I’m sitting on a plane remembering a Thailand / Cambodia trip in did with my dad a few year back. My pop stays young by jumping out of airplanes with foreign militaries, earning foreign jump wings. On this particular trip we were of to get our Thai Special Forces HALO jump wings and then head to Cambodia to do the same with their Special Forces units. This was my first time doing anything international other then my time in the military and I was looking forward to some adventure with my dad.
When we landed in Bangkok we jumped in a cab and made our way to the hotel which was about 45 minutes away. We really didn’t know where we were going and we were pretty sure (not 100%) we gave the correct name to the cab driver. In any case we made it to our destination and were happy to see some of the other guys from the International Airborne Tour. We got briefed up on the week and then headed to bed.
The morning was my first Thai breakfast. I was super hungry and loaded up my plate with what looked like a rice and egg stir-fry. When I sat down with my dad he gave me a look, something to the effect of “good lunch with that”. Needless to say I should have taken a small sample before piling it on. I regretted my first bite and every bite after, thus starting a week long food adventure I won’t soon forget. I think every meal was a surprise with menu names not really communicating the reality of what the dish was. My American version of food names was obviously very different from theirs. Pumpkin pie was more like mini pumpkin pancakes, fish soup was more like a whole fish in a blender, a sea bass was literally a deep fried sea bass, head, tail, and all. We had several meals that made us laugh at each other for choosing it. Good times thought the Thai food was better than the Cambodian food.
In Thailand we got to visit a tiger temple and hand out with tigers and monks. We also went to visit a few war memorials including “A Bridge To Far” and spent some time in Bangkok. The C-130 we were going to jump from went down for maintenance so we didn’t have a chance to get the Thai jump wings.
Cambodia was a very different experience from Thailand. When we got off the plane it was very apparent that we were in a 3rd world country. Little motor bikes everywhere, people selling gas out of plastic soda bottles, piles of clothing for sale on pallets, and piles of broken concrete and debris scattered around. Regardless the state of their living conditions the locals all seemed very happy and for the most part, very welcoming.
The next day we went visit one of the famous re-education camps of the Khmer Rouge. It was a school that they converted into a prison for people that didn’t support the communist ideology. We walked through classrooms that were converted into prison cells of concrete blocks with metal beds and legs shackles still in place. The vibe in the place was very chilling. The playground was converted into a torcher area with water tanks to dunk people’s heads, something that they tied people up and hung people from, and razor wire everywhere. There was another building that had more cells and what looked like classrooms and at the end was a room that had actual human skulls and bones on display. After the tour there was a little flee market where people sold trinkets including old US dog tags and other items from the Vietnam War. Knives, Zippo lighters, and shell casings. The whole experience was pretty intense.