Happiest day on the road (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

Enjoying a good laugh with the ladies of Siem Reap.
Have you ever laughed so hard and smiled for so long that your jaws actually hurt?

It happened to me while visiting a boarding school in the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

In the last 5 years, I've spent more than half my time traveling (defined today as being away from my house in Manila). That's around one year on at least 10 different occasions outside the country, and about three years locally.

Still, this day in Cambodia, during my second backpacking trip across Southeast Asia, is definitely and hands down the happiest day of my life on the road. Here are some of the pictures to show it:

My guide and the girl of his dreams.
This is the third time that I am visiting Siem Reap, so instead of visiting the Angkor Wat again, I've decided to visit the other temples on the outskirts of the city. First on the list was Beng Malea.

While preparing for this trip, I told my tour guide that I want to make this different. I am hoping to meet a lot of locals, and hopefully interact with them. He asked me if I am willing to spend half a day in a school and meet a few students. He said they would appreciate the opportunity to practice their English. I immediately said yes.

We stopped by at this temple, with a few huts scattered around. The main house is owned by a man who is also the guardian of the temple, together with two other ladies. On the other huts, 8 girls from the remote villages of Cambodia come here to study at the nearby high school, and after school, study Buddhism at the temple. 

The girls stay here for free. If their parents can afford to send them rice, then they're lucky. But most of the time, it's the two ladies who provide for what they need. And they don't need much. They basically live simple lives, without the modern luxuries like TV or computers, but they do eat nutritious meals using locally produced vegetables. What ever they have is shared, whether a girl's family was able to contribute or not.

The girls going home for lunch.
We arrived at the temple just as the girls were arriving from school, and in time for lunch. The school is about 15 minutes by bike from the temple, but the girls said they don't mind as this is much better than going home to their own villages.
All smiles even after a long bike from school
While waiting for the other girls to arrive, I was interviewed by the lady of the house. Since she doesn't speak English, our guide and one of the girls translated for us. She also requested to have a photo taken with me.

The lady of the house and our translator.
When all of the girls have arrived, they invited us in for lunch. They apologized for being not prepared, so they say they only have "simple meals." However, for me, it was the best and most authentic Khmer food that I've tasted. I was also holding back tears thinking that these people who have almost nothing, and yet sharing whatever they have with an open heart.

The best Khmer food ever, served the traditional way.

I was reminded by the saying "No one is rich enough that they don't need anything, and no one is poor enough that they can't give anything." They also found it amusing that I was taking pictures of the food, since for them there was nothing special to it.

Lunch is ready, served the traditional Khmer way.

After lunch, girls went on with their own tasks. When I volunteered to help with the dishes, they all laughed and stopped me, saying guests are not supposed to do it. When I insisted, they finally let me and they we're laughing the entire time, teaching me to do it.

I didn't realize washing dishes could make so many people happy!
After washing the dishes, we all sat to share stories. They asked me about the Philippines and the other countries I've been to. Then, we took some photos.

The other lady of the house
The second lady of the house then insisted that I have my photo taken with each of the girls. It was so much fun, way better than having 8 girl friends :)

It started out innocent enough

And then this! Hahaha
It really was a happy day!

Tara, byahe tayo!

Froilan Grate | Last Row Traveler
Visit also No Bystanders | Planet Run | Customer Wow | Halo Halo and more 

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