Cambodia, a land of sorrow and mystery, overwhelmed us during our three day visit, April 22 to April 25, 2014. It was the front-end of a fifteen day tour hosted by Gate 1 Tour Company, that included Viet Nam. The intenseness of the three day experience produced almost as many memories as the following two weeks spent in Viet Nam.
Phnom Penh provided us with glimpses into a Third World, a Fantasy World, and a World of Horror. The grandeur of the Royal Palace is just down the way from S-21, the scene of the confinement, torture, and killings of so many during their civil war and places Phnom Penh in a special category of its own.
Between 1975 and 1978 more than 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek known as the “Killing Fields”, one of many scattered throughout Cambodia. The horror of the site is captured by the plaques describing various parts of the camp.
For the first and last time our tour company chose traveling down Federal Highway versus flying to Siem Reap. The road was either under repair, needing repair, or just obstructed by animals. It did give us an opportunity for experiences not available to most tourists.
Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Angkorian empire. The ruins have not survived as well as Angkor Wat, in many areas being literally taken over by trees. Bayon is the central temple, located in the middle of the city. If you visit Angkor Wat you should make sure that you take time to explore this area also.