It's the first question that everyone asks, and rightly so. What was our favorite place on our trip to Southeast Asia? It's also a tough question to answer, and rightly so.
We pet tigers, we rode elephants, we jumped through waterfalls, and we hiked through forests. We walked through killing fields and crawled through war tunnels. We heard stories. We felt stories. We saw stories.
What was our favorite place in Southeast Asia?
I think it might have been here: Siem Reap, Cambodia. Its the home of the Angkor temples and the infamous Angkor Wat. It was the capital of the ancient Khmer empire that ruled the entire region for hundreds of years, a culture that still lives strong within the people and the country today. But it wasn't these things that made this place so special for us. Instead, what we cherish the most from this city was the "in-between-tourist-stops" stops. The places between the places to see. It was the moments and people that filled the gaps between hotels and temples and restaurants and shows that we fell in love with. So I thought I'd share just a few of those "in-between's" that we loved so much.
Our guesthouse, The Two Dragons, was located on a dirt alley off of a larger road, and this alley held so much character. Its lined with tuk-tuk "bars" (ie card tables with food and rice wine), guesthouses, shops, and our favorite restaurant with some of the best pizza we've ever had (I know right? In Cambodia.) This place could be a little slice of heaven.
Outside of The Two Dragons sits an amazing group of people. They are tuk-tuk drivers, and tuk-tuks are the Cambodian style of taxi (that's one sitting in the image above). The only thing you need to know about these guys is that they are happy. They live the simplest lives in a place where they don't have a lot, but they are so stinkin' happy. I admire them a TON. Jeff and I became really attached to these guys during our stay, especially with our driver Thul, and it was even a little emotional leaving them behind. Truly, our lives are different because of the time we spent with these men. If you want to hear more, just ask us in person; we'll probably get choked up.
This is Mr. Sith and he's helping to spruce up another guy's tuk-tuk. And this is how big he smiles, all the time. No, seriously - all the time!
Our driver, Thul, is on the left (we LOVE this guy) and Mr. Don is on the right. Mr. Don has a loud cackling laugh that cracks everyone up, and he's laughing all the time. Again, they are so dang happy... Our good friend and talented photographer Bobby Earle first told us about these guys, and you can read his story here. We'd go all the way back to Cambodia just to hang out with these guys!
The scenery around Siem Reap isn't much to look at, but the people that fill this place are lovers of life and lovers of each other. The air fairly sizzles with love and contentment around these parts.
Thul was our driver all four days we were in Siem Reap, and he would take us anywhere we wanted to go. When he realized how much we liked taking pictures, he would pull to the side of the road and show us around. Places like a roadside stand with homemade coconut sugar...
or a coca-cola stand and rice paddy...
or the local gas station...
or the guy with pigs on his scooter. Ha!
Spending four days with Thul and getting to know his story and his country was something we'll never forget and we'll always cherish. There is so much more we could share here - seriously, we took 11,000 images on our two month trip - but there's only so much that words can express. So I'll let Thul do the talking...
But before I sign off, I have to share one of my favorite images - the tuk-tuk parking. Its just makes me smile.