In the course of our 5-months journey through South East Asia and Australia my girlfriend and me spent 2 weeks in Cambodia, the 7th country.
Cambodia belong to the poorest countries in the world, which reflects in the extremly cheap prices. The highlights for me were the people (even though I got robbed in Phnom Penh) and Angkor; a sight not be missed.
Phnom Penh is one of the mega cities in South East Asia. In great parts it is dirty, mostly chaotic but still offers nice parts as well. Beware of thieves on motorbikes, which come up behind you and snatch or cut off purses (as happened to us), bags and what not.
In the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, as in many other cities in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, you can still see the after effects of the Vietnam War. Especially the use of Agent Orange by the US, which left generations crippled.
The National Museum in Phnom Penh hosts a great collection of first rate sculptures.
The Tuol-Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh, also called S21 Museum, belong to the most important sites of the modern history of Cambodia. Tuol Sleng was once a school before it was converted into a torture prison by the Red Khmer in 1975.
Here you can see one of the former class rooms, which were used as cells and often packed with prisoners.
In the courtyard of the Tuol-Sleng Museum a former torture instrument was erected. Here the prisoners were hung from their ankles and repeatedly the head was put in the pots full of water until they confessed the ‘crimes’ they were charged with.
The Red Khmer photographed all their prisoners, of which a lot of photos are exhibited in the museum. Most of the people looking at you from the photographs didn’t survive their imprisonment. The Red Khmer have annihilated almost half of the Cambodian population.
From Phnom Penh you can take a bus to Kampot, a small city on the coast of Cambodia, which is famous for its pepper.
The bridge of Kampot, which leads over the Praek Tuek Chhu-River, is something like the town’s landmark.
On markets like this one, which is run by Cambodians for Cambodians, you can catch a glimpse of the real Cambodian life.
Lust-4-Life-Highlight: Bokor Hills
The most popular trip from Kampot takes you to the Bokor Hills closeby, where French colonial buildings still stand, like the now abandoned French Casino. The hills were one of the last resorts of the Red Khmer and the Vietnamese fought hard to drive them out.
From Kampot it’s only a small way to Sihannoukville with its impressive beaches. It is much bigger and more touristic than Kampot; there are countless bars, restaurants and hostels.
From Sihannoukville you can take a bus directly to Siem Reap, the starting point for excursions into the temple city Angkor. The most famous building of the Khmer city is Angkor Wat of course, the biggest religious complex in the world. Very popular during sunrises.
Especially during main season Angkor Wat is swarmed with tourists. But there are a lot of other great temples, many with only a fraction of tourists.
The Bayon is the most famous temple besides Angkor Wat. And the most impressive. On all four sides of the originally 49 towers (37 still stand) the same gigantic faces (the face of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion) were carved, everything in their sight.
A gas station, South East Asian Style.
The small temple Banteay Srei belongs to the artistically most satisfying temples of Angkor, with its delicate ornaments and sculptures.
The Old University of Angkor lies right in the middle of the Cambodian jungle. Not a lot of tourists find their way here.
At the latest after the second Lara-Croft movie the temples of Angkor, with the big trees growing on and through many temples still, became the embodiment of the South East Asian temple.