We made it to Cambodia!! 4th country down and still absolutely living the dream!! As I said in the last blog we decided to fly into Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to save us from all the border crossing dramas!! The flight was totally worth the extra bit of money and got us there in little over an hour!!
First port of call for us was Phnom Penh. If you’ve travelled through Asia before you know how crazy most of the roads are. I thought I’d seen it all in Sri Lanka. I thought braving and surviving the bus journeys there was going to be the hardest thing I was going too have to deal with.
And then there’s Phnom Penh. We jumped in a Tuk Tuk from the airport and the rest of the journey is a complete blur. I gathered very quickly there are no road laws, signs or police any where and motorists can literally do what they please. We saw people driving 4 cars deep on a one lane road, mopeds, cars, Tuk Tuks driving down the wrong side of the street heading directly into you. It’s so hard to put into words the terror I felt in the first 5 minutes of that journey!!
I’m not sure how but we survived the journey and made it to our pre booked accommodation thanks to a couple we met in Chiang Mai. The hotel, yes HOTEL, was called Number 9 and was beautiful. We felt as if we were treating ourselves for a few nights however it wasn’t that much over our budget.
It was in a great location so we were able to walk to restaurants, cafés and bars when ever we felt like it. I must tell you about all the cafés!! Oh my, Fran and I thought we had struck gold when we noticed a modern building called Brew House. My first though was ‘tea’ and I was in, ordering it by the bucket load! Beautiful.
Our plan while we were here was to visit The Killing Fields. We both new so little about the devastation that took place in this country that we were both overcome with anticipation.
The history of that era goes a little like this..
“On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell under the control of the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerilla group led by Pol Pot. They forced all city residents into the countryside and to labor camps. During the three years, eight months, and 20 days of Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia faced its darkest days, an estimated 2 million Cambodians or 30% of the country’s population died by starvation, torture or execution”.
Almost every Cambodian family has lost at least one relative during this most gruesome holocaust.
It was a sobering feeling walking around the killing fields, a place where victims were transported in trucks 2 to 3 times a month to be executed. I soon learnt that this is only 1 of 300 sites in Cambodia.
It is unfathomable that this happened only about 30 years ago. And I am in admiration of the brave Cambodian people who have soldiered on and are trying hard to make something off themselves.
I don’t feel I want to talk in depth about what I saw whilst here but the fact I learnt so much about the history and feel a greater warmth to all Cambodian people is more than enough for me to take away from here.
It is normal then to be taken to the genocide museum which is back in Phnom Penh town. However Fran and I both agreed visiting such a museum after what we’d just witnessed may be too much for our little souls to bare so we decided to attempt that trip the following day.
We stuck to our plan and psyched ourselves up for another emotional day.
It was as if we had taken a step back in time entering the ‘museum’, which is actually one of the prisons, called S-21, that Pol Pot used to torture and execute those that disobeyed his regime.
The majority of the prison has been left untouched which allowed us to understand some of what those poor people must have gone through. Many rooms were filled with makeshift tiny cells made from either wood or bricks and the inmates would be shackled to the floor.
Some of the larger rooms that were used as torture chambers or mass cells now show thousands of photographs of the men, women and children who were executed under Pol Pots reign.
It’s harrowing to see all those innocent faces many of which were too young to even understand what was happening to them, being tortured just because they did not fit with Pol Pots ideals.
Out of an estimated 17,000 prisoners only 12 are known to have survived!!
We took a bus to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh. I’ve already told you how crazy the traffic system is in this country so you can imagine what we endured during this 7 hour journey. Picture a popular motorway/highway near where you live and then dig it up, cover the jaggered rubble in orange dusty mud and call it usable. Well that was the main road to Siem Reap! Treacherous is the best way to describe it.
Anyway we made it alive and our plan while we were here was to visit the world famous Angkor Wat.
In all honesty, I didn’t have a clue what this was before arriving in Cambodia. Fran and I were told its a site not to be missed and we need to spend at least two days exploring the site.
I got to researching and quickly became fascinated. The whole site is around 250 miles squared and was built between the 9th and 15th Century. I mean, this place OLD!!
We purchased a 3 day ticket for $40 dollars and hired a Tuk Tuk for the day to take us round. This is definitely the way to travel. The place is MASSIVE, and then the temples are enormous, if you hate exercise don’t even attempt a visit!
Many of the temples still stand which allows you to walk through the corridors and gardens and admire their beauty. They really took my breath away, the size and detail in each and every temple we visited is beyond words.
The site was thought to have taken 30 years to build and was done so by the 1,000,000 people who lived in the area at the time – a time when London’s population was scarcely at 50,000! Try and get your head round that!!
Some temples have been left to the elements and massive trees have overtaken them. It’s an extraordinary thing to see a towering tree wrapping its gigantic roots around temple entrances. It made us feel like we were in temple run. And funnily enough Lara Crofts Tomb Raider was actually filmed at one of these temples!!
Angkor archeological park is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and I felt lucky in witnessing such majestic beauty in such a wonderful country.
We move onto Sihanoukville next to spend some well earned time on the beautiful beaches.