After a 6 hour bus ride from Vietnam, we found ourselves in Phnom Penh. We heard from another pair of travelers that it was worth seeing but a much dirtier city than HCMC. For me, the poverty was much more obvious but Cambodia’s capital city was no dirtier. As we neared the city, driving quite speedily over roads in need of too many repairs to count, poverty enveloped us. The shacks people called home looked as though they could collapse at any moment. However, amidst the shacks we noticed quite a few large brand new buildings popping up. It was clear this city was in the midst of an economic boom but the sad truth is that little trickles down to the poor and impoverished. The disparity between the rich and poor is astounding and the facts show it. Once again, what surrounds you becomes a humbling experience. While in the capital I also began to experience the monks of Asia and I was transfixed. They are such graceful and beautiful humans. I couldn’t get my fill of learning about them and just watching them roam the streets.
A few things I learned about monks…
- They are forbidden to eat after noon. Before midday they must roam the streets asking for food. If you give them food the receiving monks will say a prayer for you. We heard one such instance of this prayer in front of our hotel at about 7:45 one morning. At first, it was such a surprising and quite honestly, weird sound but it quickly became something I wanted to hear more of.
- They are forbidden to touch females. No hugs, high-fives, nada.
- There are two sects of monks. One group believe there is just one god, Bhudda. The other sect believes that there are 5 gods.
- Most families want at least one of their sons to become a monk. It is a means for education and will bring blessings to the family.
- Boys who take the vow to become a monk have the option of opting out once they reach a certain age.