Arriving in Phnom Penh

As soon as exams ended and the dorms closed up, 15 students and three faculty chaperones packed their bags for a trip to Thailand and Cambodia.

When we arrived in Phnom Penh, our group left the airport after an early flight and immediately took a bus to the Mekong River, where we all boarded a fairly large wooden boat. 
As the boat took us to Silk Island, we all looked at the nearby shore and took pictures of the interesting sights. Cambodia at first seemed overall similar to Thailand, but less developed. We also saw some very extravagant temples and pictures of the ruler of the country, similar to in Thailand.

When we arrived at Silk Island, we split into small groups to take an amazing Tuk Tuk ride to our destination. We saw firsthand the lives of the poorer people who live on the island, and it seemed very rural compared to how we all live back in New Jersey. It was interesting to see the people and how they live close-up on our way to the silk farm. 
When we got there, our guide showed us how Cambodian silk is made, and we were able to feel some (it was so soft!) before being shown how they make fabrics with it. The strings were very vibrant pink, red, green, and even purple, and we all watched women work the complicated machines in order to create beautiful patterned fabrics. At the end, many people bought some fabrics, and the others tried to make a trained parrot speak. It could laugh and imitate a Cambodian greeting! After we were done, we took tuk tuks and then the boat back to the city, where we went to check in at our hotel before dinner.

We all freshened up after that tiring day, and then went back to the same dock to board another boat for dinner. The boat cruised up and down a part of the Mekong River while we ate, creating gorgeous views of the city’s skyline. Mr. Brown’s old colleagues from his previous job at The Cambodia Daily joined us, and they shared stories with us while we ate a coconut dessert. One of them was an award-winning female reporter, and her stories about her work and challenges she had faced were fascinating. At the end of the boat ride, the group went back to the hotel to get some rest.

On our first full day in Cambodia’s capital we first visited the infamous Killing Fields where the Cambodian genocide took place.
We watched a video about the gruesome violence Cambodia faced during the 1970s before firsthand seeing the mass graves and remains of the ones murdered. The burial grounds were defined by a tall structure which held the bones of the people killed during the genocide. We then paid our respects by placing a flower and incense at the memorial.

We then headed to the Russian Markets to buy some souvenirs and work on our bargaining skills before lunch. Then we visited The Cambodia Daily where our very own Mr. Brown used to work. We learned more about journalism and the struggles the newspaper has faced with revealing information. We also got a tour of their office. After wards, we headed back to the hotel for a break before heading to watch a soccer game in the evening.

Nitya & Jesse