Cambodia

One Reason To Travel: A Cambodia Photo Diary

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There are many good reasons to travel.

For me, I love the excitement of the unknown. It’s being anonymous in a big city or getting that small glimpse into a different culture. It’s the history I only ever read about in books or that famous landmark I see only in films. And it’s the food, oh yes, the food.

But there is one other reason that I haven’t yet mentioned and it has to do with that human relationship thing commonly known as “friendship”. I’ve written before about the kindness of strangers, but today I want to talk about new friendships that last long after travel is over.

It has been almost 3 years since I went to Cambodia. I was 20, still at uni and pretty flippin’ lucky to get the opportunity to visit Cambodia with 9 others, most of whom I’d only just met. Cambodia was all of those things I mentioned above, and more – it was exciting, unknown, eye opening and delicious. An experience I shared with only 9 other people and 3 years on we are all still mates.

Last weekend I caught up with 5 of the 9 and was reminded of how unique “travel friendships” can be. We spent the night reminiscing about Cambodia and giggling about things no one else would understand.

Gemma, Rotem, Steph, Chris and Rhys – thanks for hanging out and reminding me of how cool you all are. Looking forward to our next reunion, but in the meantime, here are some snaps from our time in Cambodia all those years ago.

– Bec x

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The Exorcism

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Cambodia – December 2011

On an island in the middle of the Mekong River in Cambodia is a village called Koh P’Dao. In 2011, this is where I found myself witnessing what can only be described as a real-life, full-on exorcism.

Koh P’Dao is eco-tourism at its best and was by far my favourite place in Cambodia. I had a few nights stay with the most beautiful Cambodian family. By day, our group helped improve the tourist hub, building a fence and flood proofing the main building. As an ecotourism destination, this was part of the deal – you stay, you work. It is a community driven project with the entire village contributing and calling all the shots.

Unfortunately most of our group got pretty sick while we were there. And when I say sick, I mean really sick. So sick, in fact, that the people from Koh P’Dao thought we had been cursed. A couple of the girls found themselves being “coined” by some of the older women – a process by which a coin is dragged across your skin hard enough to bring the blood to the surface and mark your skin for days to come. And poor Tom found himself the subject of an exorcism. He had it the worst – throwing up all night and spending the day in bed, only waking to find a room full of strangers muttering in Khmer and staring down at him.

It is custom when people come to stay at Koh P’Dao, that they visit the local spirit house and make an offering to the spirit of the island. We did this, but rumour had it that the group before us hadn’t and we were being punished in their place.

The exorcism-like ceremony that followed will forever be etched into my memory. A pig’s head was bought over from the mainland and, with Tom sitting up in the spirit house, offered up to the local spirit. Our entire group was given string to tie around our wrist as protection from future harms and we were on our way.

The concern of the people from Koh P’Dao was so genuine and heart-felt. They cared for us all while we were sick, giving us coconuts and making sure we were comfortable. And while coining and spirit offerings might have been unfamiliar to us (and sometimes even a bit painful), it made for an incredible experience that highlighted the caring nature of Cambodians and gave us a first-hand insight into the way local beliefs and the Buddhist religion have meshed in Cambodian culture.

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