Memory Lane

Back to the travel blog theme… Sorry for the two blogs which were spewing.

In thirty three days from now, I will head to Germany for two and a half weeks. I’m really looking forward to it. But first, I have to survive twenty or so work days. 😦

Any way, this has gotten me thinking about my trip to Cambodia in 2010. What’s the connection between Germany and Cambodia? Well, the country side. That’s right, the countryside. Both countries are extremely picturesque. I could spend hours looking back at old photos and thinking about what I did or ate there. Both countries have a rich heritage and a very tragic past.  Cambodia was also a trip where I spent a lot of time with my dad traveling there. He had to leave after two and a half days before his next phase while I remained in Cambodia with his friends from Hong Kong on a tour.

There is not much to see in Phnom Penh. There are several night markets where foreign tourists congregate. You can get decent massages in open air parlors (all legal), eat a crepe for $2 USD, and immerse your feet in a fish tank while the fish nibble away at dead skin on your feet. Meanwhile, Britney Spears and the best of the late 90s and early 2000s rock play. You can even have a slow burning taper placed in your ear. Why you want to to do that beats me.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing I saw in Phnom Penh are the killing fields and the high school turned into a death camp. During the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, it is estimated that nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population before 1975 simply vanished. At the killing fields, there are dozens of shallow graves partially excavated. People were executed and buried here. There is a small museum and large memorial to commemorate what a government can do to its own people. What was disturbing was that I came on a sunny day but there was a lingering spiritual darkness. Same goes for the death camp. No wonder so many military and civil units around the world uses a variation of the phrase: “Lest we forget” – because we don’t want  Khmer Rouge, Nazi Germany, Stalin, Mao, and other totalitarian regimes to rise again. Sorry for the side note.

There’s always Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

It’s amazing this entire palace was built without modern tools such as a cranes and trucks. Everything had to be carried from a quarry and moved into position. But the scariest part was watching this European older lady walking barefoot and slipping on slick stone (it had just rained) and cracking her head. She was dazed and crying and definitely out of it as she tried to regain her bearings while her friends and other onlookers watched. Yes, it’s hot and humid in Cambodia where no one really wears shoes unless they had to.

Then there were the cultural dances. All these dances were folk dances and told stories. Some stories were universal: a love story between a boy and a girl. Others were very localized: fishermen against the fish. Did you know that the world’s second largest lake is in Cambodia? The Tonle Sap. People actually live on houseboats on Tonle Sap!


The food was decent but then the tour group stayed in western hotels with western food so I did not get a real sense of what the locals really ate. That was dependent on what they could afford. As a tourist from industrialized nation, I could afford almost whatever I wanted. That’s a just a thought I have whenever I visit another country, be it China or France.

That’s Cambodia in seven days. Oh, and I ate a giant dead spider on a dare. These spiders are for sale at various bus stops.

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