When I was a kid I went along with my family to Cambodia for the primary purpose of visiting Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building and surviving ancient temple. Little did I know the vacation would be full of surprises, some humorous and others terrifying.
Our first stop was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Before we checked into our hotel, my father warned the rest of us to be careful about what we said out loud during our stay, in case the hotel room was bugged. I am not certain as to why the owners of an arbitrary hotel in Cambodia would want to bug their rooms, or if my father was simply paranoid to the point of ridicule, but we took his advice anyway to make him happy.
Oddly enough, we did find a small hole in the ceiling directly above our shower that looked suspiciously like a hidden camera. I believe we blocked it with some tissue paper.
In any case, we did a little sight-seeing in Cambodia’s capital and then made our way to Siem Reap, the city closest to our main destination: Angkor Wat. There we met up with our designated tour guide. He spoke English more or less fluently, which relieved my father of the job of having to translate for us (he speaks Cambodian).
The tour guide was a nice enough guy. As the vacation progressed, he led us through the mind-blowingly beautiful Angkor Wat and other temples, explaining their history and the various Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. But when the man got around to describing the plentiful phallic and yonic statues, he unknowingly used their vulgar slang names instead of the aforementioned polite, formal vernacular. He did this consistently throughout the entire tour. Needless to say, it drew some stares from the other tour groups.
Later we passed by a group of locals, one of whom pointed our direction and yelled something in Cambodian. Our tour guide quickly translated this to us as, “What a nice, healthy son you have.” If that sounds odd, it’s because the tour guide lied. My father, being able to speak Cambodian, gave us the correct translation later. Apparently that person had actually yelled, “White as a ghost!”
To be fair, my family is very pale.
Anyway, at some point during this vacation-I forget exactly when-my parents thought it would be fun to go joy riding in a rental car in the countryside. We went driving down the middle of nowhere, bisecting fields of rice, toward some tourist attraction that we never could find. At some point we realized we had gone too far, and might be near or across the Cambodian border. This is bad. Why? Because there is a trend where people get robbed and killed trying to drive across the Cambodian border.
We turned around as soon as possible and bee-lined for our hotel again. Thankfully, there were no unpleasant encounters. We all got back to the city and then finished our trip in one piece.
That was the quirkier side of my family vacation to Cambodia, in a nutshell.