I’m not sure I’ll be able to appropriately capture the intriguing, mystifying essence of Cambodia. To prepare ourselves for our trip, naturally, we watched the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. We did not, however, expect to have such an intensely heavy experience. Like its neighboring countries, Cambodia is chock-full of rich and complex history.
The insurgency of the Khmer Rouge Regime and the Cambodian genocide were perplexing and unforgettable events that have proven the resiliency of the country. Because of the notorious history, we made sure to visit the Killing Fields, a historical massacre site where over a million Cambodians were slaughtered. Even just breathing the air, you could sense the significant amount of pain at this mass grave. A tall tower stands at the entrance of the Killing Fields with multiple shelves of skulls, only a small representation of the number of lives lost during that tragic time. Memorial sites like that are always very sobering and humbling, reminding you of how fortunate you are to not live in a violent oppressing place.
So as not to feel like horrible people, we went and learned how to shoot AK-47s and rifles before we went to the Killing Fields. I’d like to believe my friends and I are all kind, peaceful, non-violent people, but we are also adventurous and love learning new things. I’m not really a fan of guns (only Nerf & water), but it was interesting shooting a real gun and understanding how it feels.
Lastly, referring back to the aforementioned movies that were filmed in Cambodia, we had to make sure we visited the infamous & magical, Angkor Wat. Our group got up before the sunrise, jumped on some rickshaws and spent our morning watching the sun come up behind the ancient ruins. Hot air balloons, monkeys, children begging you to buy picturesque post-cards, water lilies, and gnarly trees are just a few of the treats you get to experience when walking through the temple complex. If you’ve ever seen Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple, you'd agree that Angkor Thom looks just like Olmec – a talking head with legendary stories.
Overall, our experience in Cambodia was definitely one that we can tell our grandchildren about. History came alive in more ways than one and it was a place truly unlike any other.