The last stop in our epic journey was Siem Reap, Cambodia. Afterwards, we would return to Thailand for a month to volunteer and wind down.
One thing I have brutally learned in Asia is how small the people are. Although the influx of 7-11s and fast food chains are making them rounder, they are still very short people. So when we boarded our sleeper bus to go to Siem Reap, I wasn't surprised to see the size of the cabins. There were no seats, just bunks meant for two people. However the length of the bunk was equal to my legs, so I could sit down in them. Yet in order to sleep my legs had to be stretched out into the aisle, and Mikaela and I had to cuddle since the bunk was so narrow. To this day I am flabbergasted by how petite and small people from this part of the world are. Nevertheless, I've been on worse sleeper buses so we bounced and swayed our way to Siem Reap as I prayed for sleep.
This ancient city is hot. The real feel was 123 degrees with 80% humidity. I was frying and melting at the same time. Our hostel was equipped with a fan which just blew hot air around. I must have taken five cold showers a day to cool down. Therefore our days consisted of finding refuge from the relentless heat.
The temples are the main attraction of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat especially. The ancient empire of Cambodia once built mathematically precise and sustainable temples and palaces. When the empire fell to neighboring Siam, the remains of Cambodia's glory became buried in the jungle. Eventually the ruins were discovered and recovered, portraying what once was.
Since sunrises and sunsets are my weakness, we hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and left our hostel at five am. Many other travelers were headed to Angkor Wat for the sunrise as well, slowly coming out of their disrupted slumbers as they turned the corner and the temple came into sight. We sat on the stone wall that runs along the moat, waiting for the sun to bless the Earth for another day.
As the sky changed from royal purples and peacock blues to creamsicle oranges and straw yellow, it dawned on me that this will be the last temple sunrise experience on this journey. Four countries and eleven cities later, it was time to return to the place where it all began. I would not have changed one thing about this trip, except perhaps that I could have stayed longer on each island. The people I met, generosity I received, adventures I experienced, and memories I collected have further shaped my soul and the woman I am becoming. I will see the smiles of the children of Sapa wherever I go. Fresh fruits will never taste as sweet. I am forever humbled by the way of life of the people in this region of the world - living so fully with so little. No hike will ever top my climb up Mt. Batur volcano.
People tell me I am so lucky to be traveling the world. I have had this conversation with fellow wanderers and come to the conclusion that it is not luck, but rather a blessing. I chose this lifestyle. I chose to leave the comforts of a small town behind and experience something bigger than myself. I willingly walked into the unknown - ready to explore, learn, and evolve. However, traveling has it's downside as well. As I choose to be on the other side of the planet, I am distancing myself from friends and family. I miss weddings and other life events that take time for my absence to be forgiven. My savings is stripped to the bone. Yet I've never felt richer, happier, and more confident. So traveling is not for everyone, as I have witnessed that while abroad. Gratefully, God has blessed me on every part of this two year journey. From the moment I boarded that plane to Croatia in June of 2012, I have been looked down upon with a smile and protected with each step. My thanks are given daily and I sinply strive to return the joy and happiness that I have discovered to those I meet.
We spent the scorching hot day exploring temple after temple. It amazes me that we can walk on top of and through these ancient palaces and temples and not just around them like in other places in the world. Mikaela and I got lost in each maze of corridors and passageways, in awe of the stone carvings and craftsmanship. The entire day felt like the King Louie monkey scene in the Jungle Book. Beautiful ruins rising from the lush green jungle, our spirit singing to match the lively chorus around us.
Eventually we were templed out and overheating so we retired back to the town center. We found a restaurant with a pool and spent the afternoon swimming and reading while surrounded by palm trees. Our stay ended on Pub Street where we reunited with our Aussie friends and ended the trip with a epic night out, with 80's pop songs and corresponding dance moves.
There are still so many places I wish to see in South East Asia. Even more so, there are places I hope to return to with friends and family so that they too can experience the glory. When we travel we leave pieces of our heart and soul wherever we go. We exchange them for pieces of the spirit of the places we explore and people we encounter. This exchange forever keeps us connected to the land and the souls who inhabit it. So I end this chapter of my journey, bittersweet as always, with a full heart and new batch of memories I wish to share.