|Praying Buddhas at the entrance to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh|
Blog Entry #41: Cambodia Day 1: Phnom Penh
Thursday, October 27, 2011
|Changing tire on our Vietnam Airlines plane|
Our trip itinerary allowed for 6 full days in Vietnam, which allowed Pat and me to take half of that time to travel to Vietnam’s eastern neighbor, Cambodia. While the draw for most of our shipmates is the magnificent temple complex at Angkor Wat, equally compelling for me was the chance to visit the capital city of Phnom Penh and examine firsthand the complex legacy of the horrific Khmer Rouge genocide of 1975-79 when nearly 2 million Cambodians were killed. I will write about our experience of this in tomorrow’s entry.
|Flooding along the Mekong River in Cambodia|
The first compelling part of our trip to Cambodia was the flight over the flood-swollen Mekong River: shortly after taking off from Ho Chi Minh City International Airport, we began to see flooded fields and countryside as we flew east. While international news has focused on the floods in Thailand and especially Bangkok, much of Cambodia and southern Vietnam also is currently under water.
|Rice fields cover Cambodian countryside|
Seeing the vast stretches of countryside now submerged in water is a poignant reminder of how vulnerable this region is to climate change and rising sea levels: much of the Mekong Delta is only 1-2 meters above sea level, and so a flood of this magnitude spreads far and wide, submerging not only the extensive rice paddies that cultivate the delta, but the villages that house the farmers. We saw traces of roads between villages where only the rooftops could be seen above the waters.
|Motorbikes wait out rain in Phnom Penh|
|French colonial architecture in Phnom Penh|
|Apartment building in center of Phnom Penh|
|Trishaw drivers, Phnom Penh|
The Lonely Planet Guide describes the Khmer people of Cambodia as follows: “It is difficult to describe the Khmer people without jumping up and down on a springboard of emotion. Their smiles will lift your spirit and then their stories send you crashing. This is a nation of survivors.”
|Celebrating our 11th anniversary at the Royal Palace|
|Tower of Royal Palace|
|Buddha Shrine outside Silver Pagoda|
|Gardners at the Royal Palace|
|Lion & 7-headed Cobra statues|
|The National Museum courtyard|
First, however, we encountered the history of the Khmer Rouge and the infamous Killing Fields, about which I will records my thoughts in the next entry.
|Phnom Penh at night from the Tonle Sap River|