I had the opportunity to spend the last week in Cambodia, travelling with and visiting friends. Below are some of my random thoughts and observations.
Cambodia is a very poor country, but that’s not surprising, given it’s recent history of thirty years of civil war. It seems to have turned a corner, and there are positive signs of development. That a country and people who have been through what they have and be bouncing back is an encouraging sign.
In Pnomh Penh we visited a place called S-21. During the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970’s the school was turned into a torture prision. In the four years of the regime’s reign of terror, 16,000 prisoners went through the prison, and only 6 surivived. All others from the prison were taking to "the killing fields outside of town" and executed. The Khmer Rouge were meticulous in their record keeping, and took photos of every single inmate. The prison is now a genocide museum, and many of the photos are on display. It is a fearful and sobering museum, and an awrul reminder of the capacity of evil that lurks in the human heart.
We visited the ancient city of Angkor Wat, in the north of the country. Angkor wat is a temple/city complex built in the 1100’s, but suddenly abandoned in the 1300’s and over the cen turies was swallowed up by the jungle. In 1870, a French explorer stumbled across the site and it became known to the outside world. It is truly one of the world’s great archeological sites. This was the third ancient capital city that I’ve visted in the past few months and once again a reminder that there is only ONE KINGDOM that will not pass away (and it will NOT be built out of sandstone!).
Cambodia was under French colonial rule for a century or so. One positive legacy is that fresh baguettes are available everywhere.
The Cambodian currency is called the Real (not sure of the spelling there). The exchange rate is 4000 to 1. In other words, 1 dollar buys 4000 real. Or 1 real equals 25 cents. But the currency that is actually used is the US dollar. But there aren’t any US coins, so the Real acts as the coinage (I love that word). If the price of something is $3.50, you need to hand over 3 US dollar bills, and 2 1000 real notes. Kind of humorous, really. But hey, it works.
Well, I’m in an internet cafe’ in Thailand, and am about to run out of time on this machine, so will sign out here.