Ever since our first experiment with AirBnB (where we snagged a New York City...
It’s been nearly a full year since we last set foot inside our home country. And while I can’t remember experiencing a single bout of homesickness during the past 342 days that we’ve been overseas, there are definitely things I miss about traveling in the U.S.
Some things in life are just too awesome to fully comprehend. And at Choeung Ek, an otherwise nondescript orchard a dusty 17 kilometer tuk-tuk drive outside of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, that statement holds true in the worst possible way imaginable.
Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot killed roughly two million people. The truth is, nobody really knows how many men, women, and children fill the roughly 20,000 mass graves that dot Cambodia’s landscape. Estimates range from a low of about 700,000 to over three million.
Words like atrocity and genocide are powerless to adequately describe the madness that is Cambodia’s Killing Fields.
Even touring a place like Choeung Ek, one of Cambodia’s most notorious execution camps, only offers the slightest glimpse of what transpired during those four unimaginable years of Khmer Rouge rule. And yet the magnitude of the horror at that single site is still impossible to behold.
And on travel blogs nobody knows your life isn’t an endless string of vacation days. Sometimes everyday life does intrude, even if we don’t share those aspects of our travels every single day.
Eventually someone will ask us, “What did you do in Cambodia?” I’m posting this by way of reply.
Tam’s Pub is not your typical restaurant or watering hole. Located on a residential side street near My Khe Beach in Da Nang, Vietnam, it’s easy to mistake the place for someone’s garage. Inside the wide, open storefront, a row of motorbikes are parked along one wall. A TV mounted high in a corner of the room is tuned to a sitcom. An orange-and-white cat stands near the eatery’s entrance, while a tawny-colored feline perches on one of the bike seats, lazily grooming.
Casually placed among the clutter are a few tables and chairs, as if in anticipation of friends dropping by for a cold beer or a bite to eat. And that’s exactly how Tam treats her customers; like old friends.
We arrived early on a week night and found the place empty except for Tam, who was busy working at one of the tables, a de facto desk piled high with papers. After we settled in and decided what to have for dinner, she left us contentedly sipping cans of Biere Larue while she disappeared into the back.
We had come to Tam’s Pub hoping for a satisfying meal, but we also received something unexpected. After serving our orders Tam pulled up a chair and joined us while we ate, sharing stories about her life during the American-Vietnam War and pointing out related photos as she spoke. Pictures and memorabilia, spanning more than half a century, adorn nearly every inch of wall space that isn’t occupied by the surf boards she rents out.
Tam was just twelve when the war began. We were mostly silent as she told us about that time in her life, captivated by her vivid reminisces. What surprised us most about Tam’s war stories was how often they focused on American acts of kindness. She told us of the sailor who appeared one day and offered her something to eat. Every day thereafter the man returned to the same place to bring Tam a sandwich.