Triumph and Tragedy

Trip Start Sep 22, 2010
Trip End May 17, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We saw both the best and the worst that humans are capable of in Cambodia.  The devastation brought upon the country by Pol Pot´s Khmer Rouge, a genocide which only recently ended, was clearly visible, though the young population of survivors proved ever-resilient.  The temples of Angkor, which miraculously survived the KR regime, were the most unbelievable architectural masterworks we´ve seen (Machu Picchu, we´re expecting a lot from you).

Phnom Penh was our first stop, and we were pleasantly surprised.  While gritty, the capital city was great to walk around in, with good restaurants, markets and temples.  Sadly, it was here that we visited a museum displaying the horrors of the KR regime.  Based in a former high school, the KR prison, known as S-21, was a brutal place where only 7 of the 20,000+ prisoners survived.  The museum was kept "as-is" from its horrific use as a prison, with instruments of torture and gallows as well as photos of all the prisoners, eerily documented by the wardens, on display.

Siem Reap, the jumping off point for the Angkor temples, was our next destination and we absolutely loved it there.  Having loads of character and amazing $1 BBQ, you could spend a long time in the city beyond just visiting the temples.  But of course, the temples were not to be missed.  We spent two days temple-viewing, being driven around on a tuk-tuk from temple to temple.  Most people are only aware of Angkor Wat, but there are numerous others that are equally, if not more stunning.  While the temples are all in various states of (dis)repair, visitors are permitted basically full access, given the freedom to explore crumbling corridors and to touch millenia-old artifacts.         

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