Here’s the latest edition of my ongoing project to move all my old photos (and some new ones) into WordPress for easier management and overall grooviness.
Back in early 2002, I spent two and a half months traveling in Southeast Asia. I flew from San Francisco to Singapore, then traveled up through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
If that sounds like a lot of traveling to do in two and half months, well, it is. Too much, really. I spent a week in Singapore, two in Malaysia, and a month in Thailand. That left about three weeks for the remaining three countries, which is close to criminal.
But, I had an obligation back home, so I couldn’t extend my trip. I will say though that Laos and Cambodia stuck with me, and they are the two countries that I would most like to return to.
In any event, my trip through Cambodia began with a grueling, ten or twelve hour ride in a small Toyota van from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. With about 15 other people. I think that still ranks as one of the most uncomfortable bus rides I’ve taken in my life. But hey, that’s travel.
Phnom Penh was, and I think probably still is, a pretty wild and wooly town. There were two things I was immediately struck by in Cambodia: the persistent, sort of lawless, wild west feel, and the number of people missing parts of themselves.
If I remember correctly, I only spent two nights and one full day there, and I did the typical tourist thing; hire some guy with a scooter to take you around to see some sights. In my case, this meant the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek), the S21 Prison (Toul Sleng), and the military base (I think that’s what it was) outside of town where you can shoot machine guns and toss hand grenades.
That’s kind of an ironic trio, for obvious reasons. Go see the remnants of a horrific genocide. Then go shoot guns. Hey, why not? For the record, I shot an AK47, which was the first and only time I’ve fired a fully automatic weapon. It was somewhat anti-climactic, I have to say.
But the first two sights were incredibly powerful, heart-wrenching and horrifying. If you have any interest in the region, or the history of the Khmer Rouge and their takeover of the country in 1975, I highly recommend doing some research. It’s brutal but very interesting.
Check out this book for an in-depth history leading up to the war, as well as the nefarious U.S. foreign policy that helped bring about the coup:
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum / S21 Prison
Choeung Ek / The Killing Fields
One thing I learned while in Cambodia, and something I always tell prospective travelers whether they’re interested in my opinion or not: don’t go to Southeast Asia without checking out Angkor. This amazing collection of temples represents the height of the Khmer empire from the 9th to 15th centuries, back when my ancestors were eating haggis and hacking on each other with swords.
Angkor is an incredible historic site, if you’re into that kind of thing. As a construction project, it’s mind blowing. As an art installation from the ancient world, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Like I said, don’t miss it. It’s a short and cheap plane trip from Bangkok.
I hope you enjoyed these photos. I’m learning Adobe Lightroom, so I pimped these out a bit, hopefully to good effect. It’s amazing what a little color and clarity can do.
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