A Travellerspoint blog

Beaches in Cambodia got me thinkin...

Sihanoukeville, Koh Kong, Kep Cambodia

sunny 33 °C

Coconut Sihanouvkille Beach

Coconut Sihanouvkille Beach

Sihanoukville is touristy with a capital T and it got me thinking – So we’re on vacation. Vacation can be defined as “leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure”… Vacation is reserved for those who can afford this “leisure time away from work”… Being here forces me to face my privilege as an American citizen with enough money to be “vacationing”. The locals see us as “rich Americans”. And comparatively, it is true. We have much more money and mobility then the locals we come to meet. As we attempt to do this vacation thing, it is hard to actually escape the realities of the impoverish circumstances of most of the local people here. There is literally local ppl’s homes that look like they have been there forever next to these high rise hotels/resorts which most of them have now blocked the oceanview of the local homes. Its like colonization. What I imagined to be once a peaceful and clean beach has now turned into a bustling busy beach filled with umbrellas, foreigners, trash, merchants, tuk tuks, restaurants named “G’day Mate” etc. At this touristy beach where there are so many white ppl and ppl like us, its kinda hard to separate between how fucked up it is for them to be here and for us to be here. Afterall, both parties are “vacationing” – we are just as guilty. And for those who want to/can afford to turn a blind’s eye to the disparities, can just pay more $$ to stay at a resort with a private beach where it is clean and you wouldn’t be bothered by merchants every few minutes… Which these merchants are trying get theirs/make money off of us/foreigners…it can be annoying to be bothered but at the same time, we are using their land for our leisure. Some would say, well at least its helping their economy… for me, its sad and very conflicting for me to be participating and contributing to the economy thru tourism. This is also a popular place where there was plenty of european men paying for “services” with Khmer womyn. It was disgusting and infuriating to see the sex industry/trafficking so rampant here.

Koh Kong is not touristy or developed like Sihanoukville, so no umbrellas, chairs or beachfront access, but there was one resort. We stayed at this resort for one night – we weren’t escaping explicitly the merchants or trash but nevertheless, it was escaping something. Honestly, it reminded me of home -the bathroom, the cleanliness, nice pool etc. It was definitely comfortable enough for me that I could’ve have pretended that I was in Hawaii or something if I tried a bit.

Koh Kong Sunset

Koh Kong Sunset

Kep Beach was definitely touristy but small compared to Sihanoukville. There were so many bugs there!! There was this one huge bug that was like 3-5 inches long in the lobby area. I was gchatting with a friend for the 1st time in HELLA, but got interrupted because I spotted this huge ass bug. One was in the light covering, there was another on the ground next to me. It looked like it was dead but then it started to move and it freaked me out. Then as I was telling my friend that I had to go, another one like ran under our table by our feet. AHHHH. I could barely sleep that night.

big bug

big bug

Posted by lesbotravels 21:04 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches vacation industry sunsets bugs tourism money sex americans trafficking patriarchy colonization privilege Comments (0)

Break Out at the Border

Cambodia and Thailand Conflict

sunny 35 °C

If you haven’t already heard a battle broke out yesterday AM at the northern Thai/Khmer border near Oddar Mean Chey, over the ongoing issue of Preah Vihear that has been ensuing for over 2 years now. There are of course varying reports about who initiated the conflict especially in Thai new, but of course Khmers here stand by the fact that the Thais started invasion of the border and we had to react. So far 4 deaths on the Thai side and 3 deaths on the Khmer side.

We are very safe – we are at the most southern most part of Cambodia right now in Kep. Which I’m happy about b/c we just left Koh Kong from the west a few days ago, and was actually just a few yards away from the Thai border there. Prolly no conflict there since it was isolated to the north, but in any case my parents would have been freaking out. My mom already did due to her PTSD.

What this means for me and K is that we won’t be leaving to Bangkok in a few days as we had planned. We were gonna take a bus from Phnom Penh via Poipet but land border crossing is prolly at a halt right now. I’m not tryna put us at risk anywayz, I have a Khmer last name but my US passport says I’m born in Thailand. Plus I have mixed feelings about visiting Thailand right now due to the current political climate. Thais historically have been oppressive of Khmers, but since I don’t live here my experience of it has been removed. With the conflict in our faces right now it’s too difficult to ignore.

Our histories have always been connected and it’s evident in the name of some of our provinces. Battambang’s literal translation is “lost bat/staff” and is in reference to a legendary Khmer general who lost his bat during a battle against the Thais. Siem Reap which means “flattened Siams” is in reference to how we defeated Thais during a war and later used them as slaves to help construct the Angkor Wat.

In any case, my hope is that this will end soon so that more lives aren’t lost :(

Posted by lesbotravels 09:32 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temples cambodia thailand border war conflict Comments (0)

talkin shit resulted in shit on my nose

Battambang, Cambodia

sunny 35 °C

just my luck, eh? so here’s a sorta funny story. so you know how playful G and I are. sometimes we forget where we are. anyway, so what happened was we were at this Wat near G’s mom’s village in Battambang. We went to visit her grandparents grave. we were waiting while they were setting up, and with my attn span, i noticed g’s dad’s designer jeans and started talkin shit in a low voice to g asking why her dad has more fashionable and hip jeans than her 90s clothes…she started crackin up and then g’s mom turned around and asked us what was going on. we were both like oops, realizing where we were and then stopped messing around. anyway, after that, i started having trouble breathing. it was weird. my chest literally got tight, and it felt like the air got thin so i decided to stand across the way from the family to try to catch my breath. i got a little scared because i thought i was being punished or something so i started to pray in my head to asked for forgiveness as g/family began to pray across the way. after awhile, i started to breathe easier, then i felt a raindrop on my nose. i wiped it with my finger to look at it, and it was yellow. i was so confused. i kept examining it and looking around to see where paint or whatever it was came from. couldn’t figure it out, so i showed g’s uncle standing next to me and he kinda chuckled and pointed to the sky at the birds. dang. i just got shitted on. g came over after they were done praying and by then her uncle and cousins had already told her.. and she was crackin up at me. she said, it must have been her grandma loving her cuz i was talkin shit bout her fashion. apparently her grandma was a diva back in the day.

i got shit on that day, and today while heading to koh kong, there were a bunch of people praying at some alters. so we stopped on the side of the street to pray too. i was given like 12 incenses or something to spread across the different alters. so i was wondering, is it bad if one of the incense fall and then burn your hand? owwee

Posted by lesbotravels 09:10 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temples bird wat incense prayer shit jeans grandparents Comments (0)

Happy Khmer New Year

Cambodia

sunny 35 °C

K and I brought in the Khmer new year by spending some time with my family. We first visited my dad’s family in Kean Svay, a village about 15mins southeast of Phnom Penh. We then went to a temple in the Kandal province. In preparation for our trip my parents had been watching Youtube videos that toured Cambodia, and my mom saw the temple and hella wanted to go after that after seeing this gigantic buddha. We later went to Mongolberey in the northern part of Battambang where my mom grew up. It took about 5 hours to roll up there in our minivan with 11 people and 12 luggages in the car.

There are a few dynamics that I’ve found interesting and difficult. First what K has pointed out often and what I never saw is that I am SO much like my mom. I’ve unconsciously picked up her sayings and pieces of her personality. I also have traits from my dad, but b/c I had internalized so much hetero/sexism I had only identified as being like him and rejected ever being like her.

There are oppressive power dynamics at play between my family and our families in Cambodia, and then amongst the families in Cambodia with and without money. Both my mom and dad’s side have been mobile in their class and have comfortable lifestyles now. They range from poor, working, middle, and upper middle class. The majority are middle class. It’s been difficult for me to figure out how to interact with my family and accept their generosity as family but be mindful of my privilege as a middle class American. It’s difficult for my parents to figure out how to share resources ie money and who to take on trips because they have to be mindful not only of current socioeconomic status but historical family history and favors. Huey.

Also, it’s been very difficult for K and I to travel with my extended family while being forced to be closeted. Our original plan was to hang out with them for just a couple of days, but of course with the excitement of seeing family they haven’t seen for years my parents got ahead of themselves and extended the amount of time we spend with them. After K and I talked about how this was not how we planned or wanted to start out our trip (closeted), I talked to them and explained how I felt about the situation. They were sensitive to our feelings, mainly b/c they love me and also b/c they both seem to really like K. My mom checks in on her more than I do, and my dad is always talking her ear off. I’ve never seen him talk to anyone as much as he does her. This makes me happy, it’s unfortunate that it has to be mixed with heteropatriarchy that they won’t allow themselves and us to live our lives as openly as K and I should be able to. Today is the last day of the new year, and I was glad I was able to have the conversation with them, and that K and I can spend the day as ourselves!

Posted by lesbotravels 08:55 Archived in Cambodia Tagged me cambodia new year holiday family class khmer closet homophobia patriarchy Comments (0)

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