“Where is home?” Amber asked.
She was a fellow backpacker I met in the bar of this really cool and cheap Central Hostel we stayed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was trying to enjoy a bottle of local Cambodian beer that night, before dozing off, which kinda tasted similar to our very own red horse. (Confession: I am not fond of beers – but I can if I love you and you enjoy beer and I am drinking with you. Also, if I’m broke to afford other liquors. And that night, I can only afford a bottle of beer) And I remember pausing for a good minute before responding “Manila, Philippines”. It is not that I am ashamed of my roots, nor I find it difficult to let people know that I am a Filipino – because for some Captain Obvious reasons, my physique can’t be denied of its’ roots, because I’m very much Pinoy. I have always been so proud of my brown skin, my round eyes, and my wavy hair, and has always been really prouder to letting people know how lovely and how happy our country is. But at the back of my head, and to my overthinking nature, I was stunned with the other idea of what constitutes as “home”.
I asked myself over that minute what she meant by home. How does one consider a place home, when you feel home can be anywhere? And is it possible that home can be in multiple places? Is it where you were born? Where you grew up? Where your love ones live? Or where you desire living in the future?
Cambodia is very known for its’ Angkor Wat. And first time tourists are kinda obliged to visit it. It’s a UNESCO heritage site, and the biggest religious monument in the world. And I can’t stop crying on the inside to have finally seen its’ beauty. Out of all the countries I have been, Cambodia really took a significant space in my heart – and I am sure no other place can take up that much space anymore (or maybe Prague, New York, and Grand Canyon – because I have also been daydreaming almost every day seeing them, and possibly visiting back multiple times).
It has always been one of my dreams to see Angkor Wat. I remember just looking at that beautiful scene in photographs taken by friends and people I see in the internet, and be astounded by the looks of it. It looked so unreal in the screen, and even looked more surreal in flesh. For a moment, I got scared by how unbelievably huge and historic it is. For that moment, there’s nothing more frightening than a dream come true. And as much as I would love to endlessly capture everything and take more photographs, I knew that I need to take a pause, feel it, and to just silently watch the golden rim slowly glimmer behind the beautiful monument. That moment made me realized an important lesson of patience. Years of wishing and working hard to see this gorgeous sight was all worth it – because beautiful things take time.
We spent almost the entire sunny day walking around, riding the tuk tuk (you will be needing to rent a tuk tuk for the entire day which was around 20USD) in visiting all temples we can see. It was very exhausting! And it is important to bring a liter of water at least to replace all the sweat you’d be having. To our surprise, one day pass, which we all thought was just for 20USD is already for 37USD. The cost didn’t hurt much because the view and the experience was all worth it anyway. In case you haven’t noticed, I have been mentioning USD in this paragraph. Cambodia does have their own currency which they call riel, however, they use USD in most transactions. Although money is in USD, Cambodia is still relatively cheap compared to other Asian countries I have been. Food has this very interesting feel, and since I was traveling on a budget, food I consumed are mostly those served on the street. Cheap (around 1.5-5USD) but good enough to still give you that Khmer tastebuds experience.
Amber and I shared almost same sentiments about Cambodia that night. We even both agreed that Cambodia is a very hospital country, making you feel at home. Amber was from California, but decided to find her fortune in South East Asia, and has been teaching English in Bangkok for a couple of months. She was in Cambodia for a short stay before heading to Vietnam. When I asked if she misses home, she said California is no longer home for her.
She said that home, as she learned from her journey so far, is not just the place where you were born. She said that it’s the place where you become yourself. All questions I asked myself before our conversation went deeper was answered. That’s when it hit me that where you come from now is much less important than where you are going. She’s right. Home can’t be just the place where you come from. Home would be whatever, or wherever, I have carried around me, and ultimately, a place where I could always, and would always want to go back to.