My unplanned splurge lunch yesterday resulted in the best-tasting meal I've had in three months. A tofu laap (traditional Lao salad), papaya/lime shake, and purple sticky rice with coconut and banana. Unbeliiieeevably tasty, and I got the recipes for free!
It's 6:00am. The daily procession of monks is walking calmly through the streets of Luang Prabang, Laos, accepting food offerings from locals and tourists alike. Laotian music and news updates are playing through the speakers that run along the market street, adding a bit to the sense that one is standing in a tiny cultural bubble, set apart from the spinning hustle of the outside world.
Right on the border of Cambodia and Laos, the 4,000 Islands is a perfect place to relax and appreciate the beautiful Mekong River. And also to kayak for hours to see river dolphins and Southeast Asia's widest waterfall - but I'm focusing on the calm, gorgeous view for now 🇱🇦💕
I've just arrived safely in Laos (via a van, two buses, a truck, and a boat), but had a fantastic time exploring SO many temples at Angkor over the past few days. Despite finding many more reasons to love Southeast Asia, Angkor was why I made the decision to fly here. It did not disappoint. Three days of pretending to be Lara Croft was, I'm sure you can imagine, a definite trip highlight.
An unbelievably visceral history lesson: Cambodia's "Killing Fields" (Cheoung Ek) and "S21" (Tuol Sleng Prison/now Genocide Museum) are a haunting reminder of what humanity is capable of. Up to three million people - out of Cambodia's eight million - were murdered in horrifically brutal ways by the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, IN THE NINETEEN SEVENTIES. The goal of the Khmer Rouge was to transform Cambodia from an urbanized colony of the west into a communist, completely agrarian society. Unfortunately, this meant the removal of people from their city homes, the separation of families, and the murder of intellectuals, artists, foreigners, political upstarts, and whomever else the Khmer Rouge deemed unfit for its new utopia. For five years, no one was safe: one-fourth of Cambodia's population was tortured and killed without trial, without proof of wrongdoing, without reason. And for many years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the western world refused to acknowledge that these crimes were unjustifiable, or even that they'd happened at all. Thankfully, the perpetrators have since been brought to trial, and in most cases, justice has been served. But again, this is not ancient history. The effects of this genocide are still very much felt in contemporary Cambodia, and they should serve to remind us to be wary of those proposing order and greatness at the expense of tolerance and true progress.
🇹🇭I climbed up a mountain on the island of Koh Chang as my last Thai adventure (for now). It was one of the most challenging and rewarding solo hikes I've ever done - a fond farewell to the country that showed me the height of backpacking, pun intended. Nearly a month spent in Thailand's cities, mountains, caves, and coasts; with its wonderful, helpful people and animals, and I'm already missing it. But...I've just crossed into Cambodia (country #5!) and I'm ready for more adventures 🇱🇦