A Travellerspoint blog

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Mom and Dad Arrive in Singapore

After a day and a half of flying...

My parents are both officially in Singapore! They left Burlington early Wednesday morning (the 14th), and got in tonight at about 11:30pm (the 15th). I took the MRT over to meet them, and they were already waiting for me. At Changi Airport, once you get off the plane, you pass through customs which are very quick, then you go to baggage claim, and then you walk out the door - much like arriving at Burlington, but nothing like arriving internationally in America. There is no seconds customs check of your baggage. So when my parents told me to meet them at midnight, they had factored in more time for security that doesn't exist.

Singapore is directly on the other side of the world, so it is actually about the same distance to go East (over Europe, the Middle East and Asia) as it is to go West (over Canada, Russia and into China). They flew from Burlington, to Chicago, to Hong Kong, to Singapore, which is the same flight I took on my way over. On my way home however, I will be flying from Singapore to Qatar, then New York and Burlington. This means I will officially travel around the world!

After getting checked into their hotel, we got some food at a 24 hour Muslim Restaurant, which was their first time eating Roti Prata. I'm not sure exactly what Prata is made of, but its a really thin dough that is folded over and filled with stuff, and then cooked on a stove top. I usually get egg, cheese, garlic or a combination of those inside of the Prata. Overall, it is my favorite new food for Singapore, and they both really liked it too.

Posted by Cassi 02:54 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

My Parents First Day in Singapore

Campus, Gardens and Night Safari

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My Mom, Dad and I spent their first full day in Singapore touring campus. They got to see my room and dorm, the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science. I had one class in the morning, and they used the time to visit the bookstore. The campus at NUS is much bigger than Clarkson, so it took a few hours to get all around and see the different places I spend my time.

After they saw where I live, take classes, and spend my time, we took the public bus system out to the Botanic Gardens for a calm afternoon. Luckily, between all my friends at NUS, and all their friends and family who had already visited, our group had a few extra EZlink passes floating around. That allowed us to all use the MRT and Bus system for the week, before giving the cards to the next visitors within our group of friends!

We spent a few hours walking through the gardens, and they even got to see their first Monitor Lizards! Even though the one we found was just a baby and a little over a foot long, they still thought it was huge. The Botanic Gardens remind you that Singapore is a jungle, and outside of the actual City Center you can still find the plants and animals that used to cover the island. My dad was amazed at how big the leaves were on all the plants, some were bigger than he was!

After the Botanic Gardens I ran back to campus for one more class while my parents took a nap and spent some downtime at their hotel. We spent the evening at the Night Safari, where we saw a fire breathing show, creatures of the night show, and took a tram ride through the park. Some of our favorite animals were the Slow Loris, the Giant Crocodiles, and of course all the different types of Jungle Cats. We really enjoyed the Night Safari because they have animals that generally aren't found in Zoos and are from this side of the world.

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Posted by Cassi 10:02 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

The Most Southern Point of Continental Asia

Sentosa and the Singapore Flyer

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Saturday morning we got a late start for a full day at Sentosa. We got to Vivo City, the mall across from Sentosa on the mainland, at about noon and grabbed some lunch. Then we caught the monorail to Sentosa and we beached it all afternoon. The sun was in and out of the clouds, but my parents thought it was too hot even when the sun wasn't shining. I forgot how much the temperature bothered me when I first arrived, but now it doesn't seem bad. The water was warm, as always, so they enjoyed being able to swim anytime the sun bothered them.

After spending a few hours on the beach, we walked around the island some, and even got to see the Southern most point of continental Asia. It is on a little island just south of Sentosa. From this point, it is possible to walk all the way up to Russia, Europe or even England- with the help of bridges linking this island to Sentosa, to Singapore, and to Malaysia.

After Sentosa we took the MRT to the oldest Hawker center in Singapore for dinner, where my parents got a taste of real Singapore. Hawker food is one of the things Singapore is famous for, it is a wide variety of food venders where you can pick and choose exactly what you would like to eat. This center has every type of Asian food you can think of but no Italian, no Mexican, and no pub food. Because this is such an old building, the walls and ceilings are all decorated with beautiful designs. The building stands out in the middle of downtown, as it is a one story colonial building surrounded by new skyscrapers with neon lights.

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From there we went to the Marina Bay water front. We got to see the Merlion, get a fantastic view of Marina Bay Sands and all of the Downtown Financial District. A short walk from the Merlion is the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest ferris wheel. The Flyer offers fantastic views of Downtown, Marina Bay Sands, and of course the Formula 1 Race track that is set up around the city.

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Singapore hosts the only Night race of the F1 Grand Prix, and it races straight through the city streets. The last few weeks they have set up hundreds of lights and barriers along the city streets so it is very easy to trace the route from the top of the ferris wheel. After the Flyer we grabbed a drink at a smaller hawker center on the water front and we got to see the Marina Bay Laser and Light show out over the bay.

Posted by Cassi 10:11 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

The Nicest Hotel Ever...

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Sunday my parents checked out of their hotel near my school, and check into the Marina Bay Sands! Marina Bay Sands is the 3 buildings with the boat thing across the top in all of my pictures of downtown Singapore. For a more accurate description:

Marina Bay Sands is an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world's most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion, including cost of the prime land. With the casino complete, the resort features a 2,561-room hotel, a 1,300,000-square-foot (120,000 m2) convention-exhibition centre, the 800,000-square-foot (74,000 m2) The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, an iconic ArtScience museum, two large theatres, seven "celebrity chef" restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, an ice skating rink, and the world's largest atrium casino with 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines. The complex is topped by a 340m-long SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67m.

Basically, it is an amazing complex of hotel, casino and the coolest infinity pool ever designed. We spent the majority of the day just hanging out in the room, by the roof top pool, and around the hotel. When you enter your room, the curtains automatically open to show you a beautiful view of downtown Singapore. The bathroom was absurdly huge, with a really really nice shower. The Skypark is the most amazing part of the hotel though, and one cannot describe the view from the top, so here are a few pictures. Of course we had to go back later at night to get both experiences.

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After we spent some time in the skypark, we went down to Boat Quay for dinner and then walked around Clarke Quay for a bit. They are both filled with restaurants and are located right along the Singapore River. To end our night we went back to the Skypark, sat in the hottub (also overlooking Singapore as an infinity pool) and enjoyed the evening.

Posted by Cassi 10:23 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Welcome to Bali

Ayodya Resort Bali


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Monday we spent the morning in Singapore, but it rained all day before our flight to Bali in the afternoon. The clouds were black, and you couldn't even see across the bay to the rest of the city! We took a few pictures from the top of the Skypark, but the pool was above the clouds so you can't see anything at all.

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We had a flight in the afternoon to Bali, Indonesia where we checked into the Ayodya Resort. By the time we got there it was already past dark, as the flight is about 3 hours long, so we grabbed some dinner and wandered around before crashing for the night.

The lobby of our resort was amazing, but it was so big it was hard to capture in just one picture. It had high ceilings and was all open air on the sides. There were statues all around the grounds, with a huge one in the center of the lobby. There were pillars up to the ceiling with lights on every single one. We walked down to the beach but couldn't see much in the dark.

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Tuesday we spent all day at the Resort, on the beach, and by the pool. The sun was shining all day with no clouds in the sky, and it was wicked hot. We spent a lot of time in the water, which was about 80 or 85 degrees, and the waves were pretty big making it more fun. The beach itself was amazing, it went on forever in both directions. There were ladies selling beach dresses, tshirts, and wraps walking up and down the beach to the different resorts.

We walked along the beach to some of the other resorts and found a water slide at one, and of course I had to go down it! Some of the resorts had shopping areas that we walked through, but were very expensive, and some had multiple pools surrounded by gardens that were beautiful.

This area of resorts was considered protected and safe, as there were guards to get into any of the hotels, but once you ventured out into the rest of the island (or even just too far down the beach) the guards disappeared.

At the end of the beach there is a point of rocks out into the ocean where the waves crashed and then splashed high into the air. We walked down and tried to get some pictures but had to turn back before making it all the way out to the end. The next day my parents both made it out to the point, when the waves were much bigger, and got some pictures of the water shooting up. It was absolutely amazing, and I had never seen anything like it. The cliffs themselves were about 60 feet high, and the water was shooting was above them everytime a wave came in.

Posted by Cassi 00:42 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Ayodya Resort

Pool, Lagoon and Lizards


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At our resort, there was a huge and beautiful swimming pool. It stretched towards the beach, had an end set up for water basketball, and had a restaurant right next to it. When we got tired of the beach we went to the pool because there were more umbrellas and shady spots. The sun was to much to handle all day, so we had to take some breaks from the ocean front view.

Besides the pool, there was also a lagoon at the resort, which you could not swim in. It was beautiful, was surrounded by flowers and had Balinese temple-like restaurant in the middle. It was filled with fish, birds sat on the rocks, and the best part was there were monitor lizards swimming around in it!

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Posted by Cassi 18:50 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Tour of Bali

Volcanoes and Temples


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Thursday we took a tour of Bali, leaving our resort and heading to the northern part of the island. Our Resort was located on the southern peninsula below Denpasar and Kuta, on the east coast. The Island of Bali has many active volcanoes, similar to the rest of Indonesia, which are all located in the north. In the middle of the Island is the town of Ubud, famous for its Art and hand made crafts. This is the town in the book/movie "Eat Pray Love" where she spends her last portion of the trip. To give an idea of the island, here is a map showing many of the places we visited:

We started our morning driving up to Ubud, in central Bali. Here we visited the Monkey Forest, an area filled with wild monkeys and old temples in the jungle. We got to walk through, pet the monkeys and my mom even had two of them jump on her unexpectedly! She had one hanging off her arm when another one flew from the roof of the temple onto the top of her head. I found a tiny one and let it climb all over me, it even tried to pull on my earrings!

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We stopped at a small agriculture farm, where the had amazing coffee and tea flavors from around Bali. They showed us the process of making coffee, including Luwak coffee. We had never heard of Luwak coffee, but apparently is it the most expensive coffee in the world and is made in Indonesia. We stuck to the regular coffee flavors including Ginseng Coffee and Tea, Lemon Tea and Hot Cocoa.

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Next on our tour was the Volcanoes in the North! I have never seen a volcano in person before, so they was really interesting. We ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the cooled lava flow from the last eruption at Agung Batur volcano. Next to the volcano is a beautiful lake, and in the distance was more volcanoes! We saw several temples, including the biggest temple in Bali called the Basakih Temple. It is located right at the base of the largest Volcano on the island, Agung Volcano (in the Northeast). The temple is for both Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Although Indonesia has the highest population of Muslims in the world, with about 85% of the population practicing, Bali has their own type of Balinese Hinduism that is widely practiced throughout the island. The temples are unlike anything else I've seen in the world, they are truly amazing.

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Posted by Cassi 00:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Climbing aboard a Shipwreck

An abandoned ship in the Indian Ocean


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Friday we spent most of the day at the beach, just relaxing and swimming in the ocean. Straight out from our resort was crystal clear water and a coral reef with beautiful fish. After getting goggles we swam out and saw a ton of fish, of all different colors. The currents around Bali are very strong, so we had to start at one end of the reef and drift down to the other before swimming back to shore and starting again.

Down the beach to the left, out in the water about 150m was a huge ship that had gotten stuck on the reef. There was a very low tide around noon, so people from all the resorts were walking out through the water to the ship. When we got out there, there was a rope ladder leading up the ship so we climbed up. From one side, the ship had a beautiful view of our resort and beach, and from the other side there were perfect view out into the ocean. There were some surfers out past the ship that we watched, and the waves were hitting the ship and splashing up onto the deck.

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On the walk from the beach to the ship, there was rocks and coral all around. Within the coral areas there were little sea stars swimming in the water, as well as some type of eel or sea snake thing. Because the tide was so low it was like a tidal pool for the creatures to swim in.

We also played some more ping pong, which I dominated in, and got some lunch by the pool. Everyday we fed the fish in the lagoon, which brought over birds and the monitor lizards, so we spent some time watching them swim around too. Vacations are meant for relaxing, and Friday was definitely a relaxing day. I fell asleep on my beach chair, woke up occasionally to swim in the ocean and flip over to avoid sunburns, but otherwise we really did nothing. It was perfect.

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Posted by Cassi 13:04 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Nights in Bali

Restaurants and Shopping


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We spent most of our nights in Bali shopping and wandering around the tourist areas. There were a million places to grab food, a million little souvenir shops and plenty of other tourists walking around. All of the restaurants and shops overflowed into the streets with music playing, and some even had live bands. Balinese singers doing covers of Lady Gaga was one of the highlights of the trip, as they were both the worst and funniest songs I have ever heard. The same guy sang a cover of Shakira's Waka Waka, which was also terrible yet hilarious.

When walking around all the shops I really wanted to find a painting for my room at home. Bali is famous for its artwork, tapestries and wood crafts so I thought this would be the perfect place to look. However, every shop had beautiful pictures of the Bali landscape so I was torn between a few different paintings! Bali has such a diverse setting, between the beautiful beaches, the rice terraces, then temples and the volcanoes, that I was unable to decide which of those I wanted to have a painting of. So in the end, I just had to get more than one to cover everything Bali had to offer! Also, I got a beautiful carved frame for one of the pictures, which I fell in love with the second I saw it.

Thankfully my parents were able to carry the two pictures home for me, otherwise I would have zero room when moving out for my other souvenirs.

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Posted by Cassi 23:20 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Sunrise and Surfing

Over the waves of Bali


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Our last day in Bali we woke up at 5:45 to watch the sunrise over the ocean. Despite our concerns with the clouds covering the sky when we woke up, they parted just over the horizon giving spectacular colors out over the water.

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After the sunrise, I had an 8am surfing lesson. Although my parents had serious doubts on my surfing ability, I can let you all know that I am in fact amazing. I stood up on just my second wave! Granted my instructor did almost everything for me: told me which wave to take, taught me how to stand up and balance on the board, and even helped me get back out past where the waves were breaking each time, I'm pretty sure you would all be impressed with my ability to surf. I hope to try it again some day, and see how well I can do on my own.

Posted by Cassi 22:24 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Little India, Arab Street, and Downtown

Back to Singapore for a few more days with Mom and Dad

We flew back to Singapore late Saturday Night, and on Sunday we got up to go into the city. Sunday was the Formula 1 Grad Prix in Singapore. This means downtown was packed all day, with barriers set up around the city, and streets closed for racing. We took the MRT down to Little India, and slowly worked our way towards the city center as the race neared.

Little India is a region within the city similar to Chinatown, but with crafts and fabrics from India, and Hinduism is the major religion of the area. We saw another Hindu Temple, and the area was decorated for the Deepavali Festival.

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Deepavali or "Festival of Lights" is annually held in November to celebrate the triumph of Lord Krishna over the evil Narakasura. Lord Krishna symbolizes goodness while Narakasura represents evil; that's why it concerns with "lights," which clearly depict purity. So to speak, light will always win darkness and good can always conquer evil. Deepavali is considered a most important day of Hindu calendar, and is arranged in Little India, another ethnic area of Singapore. It's times for rejoicing and renewal of especial Hindus and Sikhs. Of course, oil lamps play a unique part of this festival as it is believed that there are spirits of departed relatives who come back to earth and so the lights are the guidance for those wandering souls to their subsequent world. For the Indians, this festival is like a New Year celebration, while they welcome relatives and friends at their own homes for exchanging some blessings.

Everything in Little India is brightly colored, with a lot of flowers and elephants and sparkles decorating almost everything. We walked through the shops, and I found a tapestry with an elephant embroidered into it. With the lack of decoration in my room, I thought it would be perfect so I got to rearrange the few pictures I had on my walls to make room. Now my room isn't so bare, and actually is starting to look like a place I would enjoy living.

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From Little India, we went to Arab Street, which is like Chinatown except with Middle Eastern carpets, lamps, and crafts and a wide Muslim community. Arab Street is lined with small shops, much like the other regions, and has a absolutely stunning Mosque at the end of the street towering over anything else around. It is a beautiful building with a gold top and white sides. It reminds me of the Taj Mahal or the palace from Aladdin.

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From Arab Street we went to Raffles Hotel, the oldest and most expensive hotel in Singapore. It is left from the Colonial Period of the British, and is all white with orange roofs like the other colonial buildings in the city. This is the home of the Singapore Sling drink, and is also the hotel where the last ever wild tiger in Singapore was killed, making it very famous.

And Lastly as we walked to the F1 race we saw St. Andrews Christian Church located right in the center of the city. In fact, the race went on two of the four roads surrounding the church, so we could hear the cars while we toured and they were LOUD!. We were hoping we could see the race from the church, so we tried going up to the second story but the barriers were too tall to view over.

Now it was time to find a place to watch the race from...

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Posted by Cassi 22:25 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Formula 1 Grand Prix Singapore

No tickets? No Problem

Sunday night we stayed in the city for the Formula 1 race, hoping to catch a glimpse of the race. Without tickets it was impossible to see the course, they had lined every fence and barrier with tarps so you couldn't even peak through. Our next plan was to go up to the Marina Bay Sands pool, and look down on the race from the top. We were in the elevator on the way up, when we saw the sign that read "On Sunday Sept 25th, Residents must show their Wristband for Pool Access due to the F1 race" which ruined our plans for that. So we ventured back out to the city to the DNA Helix Bridge where we were able to see across the water to the National Day Float area. We could see two turns of the race, plus a glimpse of some other areas.

We watched the first half of the race from the bridge, about an hours worth of cars zooming by, before we decided to try Marina Bay Sands again. We went up to the top of Tower 1, and rather than go out to the pool we stayed on the inside and were able to watch through the huge glass windows at the top. We could basically see the entire track from where we stood, except for the start and finish line. We watched from here for the next 20 mins or so, and then went over to Tower 3, and found a view of the finish line.

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For not buying the couple hundred dollar tickets, we got to watch almost all of the race, from all different views. We were happy we could see as much as we did, and actually may have gotten better views than some of those people who had tickets inside the fenced areas.

Posted by Cassi 07:30 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Back to School

Macritchie Reservoir and Holland Village

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Monday class started up again, so I went to lecture in the morning and then met my parents for lunch at the Prata Shop outside my dorm. We took the bus out to Macritchie Reservoir and hiked through the trails. We saw a few monkeys in the beginning of our hike, and got to see a view from the top of the Lookout Tower over the Singapore Rainforest. We also saw about 20 different lizards, from monitor lizards to small cute ones, they were all over. Macritchie Res is located in the middle of the island of Singapore, which has been preserved at a Rainforest Area. Singapore prides itself on the fact 50% of the island is covered in greenery. You can see this when driving on highways, which are lined with trees and flowers and are taken care of very well.

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Monday night my parents took Bailey and Kourtney and I out for dinner at Holland Village. Similar to Boat Quay, this is is a pedestrian street lined with restaurants from all over the world. We ate at a Mexican place for dinner, and then got ice cream at a shop similar to Coldstone. This is the first time my parents got to meet my friends here, as everyone was traveling due to the break and we were busy doing our own stuff. We turned in for an early night because my parents had a 4:45am cab to the airport before flying back to the States.

Posted by Cassi 09:48 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

It never ends!

So much going on all the time..


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So now that I am all caught up with what has been going on in the last few weeks, I can tell you that my parents made it home safely, I have been swamped with school work and I had an exam this morning in Statistics. As much fun as the last two weeks were, I am exhausted from all that we did and saw.

However, being on exchange never stops, so Saturday I will be leaving for Cambodia for a 4 day trip to visit Family Care Foundation Cambodia, run by Alex and Ann Soldner.

The goal of Family Care Cambodia is to enhance the quality of life and development in Cambodia, especially those who are disadvantaged. We invest particularly in Cambodia’s children and youth of today to help build the leaders of tomorrow. We accomplish this purpose through the following projects & activities:

  • Development Programs:

Tangible infrastructure development through construction and renovation projects for the disadvantaged.

  • Education & Training Programs:

Student scholarship and sponsorship programs
Academic and vocational classes and activities for underprivileged children
Teacher training and salary sponsorship
Volunteer Training

  • Motivational programs:

Translation & dissemination of Khmer, Vietnamese and English educational and morally instructive materials via literature, website & audio/visuals.
Christian counseling and Bible courses.

  • Humanitarian Aid:

Channel donated goods and supplies to poor and disadvantaged people.

My cousin and his wife, Chad and Heather, have visited before and absolutely loved the experience. Alex and Ann are Heather's aunt and uncle, so they are sort-of like very distant relatives of mine who I have never met. I have been talking with them since I arrived in Singapore and cannot wait to finally visit them!

Posted by Cassi 09:58 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Phnom Penh

Welcome to Cambodia


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Phnom Penh, the largest city and Capital of Cambodia, is where I spent the last 4 days. I stayed with Alex and Ann, and their son James, who have lived there about 9 years. The city itself has very few skyscrapers, and it is mostly apartment buildings with shops on street level. About 2 million people live there, but the outskirts of the city quickly turn to rural Cambodian countryside. There are thousands of motorbikes around, even more than Bali had, and the main form of transportation is TukTuk rides: a little ‘carriage’ attached to the back of a motorbike. The downtown area has a beautiful waterfront along the Mekong River, which is actually flooding right now as it is the end of rainy season for them. This is the worst flooding recorded in the last 10 years (sounds similar to home!).
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Despite the city being beautiful with colorful buildings all around, Cambodia has a very dark past. In the 1970’s the Khmer Rouge Government ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire city, forcing people from their homes and marching them into the countryside forcing them to learn farming.

Then the city was transformed, local high schools became prisons and buildings were destroyed. Slowly families were ripped apart as thousands of people were executed at the hand of the Khmer Rouge. The S21 Prison, located In the middle of town, was once a beautiful highschool but was turned into the worst Prison of them all.

Today, the prison stands as a museum in the middle of the city, and it shows the history of how everything changed so fast.

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Saturday James and I spent the day at the museum. Although I knew very little about the history of Cambodia, Alex and Ann have lived there about 9 years now and have witnessed the lasting effects on the families around town. The museum was terribly depressing, I would compare it to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., except you can actually walk through the rooms where the people were held, tortured and murdered.

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After the Museam, we took a TukTuk back to their home, where I ate my first home-cooked meal in the last 2 and a half months! Anything is better than the cafeteria food that we eat daily at school, so I was very excited to be eating with their family.

I was then showed a documentary about Human Trafficking in Cambodia to prepare me for the girls I was going to meet the following morning. The average age in Cambodia is just 20 years old, with very few people having survived the Khmer Rouge rule. Because of that, many people have lost hope in building a family. The effects of this devastation have caused many families to fall apart, and many parents sell their children at very young ages. Small children are put to work as beggars in the cities, and many girls are forced to work in the sex industry. The video was very heart breaking, I can’t imagine a world where parents would sell their children, but it happens every day in Cambodia.

After an exhausting day, I crashed in the biggest bed since moving to Asia, and slept straight till the next morning.

Posted by Cassi 20:31 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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