Mar 05, 2019 - The Jahan
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia, situated where the Tonlé Sap joins the Mekong River. It is busy, modern, and teaming with life and yet retaining much of its historical and cultural essence.
We began our day with a thrilling cyclo ride through the busy morning traffic as we weaved our way between all manner of two-, three-, and four-wheeled vehicles, and pedestrians going about their daily business. We were dropped off at the Royale Palace. There, hundreds of pigeons in the gardens outside scattered as we made our way to the front gate. Naga representations topped every building, their tails poised while the heads surveyed us from above. White and gold predominated, a visual feast for the senses as we visited the famous Silver Pagoda.
The National Museum was next, the collection of history packed into its relatively small area was quite overwhelming, as if time itself had compressed in on itself. We traversed across centuries, from one display to the next, stepping out into the sunlit tranquillity of an outdoor Zen garden space.
After lunch, our guests were introduced firsthand to the dark history of Cambodia, an essential part of understanding where this country is today. S21, or Tuol Sleng, is a museum to the wholesale genocide of Cambodian people under the Pol Pot regime. It serves as a shocking, yet sobering reminder that the few in power can inflict so much suffering on the many who are not. The subsequent trip to the Killing Fields that some of our guests undertook underlined this. And yet darkness is always followed by light, humanity is always working to overcome the worst of its tendencies, and Cambodia has shown with its history that tyranny in any form has an expiration date.
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