Cambodia 21. 12. 2017 - 10. 1. 2018 1084km Before telling the story of our journey through Cambodia, we would like to mention one unfortunate historical event that has affected the life in this country and whose consequences are visible to this day. During the Vietnam War in the 1970s Cambodia was bombed by US soldiers who wanted to destroye the Vietnamese secret base and the Vietnamese Communists in Cambodia. The Cambodian people suffered, for example hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during the bombing. People therefore began to support the Communist Party of the Red Khmer, who promised a better future. In 1975, Red Khmer, headed by Pol Pot, came to power, occupying the capital city of Phnom Phen, but instead of a better life came a tyranny. The party wanted to build a self-contained, isolated, communist society. City residents were deported to the countryside on the pretext for a risk of further bombing of capital. The borders were closed and the money was canceled. Work camps were created and people were forced to work there for 12 to 16 hours a day in inhuman conditions with minimal food intake. Teachers, artists, lawyers and doctors were executed and all intelligence was eliminated. Wearing glasses or knowledge of foreign language was also reason for execution. Peasants were appointed to the place of doctors, and schools were closed because education was not necessary. Families were divided, their members were not allowed to keep in touch and children were often forced to report and kill their own parents. The slightest misdemeanor was punished by death, initially by shooting, later by beating with any instrument or by burial alive. For enemies of the regime, a Prison (S-21) was built in the Phom Phen in the building of a former high school, from which there was no escape. There, Red Khmer, assembled suspicious people to interrogate, torture, and killing. Seventeen thousand prisoners died there, and only seven survived. The Khmer Rouge continued until 1979 when it was overthrown by the Vietnamese military invasion. During four years under the reign of the Khmer Rouge a quarter of the population, about 2 million people, died. The cruelty of the Red Khmer touched almost every family and this is a very painful topic today. Some parts of the country are still mined, which makes them impossible to farm, and every year mines kill or seriously injure dozens of people. Elimination of intelligence has also caused the current lack of doctors and a low level of healthcare. And now our story. We had heard that we would spend a lot of time at the Ha Tien / Prech Chak border crossing if we don‘t hit the road very early in the morning and that it is good to have some extra dollars for the customs officers. We set the alarm clock, but it was useless, it didn‘t force us to get up. We were ready to wait. However, no crowds were at the borders and we were able to fill out the forms required to obtain visas immediately. Everything went smoothly and the customs officers didn‘t want more than the official prize was. After that we had to go through medical check-up, the customs officer wanted us to show him the vaccination cards. If you don‘t have it they measure you the temperature and you pay one dollar for that. We had the cards. The officer studied them for a long time then shyly said "One Dollar." Well, he wasn’t eligible for the money, but for a one dollar we didn‘t want to argue. Unfortunately we didn‘t have a change, so we gave him a five dollar. He was not ready for that, he started looking for his wallet and then his colleague entered the office. Our bribery customs was sweating, dropped his wallet, and began to talk about the fact that he could change us. We sat on the chairs against him and only laughed at the situation. Eventually he returned us three dollars and we could enter the land of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

 Beyond the borders the life seemed at first sight quite similar to Vietnamese, but the dwellings were more modest. But people weren‘t so smiling, no one welcomed us joyfully, and they had something strange in their eyes. The coffee was similar to the Vietnamese, but it didn‘t match its taste. After several kilometers of asphalt we turned on a orange road, sandy path that led along the coast to the town of Kep. Before we got back on the main road, we could see dirty children playing in a tin bowls and huts made of anything possible. We were in the poorest country of the region. Within a few meters we found ourselves among luxury hotels and the very expensive cars were passing by. The unreal contrast shocked us for a few minutes. We headed straight to accommodation. In bungalows for just seven dollars was only cold water, but in this hot weather we didn‘t need a warm one.

Clocks showed the high noon, it was time to test Khmer cuisine. We were a little afraid of that, it should be a bit less variegated than Vietnamese. The first nice surprise was that the menu was in English, the second surprise was the vegetarian meal and the third absolutely fantastic flavors. Our taste buds were ecstatic and we finally were happy and full. Later we went to a nearby national park. Some freely running dogs were on our way, which was extremely unpleasant and a little bit scary. Right from the edge of the park we came across a smaller pagoda, there were gilded statuettes and a photo of the king, but something else interested us. There was a stand on the table with pictures of domestic violence. We felt bad, but we tried to not thinking about that and enjoye the beautiful park. South Cambodia is mainly visited due to the beautiful beaches and nearby islands. Although we wanted to see the beaches, we didn‘t want to go through hotel resorts so we made a one-day boat trip to Rabbit Island. Even though there are not the most beautiful beaches on the "rabbit", there is a minimum of tourists, untouched nature and it can be walked around in a few of hours. After the disembarkation Ivan from Ukraine joined us and together we started to explore the jungle. All three of us expected a little more interesting nature and a better path, but it was a pleasant time, despite scratched legs. After returning to the mainland we went to the renowned crab market together. Ivan told us that we could buy crabs together and cook them. But it was so expensive, that we lost our appetite. We went back to our proved restaurant and ate there. The Christmas time was coming and we wanted to spend this time in a quiet place and have a relaxing. A beautiful bungalow with a swimming pool, hidden from the city, with view of the hills, was the right place for us to spend a holidays. One day we went to the pepper plantations. We learned that color variations of pepper (black, red and white) grow on the same plant, depending only on the age of berries and their processing. Otherwise, we weren’t used to stay long on one place, so we were quite excited to go on cycling. We originally wanted to pass through Cambodia the shortest way to Thailand. But we would regret not to see this little kingdom deeper. We rode north to Phonm Phen, the capital. At that time the typhoon, which had previously been in the Philippines and Vietnam, was chasing us. We were cycling in the rain again and suddenly I had a flat tyre. The only luck was that it wasn’t so far to our guesthouse. The old lady appeard and without any word she started to help us with repair. The people here in non-turistic area are very friendly and helpful. The next morning we continued to Phonm Phem. We went to the capital mainly to visit the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in the former S-21 prison. With an audio guide we walked through the rooms and learned more about the horrors that had been committed here. It's hard to believe what people are able to do. Through Phonm Phen flows the river Mekong, the same river as in Vietnam. We were quite curious what does it look like in Cambodia, especially when the freshwater dolphins live there. To see them, we had to get to the village of Kampi, which lies in the north of the country. We had it perfectly planned and enjoyed riding along the river. The dusty road was lined with cottages on the stilts (the water level is rising in the rainy season), people were the friendliest we have ever met, we were not able to answer all greetings and buy candy for all children. Life in this part of the country is very simple, people are cooking on fire, have a bath in the large vats, wash the clothes by hand sometimes even by legs. Families spend almost all of their time together and mainly outdoors and everybody has a livestock. It was magical, and we also liked that Buddhists, Christians and Muslims live here side by side. We reached the ferry where we wanted to cross the river because accommodation was only on the other side. We arrived in the right time and we were glad that we hadn‘t to wait for another ferry. But always we rejoice, it has bad end. The ferry was overloaded due to the excessive number of cars and it stucked ashore. After half an hour of vain effort, we had to get off and find another, much longer way. The positive thing about this was that we got into places that were totally untouched by tourism, maybe we were the first pale faces that local people saw there. However the sunset was coming and no roads were in our maps. At each intersection the natives showed us the direction we should have continued and we trusted them firmly. The crossing of the river was inevitable so we tried another ferry, which luckily went, but only to the island in the middle of the river. It didn‘t matter, at the end of the island should have been a bridge, not ordinary but bamboo. "It will be great," we cheered. And that was the fault, the bridge was no more there. The sympathetic young man on the moped told us that we had to go back and go over another bridge. In the dark and exhausted we finally found a guesthouse. The next day, we continued along Mekong to Kratia, where were a lot of tourists, who also wanted to see dolphins. The city provides plenty of accommodation, restaurants and bars, which suited us because we were just arriving at New Year's Eve. Firat day in a new year we were watching the dolphins. We hoped to see them better, but it was a wonderful experience. North Cambodia is sparsely populated and there are long distances between villages and towns. That's why we went back a bit and headed for the Siem Reap. Temperatures ranged from 45 ° C to 50 ° C, we were more sweating than in the sauna and every 10km we looked for the red coolboxes full of cold drinks. Along the roads they also sold various goodies such a rice stick with coconut milk in bamboo, caramel cakes and something that Kata thought was baked potatoes. She just didn’t understand why the potato had orange ribbon. When we passed the fifth stall with this "potato", Kata went to ask how much is is. When she took a close look at the „potato“, she weren’t sure that it really was a potato, so she asked the seller. The mistress didn‘t speak English, she just said "kva kva kva" and she suddenly Kata lost her appetite. Yes, the potato was a frog in fact. It wasn‘t the last time we saw ordinary Czech food in a Khmer specialty. We went this night to buy something for a dinner and we found a stall where they had a lot of pots. In one of them we discovered something that reminded us of the lentils and we also saw boiled eggs. Our imagination was working. Only strange thing was that the eggs were cooked without a water, but the vision of the lentils with the egg dispeled our doubts. We immediately ordered this combination, but the gentleman tried to told us that it didn‘t fit together. We were insisted that we want that. Our wish was heard. We were excited and almost run back in our hostel room to prepare great dinner . When Kata began to peel the egg, she said uneasily "Yeah, that egg is strange." The first thing that flashed through my mind was if it was a puff. I went to look at it. There was something gray-black under the shell. Kata was wondering what to do next. Peel or not to peel? In the meantime, I was searching for "egg in Cambodia" on the internet. And it was clear to me, it was balut. It was clear to Kata that she wouldn‘t continue to peel. And what is that balut? The following lines should definitely not read a weaker character. Balut is an hard-boiled egg, but with a chicken inside. It is an Asian renowned delicacy. In each country, they let the chicken or duck embryo grow different time. More information is easy to find on the internet. Siem Reap belongs to one of the most visited cities in the Word thanks to Angkor Vat. Everything in this city is for the tourists and with the real life in Cambodia has nothing in common. Instead of Khmer Music you listen to the newest english songs, the Cambodians are interested only in your money and they are intrusive, the prices of all are absurdly high here and you literally stumble over the tourists. Most of people heading to Cambodia spend their time right here. Because we also wanted to see Angkor, the former headquarters of the Khmer Empire of the 9th - 15th century, we had to endure this mess for a few days. Since 1992, Angkor has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List and has over 1,000 monuments. The most important temple complexes are Angkor Vat, which is depicted on the flag of the country and Angkor Thom. The total area is 400 km2, so it is good to move between the monuments by motorcycle or bicycle. We hoped to escape the crowd, to look at the less visited monuments and to calmly absorb the atmosphere. But during the whole day we were able to go through just the most scattered sights and we were exhausted. If you want to see even more distant places, a one-day visit is definitely not enough. When we left Siem Reap the landscape began to be more deserted and we were grateful for each diversion. We saw rubber trees, hand-made rice flakes or colored water lilies. Time passed fast and we were on the border with Thailand. What did we liked? The friendly people, knowledge of English, vegetarian food, less rubbish than in Vietnam, simple life along Mekong river What didn‘t we like? careless drivers (road kill of the animal is not exceptional), freely running aggressive dogs, entrance fee higher for foreigners than for the local

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