November in Cambodia

November in Cambodia


The SE Asian experience must include a trip to the capital of Cambodia, one of the poorest countries of the world, but one truly rich in cultural heritage. Phnom Penh is easily accessible by tuk tuk or taxi, with signs in all for access to local attractions and historical sites. The country is steadily rising up from the genocide of the 1970’s. The dark days of Pol Pot’s realm reached every side of the country. Monks were disrobed, families split up, and labor camps were forced upon the entire population. The millions that were affected by the Khmer Rouge’s treatment is a dark shadow that still lingers in the city.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

flickr image by Andrew and Annemarie

 

The people are not afraid to talk about the tragedies, and are eager to show you the sites dedicated from the genocide. For a deeper story on the Khmer plague visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Once a high school for the public, the Khmer Rouge gutted the school and created one of the most horrible and excruciating torture centers. The crimes against humanity are written on the dismal walls and ominous courtyard. A memorial is situated in the center to the last remaining victims left dying at the prison. The torture center documented every man, woman, and child that entered the center, their pictures in the museum are a clear reminder of the horrors of the Cambodian past. Some also take a tuk tuk to the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, but do not expect to find solace in this nightmare. Luckily the major temples and grand palace were not destroyed during Pol Pot’s atrocities. Just east of the Mekong River, the Royal Palace stands in all of Buddhist architectural greatness. First constructed in the late 14th century this regal complex is worth the hefty entrance fee. Remember this is a temple, women must hide their shoulders, and anyone entering needs to have their knees covered. If you arrive in inappropriate attire, several ladies just next to the entrance will cover guests in traditional garbs for a nominal fee. Walk around the sprawling Cambodian palace and the many temples and statues that surround the park.

The Silver Pagoda

flicrk image by Tartarin2009

 

The major attraction, The Silver Pagoda houses a Maitreya Buddha adorned in over 9,500 diamonds. The pagoda is filled with bejeweled religious artifacts, past monarch’s prized possessions, historic treasures of the Cambodian dynasty. There are several hotels and guesthouses within walking distance to the palace and nearby cultural museums. For a SE Asian slant on international cuisine, take a short walk across the street and down the river. Several restaurants and bakeries line the boulevard for a splendid Mekong River view. If you sit outside, be prepared for the downside of a poverty stricken country. Several children will beg and attempt to sell small items to make money along the way.

Maitreya Buddha

flickr image by StigAlbansson

For a fantastic side trip, visit the largest religious site in the world, Angkor Wat. Nestled in the forests in Siam Reap, a quick 2-hour minivan or bus ride will take you to one of the most acclaimed temples in the entire world. Several separate temples combine to form the vast compound of Angkor Wat, it can be done in as little as a day, some may even spend a week. The $20 entrance fee may seem pricey, but the sunrise on the main temples of Angkor and the incredible mix of statues and structures are worth the weight in gold. Do not leave without visiting the Ta Prohm temple.  To see as much as possible, hire a tuk tuk for the day, or rent a bicycle. There are several small cafes and street vendors scattered around the massive site, so remember to stock up on water. The sad past of the Cambodian people can be seen from city center Phnom Penh to the forests of Siam Reap and beyond. Keep a cool heart traveling through Cambodia, the people here are all survivors.

Date posted: 8th July, 2015

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