Charmed in Cambodia

Ancient temples. Rare freshwater dolphins. Fried insects. For the last two weeks, we’ve been exploring Cambodia and having an incredible time. We biked more than 45 miles to visit Beng Mealea, a 900-year-old stone temple nearly consumed by the surrounding jungle. We spent 2 days wandering the awe-inspiring ruins of Angkor Wat. Finally, we teamed up with Conservation International (CI) to spend a week photographing a few of their environmental projects, crisscrossing the country by bus, motorcycle and longboat. With CI, we’ve documented and seen incredible wildlife: a newly-discovered species of gibbons in the Veun Sai jungle, endangered freshwater dolphins and a species of rare softshell turtles thought to be extinct in the Mekong River. Along the way we’ve enjoyed eating many local dishes, although we haven’t yet mustered up the courage to try the popular fried tarantulas.

We’ve been thoroughly charmed by Cambodia and its people. Despite a horrific civil war and genocide in the ’70s and ’80s, the country is making an impressive recovery. Travel by public transport is relatively easy and safe, and tourism is booming. In fact, we’ve been having trouble booking hotels because so many are full.

The people, however, have impressed us the most. Incredibly warm and friendly, many locals speak English and have helped us learn a handful of phrases in Khmer, the official language. Of course, whenever we attempt to practice, we spark a great deal of laughter among our conversation partners.

We’ll be blogging in more detail and posting photos soon. In the meantime, we’re off to Tonle Sap, the largest lake in SE Asia, to photograph a “floating village” and CI’s work with sustainable aquaculture.

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