Feb 26, 2019 - Jahan
We commenced our day, cruising into the Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh. Nearly 3 million people live in and around this bustling metropolis. After our usual hearty breakfast, we started the day by joining in the seemingly chaotic traffic as passengers on a modified commuting device (not unlike a tricycle) called a cyclo. Being immersed. “in the thick of it” as we were this morning was certainly an experience to remember.
After an exhilarating 20-minute ride, we arrived outside the Royal Palace. Our local Cambodian guides Rithy and Vuthy guided us around the magnificent structures, which included walking inside the Silver Pagoda and viewing the sacred Emerald Buddha.
After wandering around the palace grounds and the fascinating buildings and structures, we then boarded an air-conditioned bus (phew!) for a trip across town to the open-air National Museum of Cambodia, where we learned about the many storied artifacts depicting historical Cambodian culture and society. After an hour or so we again boarded our bus and travelled across town to a lovely local restaurant called the Topaz and enjoyed a wonderful five-course meal.
Our activities after lunch were quite somber and reflective as we learned about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime, when millions of Cambodians were murdered over a four-year period between 1975 and 1979. We commenced with a visit to the infamous S-21 genocide Museum (Toul Sleng), and then Rithy went on to relate his personal story as we continued onto the killing fields at Choeung Ek.
Brighter occasions brought improved spirits as we cruised the Tonle Sap River, alongside the glittering lights of Phnom Penh, while enjoying a delightful BBQ dinner and the very talented Apsara Dancers who were generous enough to entertain our company with a fantastic cultural performance.
All in all, today was marked by the delight of beauty and reflection of a hard past. The sadness of Cambodia’s hardships, however, was offset in no little way by hope and prosperity for the future of this remarkable nation.
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