Next up on my route around South East Asia is Cambodia. I plan to enter this wonderful and historic country by boat, travelling up the Mekong Delta to Phnom Penh.
Cambodia is not only famous for its plethora of temples but also for its horrific past. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge carried out an atrocious genocide of their people between 1975 and 1979, in which it is estimated that up to 3 million Cambodian citizens lost their lives. To put that into perspective this was over 25% of the entire population!
The Khmer Rouge arrested and later executed anyone who: had connections with the former or foreign governments, professionals and intellectuals, ethnic Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai citizens and “Economic Saboteurs” – those who were urban dwellers. This horrific regime didn’t stop at persecuting those who fit into these categories but also their relatives, so as to stop anyone rising up in retaliation.
The Khmer Rouge Killing Fields Are located just a short ride away from Phnom Penh, and a must see to educate future generations. In the words of George Santayana “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat them.” I first came across this powerful phrase when visiting Auschwitz several years ago, but no other words seem more fitting than these to explain why we must visit these horrific places.
Much like Vietnam, this country has such a scarred past but has so many natural beauties to discover. The southern islands near Sihanoukville have endless beaches untouched by the modern hotel chains – the perfect place to wind down and relax. If adventure is what you’re looking for then Cambodia has it! Ride the famous Bamboo Train in Battambang to find yourself hurtling through the fields on a bamboo crate!
Finally, back to the title of this blog post: the temples! And most notably Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world! Just north of Siem Reap lies the gargantuan temple complex which was erected in the early 12th century attracts over 1 million visitors per year!
For such a small country it contains a tremendous amount of history, culture and religious wonders which makes it a necessary stop for me on my travels.