We spent the final two and half days of our trip back in Phnom Penh, but not before a great birthday sendoff in Siem Reap for Carrie. The Shanti Mani once again went above and beyond in its awesome customer service by decorating a swing in balloons for the young birthday girl and giving her a cake.
She was one happy camper!
We then boarded a plane again and headed back to Cambodia’s capital city. Stomach ailments seems to be a recurring theme for this trip, and this day hit me and Olivia, so we stayed back at the hotel while the husband took the other two kids on a culinary adventure. Leading up to this trip, Erin talked a lot about wanting to eat a bug while in Cambodia. Apparently a boy in her class saw a TV show where people in Cambodia ate bugs, which prompted one of her friends to dare her to eat one. If you know my daughter, you know she’s almost always up for a challenge, especially if it involves food, so a cousin took them to the Central Market in search of bugs.
They saw lots of food at the market, but alas no bugs. This didn’t stop them though. They were on a mission, and they were going to find and eat bugs. Eventually, they found a couple of kids selling all different kinds of deep fried bugs along the river.
Now they had to choose which bugs to consume.
Erin tells me they chose the crickets because they were the smallest. Knowing they had to document the event, the husband had his cousin videotape it as proof.
Misson accomplished! Erin apparently even asked for seconds.
When that girl likes something she really likes it. Case in point? Her hat that she only took off her head when sleeping.
After much bargaining and negotiating at one of the many souvenir stands, Grandma Meak bought it for her on our first day in Angkor Wat. She loved that hat, and not only used it as an accessory, but also as a wallet. She kept two Riels (Cambodian currency worth a few cents in American dollars) under it. I’ve got to say, few people can rock a white straw hat like this girl. It works a lot better than using headbands to cover up a botched bang cutting job I did several weeks ago. She even wore it for her little sister’s birthday party, which her grandparents so generously threw for her.
Yep, that’s how we roll. Two birthday cakes in one day.
While birthdays are celebrated virtually the same way around the world, other things are vastly different. Take zoos for example. The one we visited in Cambodia was nothing like I have ever seen and neither was our drive. Much of it was a dirt road, or the road was only half paved. It’s amazing to me how rural the country is just a few kilometers outside of Phnom Penh. On the drive to the zoo, my father-in-law explained more of the history and politics as we passed by dozens of garment factories.
The only thing similar to the zoos in the U.S. is that most of animals are caged. Most. Not all.
Take a good look at that photo. That momma monkey and her baby escaped their cage and no one cared. Part of me thinks they’re not really part of the zoo and set up their home here because they know people will feed them.
We saw plenty of people feeding the animals through the fences, but there were no signs warning visitors to avoid feeding them snacks. Even when the animals were fenced into enclosures, we got up close and personal.
No zoom needed get get good shots of the elephant or any other animals at the zoo for that matter.
It also looked like the animals for the most part were in their native elements. There was no sanitizing the zoo. There were animals and that’s it. Well except for the trash. There was lots of trash.
But you know what? The animals didn’t seem to care and from the looks of things, neither did the rest of the visitors.
Our final night of vacation ended with a river cruise on the Mekong and Tonle Sap. I don’t know what it is about being on the water, but it makes everything feel at least a little bit cooler.It also helped that we hopped on the boat at sunset, making for some pretty spectacular photos.
Even with the illnesses, the long flights, and continuing jet lag three days after we’ve returned, it was all worth it. I’d do this same trip again in a heartbeat. I’m so proud of the kids who embraced their Cambodian culture and hopefully sparked a life long love of international travel.