Curious & Careful in the Kingdom of Cambodia

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November 19th 2007
Published: November 19th 2007
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Angkor Wat SunriseAngkor Wat SunriseAngkor Wat Sunrise

It is an amazing view and serene.
Curious & Careful In The Kingdom of Cambodia

For whatever reason, our interest in Cambodia was less than in other countries. Our time here was short and so is our blog…unlike the one for Vietnam, which probably seemed too lengthy to some.

Our time in this country was split between Phnom Penh, the capital and Siem Reap, which is near Angkor Wat. We understand that the beach areas are nice but we did not go.

Our personal opinion is that Phnom Penh is the dirtiest and smelliest of all the Asian cities that we have visited. This is not a city that we recommend spending a lot of time in. We spent a lot of time walking around in this city and you may want to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to avoid the smells as much as possible. The store owners pile the garbage on the street in front of their businesses each day and the smell ripens as the day goes on.

We spent a day touring by tuk-tuk all the sights and reasons to come to this city. We started with the S-21 prison where the Khmer Rouge held captive and tortured many thousands of people; men, women and children. From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot murdered two million Cambodians. His goal was to create two classes of people, factory workers and peasants.

The genocide that occurred during this time was appalling. Pol Pot’s clique took any and all educated people and had them tortured and terminated. After visiting the prison we traveled to the Killing Fields where he buried these people in mass graves. By the time we finished visiting these two locations we were emotionally drained but we continued on to visit the Central Market, Wat Phnom (another temple), and the Royal Palace.

After two months in Asia we have decided that we don’t care if we see another market place. Most of them look very much alike and sell the same things and we really don’t want to see where the food that we eat is coming from. We feel we are better off sitting in a restaurant and placing the order without having to think about how long the food has been sitting in the hot sun at the market. Being nurses we try not to think about germs and bacteria or we wouldn’t be able to make this trip!!

It’s only 160 miles from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap but it turns out to be a 6+ hour bus ride as the roads are full of pot holes and the buses must drive carefully. But, for those trying to save a few bucks- good news! It only cost $12.

The Lonely Planet guide warns you about the starving children in the country and recommends that you not give them money but give them food. We were sitting on our bus waiting to get on the ferry when a little girl about 7 years old holding her 3 year old brother banged on the side of the bus. They were rubbing their tummies and begging for food. These children were dirty and pitiful. We had a couple of baguettes in our bag and we handed them out the window to them. They looked so grateful that a tear came to my eye. We had two sandwiches that the bus company had given us for lunch that we handed to them next. They looked happy and went off to eat. In this country some parents learn quickly that they can only make about $20 to
Cambodian CountrysideCambodian CountrysideCambodian Countryside

On the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
$40 each month working but their children can make over $200 begging. We are told that they sit home while their children are out begging. Do not support this abuse, please only give them food to eat.

We had a short ferry ride across the Mekong River and next to us was a large truck full of dead chickens. I spent too much time thinking about those dead chickens and where they were going. I haven’t eaten chicken since that time. Traveling in Asia is a very good time to consider becoming a vegetarian- except that you have to be careful with the fresh vegetables because they wash them in the local water rather than bottled water and our systems can not take that. Make certain that you always order hot food so that it has a chance of killing the bacteria. The good news is that most places cook with very high heat. The vehicles that we saw in Vietnam still had live chickens.

We don’t want to be a complete downer about Cambodia so we need to let you know that the countryside is beautiful. Lovely green rice fields and palm trees.

Siem Reap is
Cambodian CountrysideCambodian CountrysideCambodian Countryside

On the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
a nice little boom town located about 10 miles from Angkor Wat. New hotels are springing up everywhere to accommodate all of the tourists that are coming to this area.

We didn’t realize until we were on our way here and started to do more reading that there were several temples in the area….not just Angkor Wat. It is lovely, truly lovely. Our driver picked us up at 4:45am so we could watch the sunrise. It is a serene and peaceful time of the day at the temple. We were there with about 2,500 of our closest friends. The morning trek is well worth the time, plus it is cooler in the morning. We spent about 7 hours exploring the various temples in the area and then went back to our hotel to relax and swim in the pool. We had our driver pick us up at 4 pm and take us back the Angkor Wat to get some additional photos with the afternoon lighting. We attempted to climb the mountain top for sunset but after we got to the top it was way too crowded. We decided to head back down the mountain and enjoy a nice dinner.
Angkor ThomAngkor ThomAngkor Thom

A beautiful temple that you don't hear much about.

When in Siem Reap we recommend the L’Oasi Italiana for dinner. It was wonderful!! We’ve been traveling in Asia for two months so we were craving some good Italian food. This restaurant is run by an expatriate form Sardinia and the food is fabulous. If you are in the area please give it a try.

We also had dinner at the La Noria, a French and Cambodian Restaurant where we were entertained by the Shadow Puppets and the local dancers. It was a lovely evening with local food.

We have truly enjoyed each day in our travels. We are grateful to be here and having these experiences. A few, very few of our experiences have not been pleasant but they have made us stronger and better.

Cambodia: Background Information and some thoughts:

Cambodia is constitutional monarchy that shares borders with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. One of the few under populated countries of SE Asia, Cambodia is inhabited by Cambodians (or Khmers), who comprise about 90% of the population. There are large minorities of Vietnamese and Chinese; other ethnic groups include the Cham-Malays and the hill tribespeople. Theravada Buddhism is the state religion and about 95% of the people are Buddhists; the Cham-Malays are Muslims. Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed. Khmer is the official language, but French is widely used.

Although the official currency is the riel, the US dollar is accepted almost everywhere. The people here are quite poor, and it is estimated that 40% of a total population of over 12 million are under the age of 15.

Infrastructure is quite limited throughout this country which has suffered for many decades, first colonized by the French and largely ignored, and then through the 1950’s though the 1970’s which saw independence from France, involvement in the Vietnam war, and finally the genocidal regime of Pol Pot.

They are now just starting to emerge from decades of isolation and they have a large job ahead of them. Tourism will bring in some money, but the country must lift itself out of poverty in other ways to become more competitive in the world market.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest nations, its economy and its political life still suffering from the civil war that racked the country during the latter part of the 20th cent. Conditions are ideal for the cultivation of rice, by far the country's chief crop. Livestock raising (cattle, buffalo, poultry, and hogs) and extensive fishing supplement the diet. Corn, vegetables, fruits, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, and sugar palms are widely cultivated.
The educational system is still struggling to succeed in the face of the reality of making a living. Many people here do not plan for the future as past generations have not had one. Living day to day is the primary goal for most Cambodians.
We now travel back to Thailand for a thorough investigation of the beach in Phuket……

Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


Angkor WatAngkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Intricate carvings
Angkor WatAngkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Lake (can't remember name)Lake (can't remember name)
Lake (can't remember name)

It's across from Banteay Kdei in Siem Reap
Wat PhromWat Phrom
Wat Phrom

This tree is growing out of the temple!
The Killing FieldsThe Killing Fields
The Killing Fields

Human skulls that came from the mass graves
Ice deliveryIce delivery
Ice delivery

Makes you think twice about having ice in your drink
Flat TireFlat Tire
Flat Tire

Dave noticed the tire before we went to the Killing Fields.

19th November 2007

I am impressed with Cambodia. The tree growing out of the temple is amazing. The carvings of the elephants is incredible, and the countryside...(speechless). You guys are lucky. Next stop come visit us in Honolulu.
21st November 2007

Thank you so much for the great journal. I enjoy all the pictures and tales. It reminds me of my trips to Thailand, Vietnam and China. So much fun!! I am so excited for you both. Enjoy your time
20th February 2013

2007 vs 2013
it seems phnom penh has changed a bit since you were there. there certainly were pockets of 'aroma' down market streets, but it really wasn't too bad. and everything looks so much greener in november!
20th February 2013

Wow, that is great news!
Your trip was wonderful- glad we could follow along.

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