Year 12 and 13 Trip to Cambodia 2019

The trip started with a 12 hour delay. Hearing we had a whole day in Heathrow after leaving school at 4:30am wasn’t the best news to receive, but nevertheless we grabbed our £30 food vouchers, trying to remain positive. Our bad luck sadly followed us to Singapore, where after a 13 hour flight we arrived to the news we had missed our connecting flight to Cambodia, leaving us to hop on a plane to Bangkok and eventually one to Cambodia.  Its interesting to note that at each stage the planes got smaller and the weather got worse. This doesn’t seem like the best start to such an amazing trip, but believe me it got better after this.

So, after what felt like forever (33 hours!) we arrived in Cambodia, greeted by a wave of humidity and rainfall. Our first hostel was luxury in comparison to what was later to come, a swimming pool, which of course we couldn’t go in, and the sight of an actual bed sent us straight to sleep in preparation for the start of our trip.

Our first official day was technically the third one of the trip and was for sure a busy one: after waking up at 4am we ventured out to get onto our first ‘tuk tuk’, definitely a method of transport like no other and one we all won’t forget. The rain on this day was immense, but didn’t stop our tour guide being any less enthusiastic. He called us the ‘green army’ and would chant this to grab our attention and keep us together. Unexpectedly we saw elephants being walked around whilst we were on a tuk tuk ride, making us all gaze in awe and pull over to pay a visit. Being able to feed and touch them at such a unexpected time was such a surreal moment. The evening led us to the night market, a giant maze of stalls filled with all the souvenirs you could imagine, a few hardy souls dined al fresco on barbecued tarantula served on sticks which they claimed were salty.

The next day meant time to say goodbye to the city of Siem Reap and travel to our next adventure- the community project. My team spent the next few days living on a farm. Yes, a farm - though probably not the type we are used to at home. A sheltered wooden platform (which we had to climb up to) was our new home, where we slept under mosquito nets. Despite being slightly anxious at first glance, these few days were my favourites of the trip. Here we helped make fertiliser for the farm, and in the evenings cook everyone dinner with freshly picked vegetables from the farm. As well as this, building a garden in a local families small holding was a major highlight - the blazing sun and sweat was all worth it when you know how beneficial this is to a family. On our last day at the farm, the Better Lives leader Ray took us to a local Catholic service, seeing the whole community come together and allowing us to be a part of it was such a special moment. We spent the next few hours playing non-stop with all the young children, their faces lighting up when we handed out small dolls and colouring pencils we had bought to give them. Our last night on the farm began as a relaxing one. Despite this, this peaceful night also happened to be ‘termite night’ in Cambodia, where once a year the termites fly the termite mounds, then shed their wings so many thousands of termites were swarming everywhere in the air, on the ground and in our hair!

The end of our community project meant time to start a new chapter of our trip - the trek. Before this began, we had a long coach journey to the capital, Phnom Penh, where our hostel with the sight of an actual mattress and a rice-free meal seemed like such a luxury.

Day 9 began at 4:30am, where a long coach journey and three hour boat journey led us into the jungle and the Chi-Pat community, where we stayed in a homestay village guesthouse for the night in preparation for the start of the trek. A second 4:30 start and a 2 hour boat journey is when we arrived at the jungle, and after topping up on mosquito repellent and sun cream, we set off. Walking 14 kilometres on the first day definitely wasn’t a slow start, but singing to keep everyone’s mood up was an attempt to keep our moods high. After some tears and a lot of sweat, we arrived at our hammocks in the jungle - which were surprisingly the best nights sleep. The next two days of trekking were essentially the same, leading us to a total of over 30 kilometres walked in three days, and we could definitely feel it!

We arrived back, tired, in Phnom Penh on day 13 where we visited the Royal Palace which was the most prestigious, luxury building filled with rich history. The days go too quickly, as after our tour here was over, we headed out for our last night. The restaurant was very different to what we experienced anywhere else - it was called The Titantic and had traditional Cambodian dance and music to set the scene. During the evening we all reflected on our highlights and lowlights of the trip, and both the teachers and students had arranged awards and thank yous to give out. Our very last day was also history filled, as we visited S21, the genocide museum. Amazingly, we were given the opportunity to meet a survivor, and see first-hand the extent of the tragedy.

Luckily, our travels home were delay-free and so after only two flights home we arrived safely, greeted by a crowd of parents waving proudly from the outside of school. The experience was an outstanding one, with a few tears but a lot of smiles and laughter. I cannot recommend enough to go on an expedition like this, it is like nothing you have ever done.

Abbie 13B

Please see the below links for further information

Team 1 - http://betterlives.org/2019/07/siem-reap-kh-visiting-students-create-new-opportunities-for-peaksneng-families-9-jul-2019/

Team 2 - http://betterlives.org/2019/07/battambang-kh-visiting-students-expand-reach-of-organic-vegetable-growing-program-15-july-2019/

 

 


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