“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust
Traveling abroad is not only a matter of seeing new places we’ve never been to, or getting new stamp on our passport pages. Well, seeing my passport pages filled with foreign immigration stamps is exciting, but it is more exciting to recall the memories I’ve had in a place when I see the stamp of the country. The lessons I’ve learned also change the way I see things, sometimes. One of the most memorable places was Siem Reap, and here are 5 lessons I’ve learned when I was in this town.
1. Being friendly doesn’t have to make us becoming compliant
After a night of stay at @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, I took a morning train to Aranyaprathet, the land border area between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a 3rd class train that departed at 05.55, and it took about 5 hours to reach Aranyaprathet. I saw some fellow travelers in the first two coaches, but I decided to sit in another coach, in an empty seat across a mid-aged man. He talked to me in Thai, but I told him -with my very limited Thai, of course- that I’m not a Thai. We ended up talking in sign language. Yay! I was becoming a Tarzan since then! Haha.. He then asked me whether I was a Buddhist or not, because he saw me wearing a bracelet that I got from a monk in Wat Arun. Thanks to my Thai language illiteracy, I had to demonstrate a monk praying, splashing some holy water to me, and putting a bracelet on my wrist!
In the midst of our absurd conversation, he showed me someone who sold a lottery, and he asked me to take picture of the lottery. So I took a photo of the lottery because it was interesting to me to see an official Thai government lottery. We don’t have that in Indonesia! Long story short, turned out he asked me to buy him some lottery. I didn’t mind to give some amount of money to him, but I wasn’t sure whether it was legal or not for a foreign citizen to buy lottery in Thailand. I thought it was just plain dumb if I got arrested because I bought some lottery that only worth USD 3! Ouch! So I told him politely that I didn’t want that lottery, and I didn’t have enough money to buy him one. Sometimes it’s good to just play safe 🙂
2. Travelers have common interest : to extend their dollars
When I got out of the train in Aranyaprathet, I knew I had to take tuk-tuk to Poipet, the border area in Cambodian side. The tuk-tuk driver told me it would cost me THB 100 (around USD 3) to get to Poipet. It was really cheap, but then I saw other two girls standing around me. So I started the conversation and asked them where they were gonna go, and we ended up sharing the tuk-tuk for three of us. The thing is, we didn’t only share the transport fare, but we also helped each other in the immigration office. I helped them watching over their bags when they were in line to get the visa, and they helped me spending time together so I didn’t feel dumb travelling alone. Moreover, the more people in a group, the safer it would be, because we could protect each other, and we could remind each other to use our common sense.
3. When Plan A didn’t work, remember that there’s always plan B. And sometimes it works better!
So in Siem Reap I stayed in a mixed 8 beds dorm at Jasmine Family Homestay for two nights. I planned to do a full day Angkor Wat tour in the second day, and it would cost me USD 12 to USD 15 for renting the tuk-tuk. It was actually a good price for me, until Ryan, a Scottish room-mate of mine offered me to join him and other people to share the tuk-tuk fare. Well, who didn’t want the cheaper price? Plus, there would be some friends to talk with. Then I went down stair to the lobby, and turned out there were already 4 people who wanted to share the tuk-tuk, and it meant that there wasn’t any more space for me. So I went back to my first option ; renting tuk-tuk on my own. Not long after that, another room-mate of mine told me that she was gonna ride a bike to Angkor Wat. I then thought that it would be a good option to enjoy the site, plus, I still have friends to talk with. So, that night, at 11 pm, I decided to went out with my sleeping attire to rent a bike. Yes, I was ready to sleep at that time! And guess how much did I pay for renting a bike? USD 2 for a whole day! Bingo! Haha
Long story short, the next day I started riding my bike early in the morning. In the entrance there was a tourism police who controlled our ticket, and I didn’t have one! Haha.. But I know that God is everywhere! That police didn’t mad at me, he offered to take me with his motorbike to get the ticket, instead. Well, even if I had to pay some money. It was much better than riding my bike for 5 km to get to the ticket booth! And finally I could see the sunrise at the Angkor Wat! 🙂
Riding bicycle was much more tiring than riding tuk-tuk, but the experience was incomparable. Riding bike allowed me to enjoy the site as well as the ride. Riding tuk-tuk will make me talk with other passengers and I wouldn’t pay attention to what happened around us. Meanwhile, riding bike gave me time to enjoy the view in silence, in solitude, without having to feel weird not talking to anyone.
Funny thing happened when we visited Bayon temple, where a lot of monkeys hung out that morning. We parked our bike and went visit the temple. Like only a minute after we parked the bikes, I heard that one of the bikes fell down. Turned out the monkeys were eating the mangosteens that Amy and Ivone kept in the bike front-basket. We were scared and tried to hold our laugh at the same time!
4. Indonesians travel, too!
Yes, during my Bangkok days, I didn’t even meet any other Indonesian who traveled. But when I visited one of the temple in the Angkor Wat complex, I met two other Indonesian girls. It was funny that at the first time I apologized to them because I passed in front of them while they were taking pictures – in English, of course. But then I heard them chatting in Bahasa Indonesia, and I started to talk with them in my native language! Then we decided to ride our bikes together around the complex. We were almost lost, but it was good to laugh over our stupidity! Then I went back to my dorm room, and tadaaa!!! another surprise came to me! A new room mate came, and guess what? She was Indonesian! Double bingo! Then I asked her to dine out with me and two other Indonesian girls I met in Angkor Wat. We ate at Curry Walla, a cheap Indian restaurant near to night market. I was so happy to meet fellow Indonesians on my trip, that I didn’t realized that I was in Cambodia. I spontaneously called the waitress “Mbak” (sister in Indonesian language) that it burst our laugh that night! That night I learned that Indonesians travel, too! We are the explorer, we are the descendants of Gajahmada the conqueror! Haha
Another stupid thing happened when I was packing my backpack and talking with my Indonesian room mate in the dorm room. I coincidentally spilled my water, and I immediately took a towel to clean it up. After I finished packing my stuffs, I realized that there were two towels on my bed, a used and a new one. So whose towel did I use to clean the floor? Oh gosh! It was Ryan’s towel. Haha.. So I took my new towel, wrinkle it a bit, and put it on the floor, beside Ryan’s bed which was next to my bed. I told this stupid incident to my Indonesian roommate and we laughed together. Oh, I was too excited to talk in Bahasa Indonesia that I lost my brains!
5. Age doesn’t always matter. Hard work does!
Angkor Wat didn’t only give me a great view of a complex of an ancient city, but it also gave me a new perspective on seeing this life. It was raining in the area, so I, Amy, and Ivone decided to take a rest while waiting for the rain to stop. Two very young girls came to us to sell some souvenirs. They talked in pretty good English, and eloquently explained the pictures on the post cards they sold. We bought some souvenir from them, and we talked with Sawin, a pretty and smart little Cambodian girl. We didn’t find any difficulties talking with her in English. I thought I didn’t understand English that well when I was in the 2nd grade.
She might only be a second grader, but she taught me a lot. I also worked during the school breaks when I was younger, but it wasn’t as hard as what Sawin has to do. I couldn’t imagine that I should sell some souvenirs to the tourist. I guess it’s not every girl’s dream part-time job. But Sawin reminds me that I was, and still am, a lucky girl.Ii didn’t have to work hard like Sawin does when I was kid. She’s willing to sell some souvenirs after school time to help her family. It reminded me that I should do something for the less fortunate girls around my area. Thanks for indirectly reminding me, Sawin!
Moreover, she’s able to speak some languages, which I adore! She even talked to Amy and Ivone in Mandarin, and she knew some French. I learned Chinese Mandarin for a year and I forget a lot! Oh my! She was just smart! She might have to work hard at the moment, but I saw that she was a confident and smart girl. I knew she could get what she wants someday. Amen!
Siem Reap, a humble place, with humble people, has made me feel so humbled! 🙂