Posted by: rlearmonth | May 24, 2008


In early May, I met Susan in Phnom Penh for a two-week vacation. We spent three days in Phnom Penh, touring the palace, the Silver Pagoda, the museum, and many other sites in the city, while giving Susan a chance to get over jet lag from her monster 30 hour trip from Washington. We stayed in a grand old, elegantly seedy hotel across the street from the palace ($45 a night, including breakfast), and travelled around on foot and riding motorcycles fitted out with small passenger carts called “Tuk Tuks.”

We took a bus for the five-hour trip to Siem Reap, and spent the next four days touring Angkor Wat and the other ancient temple complexes around it. We alternated between being awed by the spectacular ruins and antiquities, and horrified by the more recent history of violence and brutality. Outside Siem Reap, we visited the “Killing Fields” and “S-21,” the former high school converted by the Khmer Rouge into an interrogation and torture center; and also went to the land mine museum, and the wonderful new National Museum in Siem Reap. The National Museum is a jewel – beautifully designed and appointed. We intended to spend an hour there, and stayed three.

In Phnom Pehn, we had eaten dinner at a restaurant operated by a Cambodian NGO as a training center for street kids and orphans to teach them how to work in the growing services industry. We were so impressed, we went to their other restaurant in Siem Reap. I confess that my entre was a little gritty, disturbing under the circumstances, but what’s a little grit in a good cause?

We had hoped to take a boat down the river to Phnom Penh, but the river was too low in places, as it is just at the end of the dry season. We also had wanted to take a hot air balloon over Angkor Wat, But the flight was cancelled at the last minute because of impending bad weather.

Back in Phnom Penh, we went back to see a few things, and took a boat up the Mekong River to see the city from the river, and see a small, family-owned weaving shop on the far bank. I took pictures of their baby, which Susan will send to them.


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