Feb 18, 2019 - The Jahan
We always have a fascinating schedule for the guests on Jahan, but sometimes revision is called for, especially when the King of Cambodia is in the mix! His attendance at the Royal Palace tomorrow meant a quick change of plans which brought our visit to Phnom Penh forward by a day.
Rather than cruising up the Mekong River, we found ourselves amidst the bustle of the city as our group sped through crowded streets in a small caravan of cyclos. These are carbon-neutral, open-cabin, pedal-powered transport! (Think reverse-tricycle with cushioned seating up front.) All traffic gave way to us as we weaved and threaded our way past the exotic sights, sounds, and smells of Cambodia’s capital city.
We soon found ourselves outside the Royal Palace, its golden towers easily visible from the road. Yet the palace was undoubtedly best up close with its magnificent and vaulting architecture everywhere we looked.
Our next stop was to the National Museum, where we learned not only of Kings, but of god-kings, their power having diminished only slightly by the passage of time on ancient statues and carvings created in their honor.
After lunch things took a more restrained tone as we visited Toul Sleng “S21” Prison. The rooms of this structure are taken up with photos and stories of Cambodians whose lives were stolen from them as part of a genocide atrocity which wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population in the mid 1970s. The prison was converted from a school—from a place of learning and hope to one of regression and despair. And yet the museum, through telling this story, has once again become a place of learning and hope.
Many guests chose to continue this journey by surveying the killing fields at Choueng Ek, the location where many more lives were senselessly taken.
Our spirits were lifted, however, in the evening through a celebration of Cambodian culture involving a whirlwind of colour, music, and the telling traditional stories through the medium of dance.
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