The real beauty of Siem Reap and the rest of Cambodia is the people. In the 70's the rise of the Khmer Rouge led to the death of almost half of the country's population over the course of 4 years. Between 3 and 4 million people were either killed or died from starvation and over work.
Yet, modern Cambodians are some of the most genuine and friendly people I have met in the world. Despite the recent history, the existing problem of un-exploded landmines, the poverty, the lack of access to healthcare, and the beast that is tourism, Khmer culture is still heavily informed by a social grace that we should all aspire to achieve.
This is Mon. He is 14 and sells books on the streets and alleyways of Siem Reap. Kids like him are forced into selling books, postcards, bracelets, flowers, and any other tourist kitch you can think of. Whenever possible, I try to avoid buying from kids because those tourist dollars keep them employed in modern day slave labor. But I do offer to help them practice their English or provide the occasional meal.
Mon is one of the smartest kids I met while traveling. Lena and I got to know him over a few days and by the time we left, we both wanted to adopt him and give him a chance to make something of his life. One of the more memorable moments was talking with him about selling psychology. "I don't always sell books. But that is ok. If a person says no, I smile and ask if I can just hangout and talk to them. So even though I did not sell anything, I got to practice my English."
It turns out that Mon has quite a bit of skill in English. He told me about how a year ago he met a tourist from Hawaii who works for a news organization. She has been sponsoring his $25 a month English school tuition for the last year.
Now for some randoms.
Hanging out in Temple Bar on Pub Street in Siem Reap - The time I planked the dance floor.
On the third day of visiting Angkor, we went to the Kbal Spean Waterfall. Lena and I made some new friends from The Netherlands and a few other places. We took a break to have a mini dance party. Our tuk tuk had speakers and Robert plugged in his Ipod.
Here is the tuk tuk drive with the awesome sound system. His name is Ramorn and if you find yourself in Siem Reap, email him and get a ride. Tell him Marcus and Lena say hello. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a few more images from Siem Reap.