We left Vientiane, Laos and flew to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The royal palace was opened in 1870. The buildings and grounds are meticulously maintained. This is a popular attraction with locals and foreign tourists alike.
The city has a population of around 3 million. As with all of the cities we visited in this region, there are modern boulevards…
and many neighborhoods with poorly maintained, crumbling infrastructure.
No visit to Cambodia would be complete without acknowledging the grim history of the Khmer Rouge; an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were killed during the bloody reign of Pol Pot between 1975-1979. We visited one of the many killing fields, but the pictures of the stacks of human skulls at the memorial are simply too graphic to post. Tuol Seleng Prison, now a museum, was a high school before being made into a prison for torture and interrogation. You can see the barbed wire enclosures around the old classrooms and hallways.
The result of this genocide is the near-complete absence of an entire generation from Cambodian society. Most of the country’s population of 15 million is quite young. People do their best to put bad memories in the past, and look to the future. We encountered many young families during an evening outing at an amusement park in the city. Motorbikes carrying 2, 3, 4, or astoundingly even 5 people are the local equivalent of the family car.
Walking the plaza along the riverfront at night facilitates mingling with the local people. Street vendors sell all kinds of delicacies. In addition to a few familiar items, this one included a variety of fried insects and larvae.
We decided to look but not sample. Maybe next time!
We left the city with a deep appreciation for the resilience of the people of this land. Our next stop is further north in Cambodia, to experience the glories of the past at one of the most famous archeological treasures in the world, Angkor Wat.