cambodia 3: phnom penh, “we don’t need to fight anymore”

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Phnom Penh is where the Cambodians live, work, play and pray. Its attractions are low key, forming part of the fabric of local life. The city sits at the confluence of the three great rivers of Indochina—the Mekong, Tonle Sap and the Bassac—and is the country’s commercial and political capital. It is crowded, chaotic and most importantly necessary in order to understand the everyday real Cambodia.

Like Siem Reap and other towns in Cambodia, Phnom Penh too swarms with child beggars and amputated men and women trying to eek out a living from the country’s thriving tourism industry. After three decades of civil war, the country has only in the last 10 years opened its doors to the outside world with its sliver of calm and peace. All in all 539,000 tonnes of bombs have been dropped over the country and between four and six million land mines still dot the countryside. Huge billboards on the roads read, “Put down your weapons. We don’t need to fight anymore.” Continue reading

cambodia 2: khmer rouge, hell on earth in the 20th century

To fully understand life one needs to understand the good, as well as the bad and the ugly. To fully comprehend the Cambodian psyche, one needs to walk the sacred walkways of Angkor Wat but also understand the Khmer Rouge, and the dent it has made on an entire nation and its people, still stark and painful 28 years after its demise. No Cambodian can be said to be yet entirely free of the madness and brutality of that era. Every single family has had one or more members that died in it. There is a vacantness in the Cambodian spirit which still rattles emptily the echoes of those years, making you doubt humanity itself. Continue reading

cambodia 1: the splendours of angkor

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I am finally in Cambodia. Every traveller’s utopia. Peace has come to this beautiful yet scarred land after three decades of war and suffering, and a journey to this small kingdom is truly one of Asia’s most genuine adventures.

Present day Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire which during the Angkor Period (9th to 15th Century AD) ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. No matter how much you read about Angkor or see pictures of its monuments, the actuality of the place still takes you by surprise. The scale alone of the site is impressive, the detailed stone carvings on its temples only further adding to its incredible beauty. Continue reading