Cambodia, that name alone for me, summons up images of death and destruction, skulls lying in fields of mud, brutality born of ignorance and the name of an unseen dictator that sounds like a child’s name for a pet parrot.
These images are from the past, today Cambodia is trying to catch up with the rest of Asia and in some ways it is successful; here is my account of our recent trip to Siem Reap and the amazing temples around the area commonly known as “Angkor”.
Arriving at the airport you are allocated a number, after paying $20 US, corresponding to a taxi and driver who takes you to your hotel. During the drive a conversation is started and at your destination, if agreeable to both parties, a deal is struck to have the driver take you around the Temples. This is an especially good idea if your time is limited. We discovered that there are a lot of taxi drivers in Siem Reap and they are strictly regulated as to when it is their turn at the airport so any extra business they can find on their own is always welcome. The cost is $20 US a day, $5 goes to the driver and the rest to the company who owns the car.
Our driver, Mr. Vong Mara, was great at showing us around and suggesting places we could visit as a break from the temples. He explained that his father was killed by the Pol Pottist before he was born, his mother struggled to look after him and his siblings and eventually died a few years ago, worn out at 50 years of age. His story is very common in Cambodia but looses none of its poignancy because of that.
Our first temple visit was to Ta Prohm which for the most part has been left to go back to the jungle, resulting in huge trees growing out of and into the buildings with massive root systems which resemble snakes. We had a young man show us around and explain some of the areas, he showed us a doorway which was in the film “Tomb Raiders” as well as explaining about other scenes from that movie. As I have not as yet seen the movie I cannot comment, I plan on watching it just to check out these scenes.
This temple was one of the quieter ones we visited, but still lots of people, it was shady which was good because it was midday when we arrived and fairly hot, in the low 30’sC, and this was late February. We spent a good hour exploring trying not to go into dark places in case of snakes and scorpions and keeping to the paths. This last because although the Cambodian govt. claims Angkor is clear of land mines, it is always better to be safe.
We did see a large number of amputees, both children and young people as well as older people,this must be a monstrous advertisement for the abolition of land mines if ever their was one. There are a great number of mines still deployed in the ground in Cambodia, some are not marked on any maps. Fortunately the international community is assisting in their removal resulting in a twenty year estimate of their elimination instead of one hundred years if Cambodia was to undertake this disposal on its own. Diana sure had it right, are we nearer to getting land mines abolished? How about war?
Getting back to the temples; Ta Prohm, unlike most of the other temples, was built . as a Buddhist shrine by Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) in memory of his mother. 79,365 people were employed in its upkeep during its heyday. We felt awed by its majesty and silent witness to an long and checkered history.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *