Visiting Cambodia was never high on my travel wishlist. Phnom Penh is only 6 hours ride away on a bus from Ho Chi Minh where I spent 10 years of my childhood and my family still resides, and yet I have never bothered to go up till now.
My babe and I decided to backpack to Phnom Penh because it is cheapest and nearest destination for our 3-day getaway cum 3-year anniversary celebration. We have gone to many many romantic, beautiful places on earth, particularly around Europe, but we have never been to the country next door to our birthplaces. Safety is one reason why not, but another more applicable is simply because Cambodia is too similar to Vietnam.
Similarities are there alright. In fact, the phrase we both used the most to describe Phnom Penh is that it is like we have taken the time machine and gone back to Vietnam in the early 1990s. The culture is very similar, so is the food, the communist-style buildings, and those roadside stores selling the exact same things we often bought as a child in Vietnam and no longer exist. Even the make-up, hairstyles, bikes, cars one can easily spot in Vietnam in the late 1980-1990s. Both countries were colonised by the French; both have gone through times of great suffering, of wars and strifes.
But differences are stark. The Cambodians have suffered a genocide, Vietnamese did not. Our people killed each other in a civil war, Cambodians systematically killed each other in a style not different from Hitler’s. Vietnamese have abundant natural resources, Cambodians have few. Human trafficking is rife here, and although Vietnam is not far behind.
Even so, to paraphrase the movie American Beauty, there is so much beauty here that my head wants to explode. There is beauty in the religiosity of the people and their love of a simple life, their kind smiles when we crossed the streets and blocked their tuk tuks, their hospitality and understanding when we do not know what we have just ordered from the menu, their effort at preservation and restoration of a culture so closed to being wiped out during the Khmer Rouge’s terrible regime. There is visible beauty in the Cambodian features of bright round clearly defined eyes against their dark skin.
The radiance and beauty of a people cannot be suppressed by poverty or long suffering. This shoot is a tribute to that Cambodian beauty. Bright and beautiful, the Lord God has made us all.
Thank you for reading.
Genocide Museum S21 was a school before the Khmer Rouge state used this place to detain and torture ‘enemies of the state’.
The Killing Field where more than 20000 Cambodian were systematically executed. The monument was later built as a resting place for the victims where skulls and bones, killing weapons from the mass graves are preserved.
The vast fields where prisoners laboured to their death for Pol Pot’s dream of a ‘completely self-sufficient state’.
More light-hearted fun at the Temple of Wat Phnom.
Valentine’s Day is also an Indian Buddhist Festival day. This temple along the riverside was packed with worshippers.
Weekend Night Market selling food and clothes complete with entertainment from singing to comedy acts.Dress: Forever21 (old, sale £8) Green Necklace: Gifted, modifed by Jubilant Jewellery (forthcoming) Belt: New Look (free with a skirt) Yellow long Necklace: gifted Hairbands: both Primark (sale £1.50 each) Hair Flower Corsage: H&M (sale £2)