I will be honest … I did not enjoy Phnom Penh. I really did try to look past the breeze-less dry heat, the persistent overpowering smell of drains, the black puffs of car fumes and the asbestos like dust which coats your lungs but at first not even I could find a rose among so many spiky prevalent thorns. However, I can’t be sure if it was the exhaustion of a days’ travelling or the hunger but I weakened ever so slightly. I saw a glimmer of character in the frenzy of rush hour traffic. You can do little more in a Tuk Tuk than admire the sheer courage and craziness of the drivers as they zip their way through the horn honking rat race. Nonetheless I cracked a weary smile of relief as I looked down from above – having only spent eight hours in the city – as our third flight of the day extracted us from the chaos below. By stark contrast Siem Reap was astonishing. Up and out by 03:30 we met our Tuk Tuk driver for the day and made our way to watch the sunrise over the largest religious monument in the world – Angkor Wat.
Whilst three or seven day passes are available we seemed to smash out visiting the major complexes in one day although we did feel a little temple-ed out by sunset! Nonetheless the ruins were beautiful and inwardly I fancied myself as somewhat of a Lara Croft climbing among the unrestored stones.
Our time in Siem Reap was short as our flight departed the next morning, unwillingly dragging me back to Phnom Penh. The day that ensued was fairly morbid but felt like a vital part of visiting Cambodia. We took a drive out to The Killing Fields in the morning, returning to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in the afternoon. The horrific acts of The Khmer Rouge were tastefully memorialized by tranquil gardens. Sat on a bench opposite a lily pond it seemed absurd that such unthinkable acts of mass destruction could have ever occurred in such a serene setting. The audio tour divulged harrowing witness accounts, but take off your headphones and you hear nothing but bird song. If you are going to go to Cambodia, you owe it to the people that you meet to understand the Country’s torturous past instead of simply enjoying the modern pleasures it has to offer.
The following chunk of our trip was spent at The Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri to reach which we caught a seven hour mini bus. The less that is said about that bus journey (and even less about the return one a week later) the better! However, there is too much I want to say about EVP to do it justice bolted on to the end of this article. Therefore for onward adventures in Cambodia, please click here.