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october- november 2010

CAMBODIA e sorrow and the smiles. Stratus clouds enclosed the aquamarine sky, as the sun’s golden beaming rays bordered on, offering an aesthetic view. The croaking motor burst, as I felt an abrupt thud and could sense movement. Our boat created gushing waves that swayed to and fro across the auburn Tonle Sap River, as several other diverse boats and yachts aligned against the banks, in different shapes, colors, and sizes in the scenery. It certainly is a self-engaging village; men stabbing their fishing poles in, hopefully stumbling across some fish, as women assisted in removing fish found from the maze-like nets usually tangled up. Some villagers wondered around every nook and corner, trying to sell fresh vegetables and fruits. Little kids often advanced towards our boat, mesmerized, as if we were from another century, hoping for us to offer a little money to them. Some boats were bigger than others, which generally mean certain families could afford more. Families reckon these tiny vessels as their home, since it’s convenient to fish and make a living. At times I’d peep at a tiny, cramped boat, wondering how a family of four to six could ever live there. Cruising along the river, I considered myself lucky as I observed families struggling. Sadly, this is believed to be the blissful and merry generation in Cambodia..             Twelve years ago, a dreadful and sickening era progressed in the same streets, same bodies of water, and same villages that we’d visited. During the years 1975 and 1979, a persecuting genocide occurred, resulting with thousands of people killed. Touring the Tuol Sleng prison, where crowds of Cambodians were tortured and brutally abused, our hearts literally felt compassionate in viewing such a sight. Monochrome pictures laid across in large billboards, presenting the thousands of innocent victims who had been killed. You need the courage to go in such a place; I myself had the urge to leave. A brick red handprint rested on the subtle walls, standing out in the dim, gloomy room. Some prisoners did not have enough strength to suffer through torturing, leading them to

the sorrow and the smiles


october- november 2010

CAMBODIA. death. If they luckily survived, they were taken to the Killing Fields and were killed at that location. Walking into these fields aroused an uncanny impression, as fragmented bones throughout the land were easily spotted. There are a total of approximately 1,700 mass graves, from all genders and age groups. This is definitely a place that’s hard to forget in years, it’s like a picture captured in your mind, never to be released. Sorrow and desolation smeared within us, as graves surrounded us in every corner. I steamed up, fuming with anger, as this mess and its cause did not make any sense and was unreasonable. The loathsome man, Pol Pot, who is to be blamed, decided to rule Cambodia from scratch, through slavery.               Even with distressing and dark times in Cambodia, its architectural achievement is startling, and is known for its exquisite temples. From one of the seven wonders, Angkor Wat,

the sorrow and the smiles

to the temple of the famous faces, we visited a large variety of sites, each one unique and different from the others. Being the biggest temple in South East Asia, Angkor Wat was not a disappointment to me. Encircling the temples stretches a long body of water; perfect for sunrises and sunsets, as the stunning temple reflects on the glistening waters, creating a sight that’s worth admiring. Its immense size felt like a puzzle when walking through. The antiquated Hindu statues and idols presented through the walkways of the


october- november 2010

CAMBODIA. temple are detailed and intricate, with impressive features engraved on each one. In order to having a more vivid experience, we were told to ride bikes from temple to temple, passing through villages while singing “Sues'day” (Hello,) to the little kids. They seemed awfully friendly and enjoyed having conversations with foreigners. A bunch of stray dogs would often cluster around our narrow bike path, while chicken and roosters paid full attention in crossing the streets. With the intense heat from the sun rays, yet the cool breeze rippling past us, it was the perfect weather. Cambodia offers a large range: the ugly, yet the pretty as well. The country is still under development, since it suffered through World War I, World War II, The Vietnam War, and then Landmines. It is considered as one of the poorest countries in Asia, nevertheless, its beauty and exotic temples is hard to miss. I never imagined Cambodia to be in such a state, as it has always been hidden in the shadows behind other countries in Asia. It has been through some rough patches throughout the passed years; hence they appreciate tourists paying a visit. This is a trip that is unquestionably unforgettable, not to forget that I made some Cambodian friends.  

the sorrow and the smiles

Cambodia: The sorrow and the Smiles  

My travel article on Cambodia.

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