From the Killing fields to Angkor
27.12.2012 - 10.01.2013 30 °C
I arrived in Cambodia by boat along the Mekong Delta from Vietnam. The daily pace of life along the Mekong seemed quiet compared to the hussle and bussle in Vietnam. Small huts peppered the shores and fishing boats had strewn their nets over board.
Phnom Penh - We took one day to visit S-21 the former school which the Khmer Rouge used as a prison during their rule. The former school had been left as it was found, the make-shift brick and wooden cells still erected. The pictures of the victims dislayed for people to see. The people came to find out about their loved ones and what happened to them, where they went when they disappeared. We travelled the dusty road to Cheouk Ek, one of the killing fields, where 20 000 people where killed and buried in mass graves. The audio guide here was simple and factual and it had a powerful effect on all there. Tens of people walked around in silence listening to their audio guides, subdued by the enormity of what we were seeing. It was an emotive and heart-renching day. However, 1 day for me was 1335 days less than the Cambodian people in the 1970s. Knowing the recent history allowed me to travel with my eyes open and see past the beauty of the country and look deeper into the people, allowing me a glimpse at what they see.
Its hard to know how to move on from this and tell you about the rest of my journey through Cambodia, which was not as deep or as dark. So i am simply going to move on.
Cambodia is a beautiful country and my 2 weeks were not enough to do it justice. I feel like I only scraped the surface.
From Phnom Pehn I headed down to Sihanoukville for New Years Eve. I arrived a few days before which allowed me time to rest and relax on the, beaches of Sihanoukville and catch up with other travel buddies. We stayed at Chez Claude a quaint french run guest house with a cable car (operated by tractor!) to take us up the hill to the resturant. We jumped on the back of our trackor operators bike to get us into the main town for nights out. $2 bargain! New Years Eve was a fun occassion as we celebrated on the beach with hundreds of other people, fireworks lighting up the sky and waters.
On New Years Day we sought refuge and recuperated on the small island of Koh Ru, a 1 hour boat ride from Sihanoukville, with only 30 other people. There was only one long beach and we easily found a lonely spot among the crabs for our towels whilst we dove into the crystal clear waters for a refreshing dip. We clambered through the trees to find the best snorkling spot, we watched fire dislpays, chilled in the only bar, and relaxed in hammocks. ( am i making you jealous yet ... )
I travelled to Kampot next - a small gentile town, where the river sparkles blue and the streets see only a few motorised vehicles. Its a place to come and rest, taking in the atmosphere. I did a day trip to Bokor Hill Station which is now changing and being developed into a huge resort and town however orginally it was just two buildings; a hill staiton and a church. The views over the Kampot province are amazing so it was well worth the trip up the mountain.
I spent 14 hours travelling from Kampot to Siem Reap and arrived, a tired version of myself, in Siem Reap excited about what the next few days would hold. From Siem Reap we took a tuk-tuk to the temples of Angkor. With a three day pass i could explore the larger, more well known temples as well as some of the smaller ones and one amazing one further afield. On the first day i visited Ta Prohm well known for the trees that are growing over it trying to reclaim it for the jungle it was. We took in Sunset from a hill temple looking over the plains Angkor and Sunrise at Angkor Wat. A truely amazing experience.
Cambodian food isn't to everyones liking. No really. On my first night in Cambodia the Hostel owner said it wasnt worth trying and pointed us in the direction of a western food hole. So of course the first thing I have is Lok Lak. A Cambodian special. I really liked the Cambodian dishes Amok (coconut curry) and Lok Lak.
Highlight - Exploring the temples at Angkor
Lowlight - slight panic at missing the bus/tuk-tuk due to getting up early (ie before 7am) and having to 'find' the guest house owner as Cambodians do not get up and start anything before 7am ! this happened to me more than once!!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR ! - Thank you for all the messages, it's great to know you are enjoying my blog and its lovely to hear from you. ENJOY 2013 xx