CAMBODIA

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
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Trip End Feb 18, 2007


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

We take a bus out of Saigon and over to the border with Cambodia.

The scenery has changed from a lush tropical green semi-jungle to a countryside filled with extensive fields which are flooded for as far as you can see. There is so much precipitation in the rainy season that most of the countryside population live on houses which are up on stilts.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the poverty is evident every where you look. The country also has a really sad and relatively recent history.

The Khmer Rouge took over in 1975 with the aim of turning the country into a peasant-dominated, agrarian cooperative. It implemented one of the most brutal and radical revolutions ever seen. Everybody was sent to the countryside to work the land. The vast majority of the country's educated people were tortured to death or executed. Simply being able to speak another language, or wearing spectacles was enough to get you killed.

Around two million people were killed from a population of around 11 million, so there is hardly a family in this country that doesn't still bear the scars of this revolution. When the Homicidal government was finally overthrown by the Vietnamese army in 1979, the people's horror didn't end there as millions of land mines were planted to separate the rebel held areas from the rest of Cambodia.
Today there are still around 6 million land mines dotted around Cambodia which is about half the size of Germany. They claim several victims every day and you don't need to walk far down a street before you come across somebody with a missing limb.

We arrive in the capital Phnom Penh to firstly see the beautiful Royal Palace.
The rest of the sites were not so beautiful, but essential to visit if you are to understand the horrors of Cambodia's past.

We were shocked and speechless as we were taken around a school which was turned into a centre for torturing people before they were killed.
We were then taken to one of the killing fields, where hundreds of people were buried in mass graves. The place is covered with pictures of the victims of all ages. Even children were turned into Khmer Rouge "security guards", and it was their job to torture the victims.

After the difficult trip to Phnom Penh, we took a speed boat up the Tonle Sap river. This river is unique in that it flows in two completely different directions depending on the time of year. The pressure from the mighty Mekong river forces the water to flow into a huge lake during the rainy season. In the dry season, the water from the lake flows back into the Mekong river. The lake expands by up to 10 times it's original size during this time.

The speed boat took us to Siem Reap, a base for exploring the largest place of worship in the world, Angkor Wat. Said to be up there with the Great Wall of China and the Taj Majal as world wonders, a bumpy and arduous 7 hour truck ride from Thailand reduces the tourist pressure on this site.

After spending the day exploring some of the amazing temples, in the evening we visit a play performed by children who have been victims of the area's surrounding land mines. The small group of Westerners watching the play found it hard to hold back their emotions as we watched them act out the horrific history of Cambodia.

On our last day in Cambodia we were pilled into the back of an open Ute, as we braved a 7 hour journey across an extremely pot holed dirt track to the Thai border.
We've been on some bad roads in our time, but this has to one of the worst. I suppose riding it out in the open like we did could be likened to sitting on a bucking bronco for 7 hours and continuously having dust thrown at your face, followed by occasional coverings of muddy water caused by other passing vehicles falling into the pot holes. Oh and to top it all there's scorching sunshine and absolutely no cover.
A good experience, but not something we would want to repeat in a hurry.

So we eventually made it to the Thai border and back onto roads which in comparison seemed so smooth, we thought we were on a train.

Sorry if this entry has been difficult to read, but we had no idea about what this country and people have been through before we came here, and thought it was important to share this information with the wider world.

Even though it has been a difficult country to visit, we would certainly recommend it.
The people here are amazingly friendly considering what they have been through.
The historical temples are world class, and the food is as wonderful as anything in neighbouring Thailand.
Finally, tourism here is one great hope for these people, and it will hopefully expand to help to drive them out of extreme poverty.

Trip facts

Number of days traveling: 84
Number of countries visited: 18

Hottest Daytime Temperature: 37 degrees Shanghai
Coldest Daytime Temperature: 15 degrees Yekaterinburg
Hottest Nightime Temperature: 27 degrees Shanghai
Coldest Nightime Temperature: 5 degrees Mongolian Ger Camp

Total Distance traveled so far: 24,132 km
by train: 19,267 km
by coach: 4,350 km
by boat: 515 km
by plane: 0 km
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