Thailand     Vietnam


12/24/07 - 1/5/08

We did a pretty quick run through Cambodia. We crossed in the south and headed first for the beaches of Sihanoukville. This ride was quite an adventure of taxis, buses, hiking and ferries. Sihanoukville was a nice enough area and all, but it just didn't have the charm or natural beauty of the bit of Thailand's southern coast we saw. Next we headed way up north to see the temples of Angkor Wat from the town of Siem Reap. The Angkor civilization must have been amazing. The temples are all that remains of a walled city that could have been a million people. Who else has built a 4 mile long moat around their city? We also saw a bit of town and a floating village on nearby Lake Tonle. On our way out to Vietnam, we stopped by the capital of Phnom Penh long enough to learn a bit more about the horrors the country witnessed under the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970's. Similar to Rwanda, this was a tough country to visit knowing that every person you met had some very direct connection to such recent atrocity. Particularly difficult in Cambodia is that it's not really over until all the landmines are cleared. We saw far too many young kids who are still finding the mines hidden all over the country.

Christmas on the Cambodian Coast

The southern coast of Cambodia is doing it's best to compete for some of Thailand's mass tourism. It's cute and less touristed for now, but not quite as nice as it's entrenched neighbor. We did have a great time getting from the border to resorty Sihanoukville. Until the bridges are complete, there are 4 or 5 rivers to cross by sketchy ferries. Now that's a good time.

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Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the hub for visiting the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. The town itself has enough charm to use up all your extra energy, though. We stumbled across a temple under construction and spent a while talking to one of the monks involved.

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Floating Village on Tonle Sap

Lake Tonle near Siem Reap hosts a pretty large floating village. There's a few houses on high stilts, but nearly all the buildings are actually boats or barges. There's a bit of everything going on here. Fishing, machine shops, barbers, crocodile farm (for tourists), schools and a church.

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Angkor Wat

The temples of Angkor Wat represent the height of the Khmer empire. Active from about 500-1000AD, they are all that remains of a city that could have been as large as a million people. Angkor Tom is enclosed by a continuous wall more than a mile on each side - and then there is a moat outside that! Amazing. The area around Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom is littered with temple after temple.

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Phnom Penh

The capital of Cambodia provided the harshest evidence of the horrors this country has so recently witnessed. After Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge took the city in 1975, he forced all residents out into the countryside as part of his formation of an agrarian utopia. The city was nearly deserted for 4 years, except for the high school turned prison camp called S21 where over 12,000 people were tortured and then murdered at the nearby 'Killing Fields'. Estimates run as high as 3 million victims of the Pol Pot regime.

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