Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Memories of Cambodia & The Lost City


During my recent trip to Vietnam, I had the opportunity to visit Cambodia. I never thought it would have an everlasting memory in me. I went with the intention of visiting Angkor Wat, a tourist destination, and came back with great knowledge about the country. I recommend that everyone should at least visit Cambodia once in their lifetime. It is definitely worth the trip.

There are a lot of temples, monuments and exotic foods in Cambodia. Besides Angkor Wat, you can not miss a visit to the Killing Fields and The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. In brief history, Cambodia had years of suffering under the Khmer Rouge era. The Khmer Rouge is remembered for its policy of social engineering, which resulted in mass genocide. Their attempts to agricultural reform led to widespread famine. The country is left in horrible state from them, which can be witness if you take a quick drive through the non-tourist part of Phnom Penh. From 1975 to 1979, over 2 million people died. Of the thousands that were imprison in Tuol Sleng, there were seven known survivors.

Tuol Sleng was a high school that got converted to a prison, where the Khmer Rouge interrogated, tortured, abused, and executed people. Walls upon walls are filled with photographs of men, women and children. Classrooms are divided into small crude cells. Human skulls filled cabinets and rooms showcased torture devices. Dried blood stained the floors (above right photograph). I was completely speechless when I walked out of those buildings. The buildings are preserved in the same conditions as they were left in when the Khmer Rouge were driven out.

After people were tortured and executed, their bodies were dumped in the Killing Fields, a mass grave sites in various locations of Cambodia. One was found with more than 400 bodies buried in it.

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Phnom Penh is also home to the King. I also got the chance to visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Cambodian's architecture is astonishing. The great details that went into these buildings are truly amazing.

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Two days later, we head by private car to Siem Reap. It's about 350kms from Phnom Penh but took about 6 hours to drive there. Along the way, we stopped by spider market. As the name suggest, the market is known for selling spiders as an exotic food. Besides spiders, I was able to spot another dish, one which is unknown to me but it looks like a bunch of insects fried together with onions.


Siem Reap is where you can find the Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor is over some 400 square km, including forested area, the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. You might know it from the filming location for Tomb Raider in 2011. Siem Reap is definitely filled with tourists. There are hotels upon hotels along the streets and plenty of places to eat at. The old market can be reached from your hotel by a tuk-tuk for $2 USD flat. I forgot to mention, USD dollars are more practical in Cambodia than Cambodia dollars, Riels. It is normal to see prices in USD dollars on menus or at the market. For approximately $200 USD, it should last you 5 days in Cambodia. We went to an all you can eat buffet, which serves Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian food for $8 USD/person.

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Temple trekking is done best early in the morning. Even though it was November when I was in Cambodia, the weather was still plus 30 degree celsius. We managed to walked most of the park by 2pm, went back to our hotel for a quick break then headed back around 4pm to climb the last temple on Phnom Bakheng Hill, to watch the sunset. Let me warn you, going up the temple is a breeze but coming down the temple is a challenge. After sunset, there are no lights and the steps are steep. Imagine 300 people trying to climb down a temple in the dark. We didn't stay for the sunset. We only went up, relaxed and climbed back down before it got dark.

Overall, the temples were impressive. You could purchase a 3 day pass to the park, but I felt that one day was enough, especially in the heat. I was more impressed with Bayon temple than I was with Angkor Wat temple. I guess it's because I've seen so many pictures of Angkor Wat and none of the other temples.

I'm glad I visited Cambodia. Take a chance to visit when you can. Hope you enjoyed reading this post.


Alice says:
at: December 10, 2011 at 5:51 AM said...

Wow the architecture is gorgeous. Lol did you try any of the spiders? I like the new look


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