~ / Brian Norlander / travel /
Cambodia, Fall 2018

Visiting Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap from December 15 to December 21, 2018.

After my exchange semester ended at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology ended I took a 6 day trip to Cambodia. A year before this trip I would never imagined traveling to Cambodia, but here I was exploring Angkor Wat and temples that reminded me of Star Wars or Indiana Jones.

Phnom Penh

The long time capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is by far the largest city in the country and is the most significant economically, politically and culturally. Situated on the banks of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers, the Phnom Penh metropolitan area has a population of over 1.5 million.

Night Market
Roasted chickens
Left: Mats in the middle of the market you can sit and eat on. Right: Assorted bugs
Delicious fruits
Breakfast at the market: Noodle bowl, mango and iced coffee
This motorcycle load might not pass the safety standards
One of the main markets in the middle of Phnom Penh
I'm pretty sure I got food poisoning from this market. I suspect it was the meat sticks.
I tried some of these desserts but some of seem looked a little dubious
View from the second hotel after the first one had bed bugs
I saw many people picking up trash along the river. After by the river for a while I eventually saw some young kids swimming in the river, something I would have been too scared to do.
A lone modern building sticking out of the madness. Funded by Chinese investors

The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison

Between 1975 and 1979 almost 2 million people died during the Cambodian Genocide. After winning the Cambodian Civil War Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took total control of the country. They aimed to dramatically transform society by forcibly moving people living in cities to rural settlements and eliminating technology and intellectuals in order to return to "year zero". This is a very important and heavy topic that needs more recognition. For more information read here.

Today Cambodia is far behind its neighboring countries in many quality of life indexes. This is a lasting legacy of the Cambodian Genocide, an event that has caused trauma and many other problem in the country that are still evident today.

I first visited the killing fields, a mass unmarked grave where many thousands of Cambodians were killed indiscriminately.

Underneath this grass is the remains of thousands of innocent Cambodians
In some places you can see small bones sticking out of the ground and pieces of clothing still in tact. Absolutely heart wrenching.
Tuol Sleng Prison was a high school transformed into an interrogation and torture prison. Thousands of innocent Cambodians were tortured here for false accusations.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh houses the King of Cambodia. Built in 1866, the palace is a complex of temples and buildings that allows the king and his family to live comfortably.

Halfway through the last day in Phnom Penh I started to feel very sick. The combination of food poisoning, heat, sun and exhaustion from walking around caught up to me. The night bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap left the station at 11:30PM and arrived the next morning at 6AM. I will leave out the details but the experience was less than comfortable.

Siem Reap

One of the largest cities in Cambodia and a popular tourist destination, Siem Reap is just a tuk tuk ride away from Angkor Wat and many other ancient temples.

For each tuk tuk ride the price is individually negotiated depending on distance, busyness and supply of other drivers nearby. Nearly every time you step outside multiple tuk tuk drivers will call out to you asking if you need a ride.

Left: Rice and chicken Middle: Mango and sticky rice Right: Fish Amok
Cambodian circus

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a temple complex near Siem Reap that is one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple and dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.

The temple gradually became a symbol of national pride and today it can be seen on the Cambodian flag.

These temples looked so ancient. Sometimes there were no words to describe how it felt walking amongst these ancient temples.
The way these massive trees spread their roots in the temples was breath taking. It looked as if the trees were reclaiming their forest.

After exploring the temples of Angkor Wat the sun set on my trip in Cambodia. The next day I took a plane back to Hong Kong for my last days in that city.

/ Travel