It was a family trip and moreover, a birthday present from my younger brother. This was from his first proper salary! So this trip was super special for all of us. We went to Cambodia for a week and spent two days in Vietnam. In Cambodia, we visited two major cities — Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and in Vietnam, we visited the capital Hanoi.
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is a must-visit site. It is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence to the king of Cambodia and is a fine example of Khmer architecture with a slight French touch.
A lot of trading used to happen between India and Cambodia and they got influenced by Hinduism — and king Suryavarman adopted the religion long back. But later, his predecessors kept changing their religion from Hinduism to Buddhism and vice versa.
One another aspect I came to know about Cambodia is the Cambodian Genocide that was carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime. The followers of Khmer Rouge will bring Cambodians, who supported the existing government, to the killing fields (in Choeung Ek) and tie them onto trees and torture them. Sadly, this happened like 40 years back! If you visit the killing sites, you can find skulls, blood-stained clothes, pieces of bones, etc.
A relaxing place, Cambodia has a lot of tourist spots. You can cycle around the cities —Phnom Penh and Siem Reap — and get to know about the various temples and monuments. Apart from cycling, tuk-tuks are the best transport option.
The main source of income for Cambodians is tourism and agriculture. So, for the first six months, they are into tourism and the rest six months are dedicated to agriculture. The locals are very friendly and helpful. They have kept the city so clean and tidy. Even the public toilets are very well maintained.
One of the really memorable experiences was kayaking at Kompong Phluk floating village. It was so beautiful and adventurous! The entire village is floating in the river and all the houses are made on rafts. Schools, hospitals, offices — everything is floating there. And each house has pet crocodiles, which live under their house. We couldn’t pet them because they are friendly only to their owners.
We also went pub-hopping at Pub Street in Siem Reap. The street opens at 10 am and the vibe of the place is entirely different with lively bars, cocktail lounges, vibrant nightclubs and great restaurants. You’ll get fried cockroaches and snakes along with good beer.
(As told to Merin James)