Cambodia – Phnom Penh & Angkor Wat

We visited part of Cambodia in November 2011, focusing on 2 destinations within the country: the capital Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap, near the world famous Angkor temples. We joined my parents in Siem Reap who were visiting the temples with a group tour that had started in Vietnam, so we joined for the sake of being with them, but it really isn’t my thing…

In Phnom Penh, we started by visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which was used by the infamous Khmer Rouge regime as a “security prison” (S-21) from their rise to power in 1975 to their fall. This execution center was hosted in what was a high school. Some of the most cruel torture method were practised there, and their depictions is not for the faint hearted.

A very moving visit, that is really important to do in order to understand the horror Cambodia went through a mere less than 40 wears ago.

We then visited the beautiful National Museum.

A very beautiful building, which scores numerous erotic statues from ancient Khmer and Hindu civilisations :).

 

In the evening, we went for dinner with my friend Alex who took us to a delicious local barbecue place. Alex is working in Cambodia for a few years, and after raising funds for NGO Khrousar Thmey, he started from Good2Pack, a packaging company that honorably gives a chance to underpriviledged people, such as deaf people.

On the next day, we went to visit to stunning Royal Palace, with the Silver Pagoda.

 

A very colourful visit, in manicured gardens surrounded by squeaky clean shining golden temples.
Quite a pecular sighting. Poor elephant though.
An improvised street version of five-in-a-row, with chalk.
After strolling in the streets of Phnom Penh for a few hours, stopping at cafes here and there for a happy milkshake, we went for a great massage (5$ for one hour).

 

After 2 days  in Phnom Penh, it was time to head to Siem Reap and the piece de resistance of our trip, the visit of Angkor Wat temples.
The heat can be really killing you at Angkor Wat, so I would advise to go as early as possible, also in order to avoid the crowds…

The old ruins of Angkor are really impressive. It is simply one of the largest religious monument in the world, the country’s previous capital during the Khmer empire, a national icon, built in the 12th century in honour of Vishnu, first as an hindu temple, then becoming a buddhist one.

Don’t expect to be alone for the visit…

Now a UNESCO World Heritage site attracting more than a million visitors per year, this temple complex probably played a role in France’s interest in the “Indochine” region, leading to Cambodia’s protectorate, that ended in 1953. A huge amount of restoration has been necessary to unearth and restore the temples, and work is still ongoing (which means you will probably find closed sections and ugly green covers on whole sections, but hey, this is for the greater good).

There is so much to know and say about this temple that a guide is very recommended… The bas-relief tell many stories about the ancient Khmer civilisation and make for a true cultural immersion.

View of Angkor Wat from the hot air balloon
Still possible to find some peace…

 

Tuk Tuk riding towards a door to the old city of Angkor Thom

 

Tah Prohm temple, covered by vegetation is one of the kinkiest site to visit.

After 2 or 3 days visiting temples after temples, chances are that you will be “templed out” and have become insensitive to old ruins… Still, the countryside is very beautiful and pleasant, and it is a real pleasure to be outside.

Cambodia left us a very memorable souvenir and we thought we have to go back to explore the countryside around Siem Reap a bit more. The cambodian people were really too adorable.

 

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