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Is Cambodia really safe for tourists?

Cambodia is much more dangerous than I realized. Here in our nice guest house with wifi, I was curious about how often tourists are robbed or attacked. I heard that Phnom Penh is way more dangerous than where I am in Siem Reap, but I didn't realize how widespread the crime and violence truly is. From where I sit, Cambodia is a friendly and relatively safe place, with pickpockets and scam artists trying to get a couple bucks being the most common kinds of crime. I found a blog- Traveling Mark- by a blogger who has spent 5 months in Cambodia. At first I dismissed him as racist- he calls all Cambodians lazy and says they will all scam you when an opportunity arises. But then I kept reading. Unfortunately it seems that my view is extremely sheltered and superficial.

Yangshuo cooking school

The Yangshuo cooking school was an awesome experience. The school has beautiful views- we ate our dinner in an open air dining area overlooking large rice fields, gardens and big beautiful mountains. The teachers there speak very good English and taught us both Chinese cooking techniques and local Yangshuo specialties. 

The cooking set-up is two long tables of students facing each other. Each student has a single burner gas stove and all the tools he or she needs. The teacher is at the head of the two rows. We gathered by her as she demonstrated each dish before we made it. When it was our turn, she talked us through it as we cooked.
We made a total of five dishes. Pictured here are stir fried bok choy, eggplant Yangshuo style, stir fried pork with carrots, green beans with bell pepper, and steamed chicken with goji berries, Chinese dates with rice wine. We also made minced pork dumplings but they were the appetizer and I ate them before I thought to take a photo. 

The cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School taught me the secret to really good eggplant and how easy it is to make really diverse food with just a wok and a few ingredients. I'm excited to share the flavors of Yangshuo with my friends and family when I get home. 

Climbing in Yangshuo

The sleeper train pulled into a city I can't remember the name of and I was actually well rested. From there, we walked through the warm mist to the bus station where we could get on a bus heading to Yangshuo.

When the Karst mountains first appeared on the bus ride, I thought we were there, but Yangshuo is not at the beginning of the range. The Karst mountains seem to just go on forever. The landscape is absolutely captivating. The mountains look like fingers reaching out of a pool.  I had a similar feeling to the ones I had Yosemite and in the North Carolina mountains- hugged and protected by the steep surrounding mountains. Unlike North Carolina, the land between them is flat and slow moving rivers wind between the towers. This flat, lush land is perfect for agriculture.

Once in Yangshuo, we headed to the staff flat and climbed up to the roof. Even on a hazy day, the view was stunning.

We had the rest of the day to ourselves, so we decided to spend a couple of hours climbing. Tony, Fernando and I piled into a taxi to head to the closest crag- The Wine Bottle. The approach was easy but extremely muddy and I almost fell countless times. Wine Bottle is a nice crag, and we had the place to ourselves. The only problem was, there is the "Butterfly Cave" across the valley. The Butterfly Cave is a big tourist trap and there are loads and loads of buses dropping off and picking up tourists so we found it annoyingly loud. Sometimes it was hard to communicate with the climber because of all the honking. 

This is the view from the top of the climb:

Looking down at Tony and Fernando:

After climbing we had a HUGE meal at a really awesome Chinese restaurant and then enjoyed the scene from the roof again. They illuminate the mountains at night, and although it is completely unnatural and probably ruins stargazing, it really is awesome. Because of those lights, everyone can enjoy the beauty of those mountains even at night.