Rebecca Ezrin is a journalism junior studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With many class field trips and personal trips planned, her adventures are virtually endless. She aims to share her authentic experiences and what she has learned. Recently, she spent a week traveling through Laos and Cambodia.
Before entering the Kuang Si Waterfall, just south of Luang Prabang, Laos, is a bear rescue center known as ‘Free the Bears.’ Several black bears residing here have been rescued from illegal wildlife trade. The center is funded by Free the Bears Fund, which works to protect bears in multiple Asian countries. In China, many bears are rescued from bear bile farms, which takes bear milk and uses it for traditional Chinese medicine.
The Tat Kuang Si Waterfall is 50-60 meters tall, and tourists must hike to reach the top. The waterfall is famous for its turquoise color and tropical rainforest surrounding. The pools under the waterfall are accessible for swimming.
On our way to the zip lining site, we were welcomed onto a boat in which multiple locals lived on. They were singing, dancing and insisted on giving us beer. Hours later, after we had finished our day, they were still celebrating.
Located in the Ban Pak Lueang Village, the 900-meters-long zip lining and rope course runs over the Hoi Khua Waterfall.
Upon arrival in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a tuk tuk drives us through the streets to our hostel.
Three miles north of town is Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world at 1.6 million square meters in size. Built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, the temple was originally constructed for the Hindu Khmer Empire. It is unique in that it was dedicated to the god Vishnu. Around the end of the century, the site began gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple. Due to its sturdy structure, Angkor Wat is the only temple on its site to survive since its foundation. Angkor Wat, which translates to ‘City of Temples,’ is Cambodia’s main tourist attraction.
‘Pub Street’ is Siem Reap’s prime nightlife location and is full of bars, street food (bugs) and ‘Happy Pizza’ restaurants, which is famous in Cambodia for being legal ‘herb’ pizza.
Located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are the ‘Killing Fields.’ In 1968, the Khmer Rouge became the ruling party of Cambodia. Allying with Northern Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge was a communist party. Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge and led the Cambodian genocide in 1975, which killed 3 million of the 8 million Cambodian people. Pol Pot killed anybody who he deemed threatening to his power. The Khmer Rouge believed that it was better to accidentally kill the innocent than accidentally spare an enemy.
The Khmer Rouge aimed to save money by buying cheap murder ‘tools,’ therefore they did not use guns and the deaths were drawn-on tortures. There was no remorse for children either. Every night, the Killing Fields would play exceptionally loud music over a speaker to drown out the sounds of devastating screams. During my tour, I was able to listen to the traditional song that was used, only to imagine the deadly screeches in the background.
This image is of thousands of skulls shelved in the Killing Fields memorial center. In person, you can see different types of punctures in each of them, and the museum has posted detailed descriptions behind the causes of each. Visitors are able to place flowers in front of the memorial center and are encouraged to do a prayer for the lost victims. After the Khmer Rouge finally fell to Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Cambodia had lost more than 25 percent of its population. Pol Pot continued to operate with ease for another 30 years, until his death. During this time, Western countries such as the U.S. and Germany ignorantly referred to him as the official leader of Cambodia.