Cambodia, April 24th - May 4th 2000
by Emily Deacon
1: The Killing Fields and Torture Museum
I can still see the face of the innocent young girl, staring straight ahead, her blank expression chilled my bones; it said so much - it was the look of death. At the age of 10 she had seen so much, she was no longer afraid of her fate.
It is impossible to imagine what they went through, the atrocities they saw, and the pain and suffering they felt. But seeing the evidence left behind - the photo's of men, women and children hanging on the walls of the room where they spent their final days, brought it all to reality. it was no longer a story in an history book. It was happening whilst I was being born!
I looked at every face in the museum, every man, women and child, until my disbelieving eyes could take no more, and then I left - with an indescribable feeling inside of me; one of hate, horror, disgust and guilt - particularly at my own ignorance.
Now back home, I feel I have been somewhere and seen things so worthwhile; to an incredible country where I learned so much about a world I knew nothing of; the world of suffering and violence.
My visit to Cambodia has taught me many things. Something that really struck me, was how happy the people of Cambodia are; despite all they have been through they are always smiling. It had pained me to look at the homeless children and the one legged beggar (Cambodia's national identity) but my pain was eased by these warm genuine smiles and the flocks of children running out of their homes to shout and wave up to the buses as we passed.
And it has left me questioning the society and culture which I live in; why is it that those with so little, those living in wooden shacks on the edge of a dirty river, who drink, bathe and urinate in that same water, who can't afford to go to school and whose local diet is maggots and rice - appear so much happier than the people of our own society?
2: The Splendour of Angkor Wat
What a spectacular place; unspoilt by development (because there has been none) and enhanced by nature. it is just like being in a fairy tale book! It all seems too enchanting to be real.
On the back of a moto with our own drivers, we were left to tour each temple freely, occasionally with the aid of 5-15 year old Khmer children, offering us guided information in a range of languages; Khmer, French, English and Japanese, in the hope of a few riel or a dollar to take home to their families.
Laid out over 40km there is so much to see in such beautiful, peaceful surroundings but there is no point in rushing around and at the end of the 3 days we probably hadn't covered a quarter of them. It is so big and tourism so new that you could almost walk around for a whole day without seeing a soul.
Ta Prohm was my favourite temple. It is referred to as the hidden temple, as nature has been left to get on with it's role and the temple has been enclosed in it's grasp - roots are entwined around the delicate sculptures of Apsaras, trees reach out from inside and over head and huge roots now hold up the foundations of collapsing walls and doorways. It has so much character and feeling to it, so subtly expressed.
No doubt a wonder of the world; I hope many more people will get the opportunity to visit the temples of Angkor Wat before tourism breaks out and many of the small things which make it so special, are lost. I hope the children of Angkor Wat will bring as many smiles to the faces of others with the workings of their clever sales skills, as they did to me. They are impossible to escape...
"Hey madam, you want cold drink?"
"You buy cold drink from me lady." (starting to pout)
"I'm not thirsty."
"You buy later lady, I waiting for you later lady."
Later, 5 km away from last site: "Hey lady, you remember me? You promise you buy from me." (about ready to cry)
Their eagerness; their disappointed sad looks and their pleased and grateful faces - all perfected for our benefit, brought us much joy and admiration and many an unwanted item!
Other Related Articles on this Site:
Beauty and Darkness: Travel Section
Between Barbie and Murder: Cambodia 2005
Trekking With the Rangers of Bokor
Cambodia 2000: The More that Things Change
Holiday in Cambodia
Farther than Wisconsin: Cambodia, 1991