My first stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap, the gateway to the legendary Angkor temples. The majesty of Angkor Wat, the wilderness of Phrat Thom, and perhaps above all the mysterious beauty of Bayon literally blew me away. I was expecting huge ruins of temples in the jungle, but never thought I would discover such finely carved and well preserved frescos sometimes hundreds of meters long. The numerous temples are architectural wonders. Unfortunately, many people came to realize it, and with tourism growing more than 30% annually for the last ten years, it’s hard to find a bit of peace and quiet while admiring the temples. But it’s still possible luckily, so get there quickly!
After the wonders of the Angkorian architecture, I moved on to the capital, Phnom Penh, where I was confronted with a more recent, less glorious past of the country. From 1975 to 1979 the country was ruled by an extreme communist regime, the Khmer Rouges, that claimed two million lives in that short time span. Phnom Penh was completely emptied of its inhabitants in 48 hours, forcing its population back to the countryside to live a rural life and exterminating all its educated people. The visits of the S-21 prison and of the killing fields was intense and the worst possible reminder of where some extreme ideologies can lead.
But I ended up staying ten days in the capital for other reasons. Cambodian people are simply adorable. Lots of them love to learn English making it easier to communicate with the locals than in Thailand or Indonesia. The couple owning my guesthouse, the Blue Dog Guesthouse, even became good friends, I had an incredible time in the local cafes and karaokes. To help them I took some time to put their guesthouse on some websites and they have been extremely grateful!
I also took the opportunity to visit the rural villages close to Kratie, just a little bit off the beaten track, but enough to meet plenty of curious and friendly locals! This ended the real rollercoaster of emotions that I experienced in Cambodia, with displays of both the best and worst sides of human nature.
Watch all my pictures from Cambodia in the gallery