Until I arrived, I couldn't tell you exactly where Cambodia was on a map, or that one of the worst genocides in history happened there in the '70's, or that the Cambodians are some of the most friendly and peaceful people collectively I have ever met. Wanting to explore during a weeklong break in between the LPGA events in Malaysia and Taiwan, I headed to Cambodia on a friend's suggestion. I spent the week in Siem Reap, which is becoming more and more well known for its majestic 12th century temple, Angkor Wat, located on the grounds of Angkor Thom.
I traveled during the week either by foot or by tuk tuk (a rickshaw attached to a motorbike). I practiced and played at two of the three courses in Siem Reap, found a yoga retreat in the countryside across from an orphanage, had a traditional Khmer meal (which was one of the most delicious of my life), met three monks at the Bayon temple, and watched the sun rise at Angkor Wat.
I changed my definition of physical labor while I was there too--a typical job in Cambodia consists of a 14-hour workday, two days a month off, and a salary of roughly 50 dollars a month. The golf courses are manicured almost entirely by hand, and I watched a woman stooped over, sweeping leaves on a golf course with a small handmade wooden broom for four straight hours…I left, and she continued. Most locals live off less than a dollar a day, live in open huts and sleep on hammocks, with no running water or electricity.
I can wrap up my week in Cambodia by saying it was both heart wrenching and heart warming. The poverty and recent war stand in stark contrast to a beautiful country, rich in kindness, cultural tradition, and an admirable spirit determined to persevere.