Three months ago, my family and my wife’s parents travelled from Chicago to Cambodia to visit The Guests Complacent (my brother-in-law’s family). We spent two weeks at the end of November exploring Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Mesang, and Kampong Som.
In the time that we’ve been home since then, I’ve had a blast blogging about the trip and remembering all the fun things that we did. Alas, I have no more stories to share, but I wanted to gather everything together, so that I can keep remembering. Here it is…
I’ve mostly finished telling the story of my family’s visit to Cambodia last November, but there are a few more things I wanted to write (this post) and a few more pictures that I wanted to show (the next two posts).
A word of thanks…
My brother and sister-in-law and nephew hosted our ordinary family of five and the parents/grandparents for two whole weeks. I know it was tiring, but we really appreciated it. As two months of blog posts should show, it was wonderful. Thanks!
Also, thanks to my parents-in-law for helping us to get there. 🙂
What would I have done differently?
In general, I might have been a little less paranoid about what I ate and drank. Then again, my digestive system had two “interesting” weeks anyway. Nevertheless, those interesting weeks are nearly forgotten now (just like the sunburn/iced coffee incident from eleven years ago).
However, I have thought of three specific things that I would change:
A group photo with my brother-in-law’s host family – One of my fondest memories is the meal that we ate in Mesang. Eleven years ago we took a photo with everyone, but this time we didn’t get one before we left. But family ties are important, and I’m sorry that we forgot to take that picture. This one ranks first on the list.
Exploring all of Ta Prohm – While my family was exploring this wonderful and mysterious temple, I was looking for a geocache in one corner of the place. I wasn’t able to find the cache, and I missed seeing some of the best parts of the temple. Now it turns out that the geocache wasn’t even there anymore. (In some ways, that’s a good thing. I hate it when I can’t find something that actually is there.) This would be a bigger regret, but I saw the temple during our last visit before it was made famous by “Tomb Raider”.
A visit to Tuol Sleng – Perhaps you may find this odd. Why would I want to visit this notorious prison? To be sure, I had no desire to take my girls there. But as for myself, I wish, in some small way, to remember the lives the were lost, both in the prison and also throughout the country.
What has changed in eleven years?
Ordinary Spouse, her parents, and I visited Cambodia in January of 2001. Many things were as we remembered them. For example, Phnom Penh has a distinctive smell all its own. I think it’s a mixture of prahok, cooking fires, incense, traffic, and other random hints of city life.
But there were a few things that have changed…
The main roads were better – We could drive to Siem Reap this time. Last time, it was plane or boat.
Cell phone coverage seemed to be everywhere – Even on Lake Tonlé Sap.
Internet access is impressive (at least in some places) – The Guests Complacent have faster speeds than we do.
“Lexus” is a status symbol – It seemed like everyone who could afford a car wanted to drive a Lexus.
Siem Reap felt more “tourist-y” – Interestingly, Phnom Penh didn’t feel very different to me.
The country as a whole felt a bit more stable – The last time we were there, the country was only a few years removed from some significant government upheaval.
Well – after more than two months of blogging, it’s time to clear the shoes from in front of the door and bring the story of my family’s trip to Cambodia to a close…
I’m sure that there was much more room at the front door after we left.
It ‘s hard waiting around all day for a late-night flight. We had managed to do a few things to keep busy during the day (a trip to USA Donut and to the Russian Market), but by supper time there wasn’t much left to do but twiddle our thumbs (and take one last evening shower to cool off after the heat and humidity of the day). After a round of farewells, we hopped in the van at around 9 p.m. Wednesday for one final trip. Last stop: Phnom Penh International Airport.
It’s hard taking a red-eye flight with children who generally go to bed around 8:30 p.m. Indeed, Youngest Daughter fell asleep, so we loaded her on the luggage cart and wheeled her around the airport.
Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.
Well… we wheeled her around until the officials at customs and immigration split up Ordinary Spouse and me. And they made Ordinary Spouse take the girls. That may have been the hardest part of the trip for her – trying to get three children and some carry-on luggage through the airport by herself. Eventually, I caught up with her and was able to help again.
The wait at the gate seemed to go on forever, but I guess that is how the wait for international flights always feels. Eventually we boarded (only a little late!), and shortly after midnight we were on our way to Seoul.
I think that we all managed to get some sleep during that flight, but Youngest Daughter may have been the only one who actually felt rested when we arrived in Korea on Thursday morning. We rested in a quiet part of the airport (the second level is wonderful!) until our next flight. My single goal was to visit a Starbucks, just so that I could say that I’d been to one overseas…
They would accept U.S. dollars, but change was in won. That was just fine with me – I wanted some Korean money – so I used cash rather than credit. Oldest Daughter and I both ordered a peppermint mocha…
And we also purchased some souvenirs…
Elsewhere in the airport, my mother-in-law and older daughters visited the Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center. (It doesn’t matter where we go – we’re still in school.) Middle and Oldest Daughters made dolls that they got to bring home…
And some of us just slept.
Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.
Finally, it was time for the final flight. Let’s be on our way.
It seemed to me that on both return flights, we had more turbulence than we did on the way over. The disconcerting feeling of being bounced around seven miles up in the air was made easier by the fact that we seemed to have a really strong tailwind speeding our trip. At one point, the information screen said that we were moving along at over 700 miles per hour. I’ve never seen a speed that high. I also noticed that we didn’t quite follow the great circle route between Soeul and Chicago. My guess is that they wanted to get into the jet stream.
Late Thursday evening, we crossed the international date line – back to Wednesday. But by the time we landed in Chicago, it was Thursday again, so our trip went Wednesday-Thursday-Wednesday-Thursday. The final run through customs and immigration seemed to go much better, especially when Youngest Daughter acted grumpy for the customs agent. Perhaps she felt sorry for us. In any case, we zipped through…
Wednesday, November 30th was our final day in Phnom Penh. After thirteen days in Cambodia, our vacation had reached an end. However, the first leg of the return flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until around 11:40 in the evening, so we had one more day in front of us. Most of the day was spent packing and cleaning, but we did venture out for a few hours.
Everyone into the tuk-tuks! We’re off to USA Donut!
USA Donut is an interesting place run by a Cambodian-American man. We went there to get hot dogs and hamburgers. Why? I’m not entirely sure at this point. Perhaps it was because it was the last day, and we wanted to try the best hamburgers in Phnom Penh. (Oh – and donuts, of course.) Here’s the menu:
So – why do I call this an interesting place? For one thing, in addition to the food, the proprietor imports things from Costco and Sam’s Club – things that are hard to find elsewhere in Cambodia – and sells them there…
For another thing, the owner himself was an interesting guy. At one point, one of the girls brushed past a small shrine to the Buddha, and knocked an offering of donut holes onto the floor.
“Uh-oh,” I thought to myself. “Faux pas!”
“That’s ok,” said the owner as he dashed over. “Buddha has had enough to eat already!”
Anyway – I ordered the #1 with cheese. And here it is:
Near the end of the meal, the owner took a group photo for us. It may be the best family photo of the entire trip:
And I grabbed a business card on the way out:
After lunch, my mother-in-law, Ordinary Spouse, Middle Daughter, and I made one more visit to the Russian Market and Rajana. I’m not sure what they were looking for. Probably fabric. I went for one more Khmer iced coffee. Did I mention that they have the best in Cambodia? Oh, yeah – I guess I did.
From there, we returned home and finished our packing. The Guests Complacent’s cook made one more wonderful meal for us…
And then we twiddled our thumbs for a few hours until it was time to leave for the airport.
Husband; dad; cat cohabitator; Christ-follower; Goshen College alum; theological Anabaptist (mostly); cultural Mennonite (umm... suburban Mennonite); once a scientist, now a seminarian; mediocre guitarist and even more mediocre dulcimerist (huh?); devotee of dark chocolate, tapioca pudding, bubble tea, mince meat pie, Lizano salsa, and Starbucks mocha; geocacher; genealogist; piecer of denim blankets; fan of the mountains of western Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, and the lakes of Onekama; enjoyer of music by U2, Bon Iver, Carrie Newcomer, and the Indigo Girls (among others); run-of-the-mill blogger.