they are none. It somewhat uncommon to find any texts written in Khmer from its original novel or any text translated to Khmer. It sparked my mind that they are some Cambodians who are interest in reading book other than just magazines or local newspapers. Although they are many young Cambodians in the urban city can speak and read English fairly well, in my opinion, I feel like it’s unfair for many Cambodians who wanted to be academically smart for those who are incapable in learning second language. Us Americans, we are really fortunate in having many books and novels in our local bookstore to redeem our knowledge. I like to read to book cause’ it keep my brain in good shape plus I simply enjoy it. I just wish they have more novels or books translated in Khmer, so that way it might enhance educational values in Cambodia. Anyway, back to my shopping experience, I was ready to purchase four books. The lady was using a calculator and charging me $10-15 for each of the books plus the t-shirt. Altogether, it was $65. Now, I had never heard of bargaining until after I purchased the items. I had totally forgotten about how the flea market is willing to rip-off foreigners with ridiculous prices. She knew I was American with an American money cause’ I look like one and I speak like one. I could have it all for simply $15. Yes, that’s truly inexpensive since Cambodia has the lowest economy. Bargaining in Phnom Penh is not easy for foreigners to get a good deal. You need to disguise yourself in speaking Khmer fluently and looking like a Khmer native. Well, at least it is a funny experienc shopping in Phnom Penh.
Over the weekend, my classmates and I were staying at Sokha Beach Hotel Resort in Sihanoukville providence. Sokha Beach is absolutely gorgeous filled with coconut palm trees and international tourists. Sihanoukville is like the Miami of Cambodia. My classmates were busy lying down near to the ocean shore, while I was strolling around in the area alone. I was itching for adventure, and hoping to capture some interesting scenery with my DLSR camera. I wish I brought my tennis racquet with me, because there was a tennis court by the Sokha Beach. Tennis is my primarily sport. I had been scrolling back and forward the whole time, especially when I was walking on the brick road between two aisles of palm trees. Some reason, I feel a sense of wonder when I like to look up to the palm trees. But I have to be careful though, because there is a sign said “beware of the falling coconuts.”One time, I went to the bar alone and feast on the Barricuda fish Fillet with their local beer called “Angkor” and it was awesome. For a gourmet dish, the food was inexpensive. Sokha Beach Hotel Resort is filled with authentic architectures and scenery that make me appreciated my cultural heritage of its art and beauty. This whole day, I was mediating and channeling my energy as I was harmonizing this paradise.
Here I am as Mr. Bing arriving “fashionly-late” to his first foreign class at AUPP! Although I still have jet lag and only have three-four hours of sleep, my mind is mentally prepared and excited to experience a whole new level in Dr. Chigas class. The moment when Dr. Chigas told me to introduced myself, I immediately was waving my arms up to the sky and shouting “woot woot, da name’s BING” right before class was about to start. Everyone chuckled and laughed! Dr. Chigas sarcastically said, “We all learned that Bing is the shyest person in class.” In the beginning of class, I sat next to my arranged group members. My group members name were Sievlan (Sue-LONG) and Nicole. Now, according to my friends, these AUPP students’ intellectual levels are absolutely amazing! They said they spoke English fairly-welled as if they were a native to the language. Some of my friends said that their English is better than ours. When I was discussing with Sievlan and Nicole during group discussion, I was surprised of their vocabulary levels. We were tossing big words back and forward, and I felt comfortable as I maintained the conversation with them. But sometime, I got caught up speaking too fast and they couldn’t understand me. During group discussion, it took me a while to understand what our research study is all about. Our topic question is, “How accurate is Cambodian Youths’ perception on job availability?” One out of the five UMASS students, I’m the only UMASS student in our class who is not a Psychology major. I’m an English major, so this is a whole new level for me in tackling this assignment. During our group discussion, we were generating questionnaires and used them to interview Cambodian Youths from non-profit organizations and also from a secondary or post-secondary educational background. Once we have everything setup, it was time for our group to interview Cambodian Youths from two separated non-profit organization. For me personally, I have a difficult time interviewing Cambodian Youths from the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association because of the language barrier. Since my Khmer is in elementary level, I have to ask my group members to translate for me during the interview. Even though they know some basic level of English, I feel like I made them nervous from my American accent. It’s interesting to interview the indigenous Cambodian Youths, because they came from a strong authentic background. Nonetheless, I am able to interview some of the youth from Khmer and Youth Social Development. They speak fairly good English, but I have to be careful of the vocabulary I’m using. Sometime, I have to ask my group member again to translate for me in Khmer to English. Despite of the language barrier, I am very amazed in hearing the passionate voice coming out from the Cambodian Youths during the interview. Seeing into their eyes, they really dedicated their time in being educated and tackling new things in life. I see their virtues in saving their community and becoming the next generation in Cambodia. I glad I took the opportunity in speaking with them. Overall, I learned a lot from my first day of class despite of my jet lag, lack of sleep, and all the classes I missed out. Here are the photos I took with my DSLR camera. These photos are the scene taking place during the class interview with the Cambodian Youth. Hope you all like it.
It’s my first visit to Cambodia. I arrived one week after everyone else in order to attend my baby sister’s high school graduation in Seattle, so I missed out on few adventures. Although I missed the tour of AUPP and visiting the Royal Palace, I knew our Study Abroad experiences were just beginning. My very first place to explore in Phnom Penh was Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge torture center. I know my classmates have already posted things about Tuol Sleng, but for me personally, my heart dropped as if a sailor dropped anchor. I captured some photos that seem significant to me. It’s shocking to learn that this building used to be a high school before it was converted it into a prison. Inside the former class rooms, there are brick walls setup in cubicles that are poorly done by amateurs. Probably, the KR were in a rush making them or they may have never done it before? There are also wooden cubicles that are roomier than the brick cubicles, but very stuffy with a scent of old wood.
One of my classmates Elizabeth was checking the floor and noticed there was leftover dried blood from one of the prisoners.
Overall, Tuol Sleng is a historical museum that taught me the reality of a former prison and the history of the Cambodian Genocide. I just wish this museum never existed, but the museum is a memorial to the victims during the KR era.