Cambodia - Kingdom of Wonder

On 7th November I prepared the last few things I needed for my journey and went to the airport in Italy. My Slovenian friend was waiting for me in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. She works for a European company there.

The climate was quite a shock for my body. The temperature difference between Slovenia and Cambodia was around 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), but the biggest problem for me was the humidity. The humidity in Cambodia is very high. I needed about ten days to get used to the weather there… well… I don’t want to lie… I never got used to the weather conditions in Cambodia. I just accepted that I sweated most of the time.

My friend showed me the beauty of Phnom Penh and helped me with other useful tips. I stayed at her appartment for about a week after which we said goodbye and I continued the journey on my own.

The average height of Cambodian people is about 160 cm (5.3 feet). They have light brown skin and dark hair. Being a white guy, 1.90 cm (6.3 feet) tall, with bright brown hair and weighting 95 kg (210 pounds), I was sort of an attraction. People were often trying to sell me things for at least 10 times the usual price. The average salary in Cambodia is less than 40 EUR per month so they see money in western people. A lot of money. But in general, they are kind people who are just trying to survive like everybody else on this planet.

Cambodia is full of contrasts. The center of the capital city is full of huge villas and expensive cars. On the other hand, moving about 1 km (0,6 miles) out of the strict center I saw poverty almost everywhere.

The average age of Cambodian people is 23 years. The reason for such a low average is the horrible Khmer Rouge regime established in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 headed by Pol Pot in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives (21% of the population). That was one of the worst human tragedies in the last century.

One of the most notorious prison in Cambodia was The Tuol Sleng, a former high school which was used as the Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. 20,000 prisoners were killed in S-21.

How can people be so sick, disgusting and horrible? I will never understand.

More than four million land mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance are still in the Cambodian ground and every year more than hundred people die because of that. The land mines in Cambodia were placed by different fractions (the Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes) that clashed during the Civil War in Cambodia in the 1970s.

But despite of all the horrors that happened, there are a lot of beautiful things to be seen in this country. The biggest attractions are temples near city Seam Reap in the Angkor region build in 12th century. They are definitely one of the most amazing wonders of the world.

I experienced and saw a lot of new things in Cambodia. Here is a quote By Mark Twain that I like and agree with: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”