Cambodia - Phnom-penh

On the bus ride to Phnom-penh they put , as they usually do in the long hauls here in Asia, a DVD movie for the passengers to enjoy as the long hours pass. The film they chose to put, or maybe they put it every time, was "the killing fields" about the fall of Phnom-penh.

Now, I have read a little bit, and did my research before I went on my tour of Cambodia, and I was aware of the countries bloody past, but in that bus ride, on the way into town, watching that movie, I was moved, and I was starting my real arrival to this scarred city.

Phnom-penh like a lot of Asian cities is a hussling bustling crowded huge vibrant entity, motorbikes flashing by without looking, rickshaws being driven by old men, coffee shops full to the rim with locals enjoying an hour or five of nothingness in the middle of the day, markets flowing with merchandise, food, livestock, anything you can dream of…

There is something about Asian cities which are on the brink of globalization that is very appealing to the random traveler, as you have all the western facilities and way of thinking, but in an environment which is still not that far from what it was thirty years ago, and in many cases the charm has managed to seep even into our modern life.



Walking in the less traveled areas of the city, you can find the real Cambodian modern lifestyle, past and present, with a small hint of the future, you can walk the small allies, in the shade of those big trees who have already seen it all, and you can feel that the local spirit has not been broken yet by the flattening crushing boot of over globalization, that the local identity is still there.

One good thing can be said for old time colonial occupations, is that sometimes they leave behind some favorable things, and in Cambodia's case, as it was the French who were the local let-me-bring-you-some-culture-do-gooders what they left was amazing baguettes and the café' culture, two things which are evident anywhere you look in town.

Cambodian baguette sandwiches on every street corner, and cool little coffee shops to sit in, the kind of coffee shops where if you take out a book and just plant yourself for a couple of hours in a nice chair to hide from the scorching sun, no one will bother you, the kind of coffee shop where if you happen to pass by in the afternoon or evening time you will always find a strange conversation to join, somebody to share an hour of random encounter over a ice coffee.


I have not been to the real killing fields. I had more important things to shoot that day. life. History is nice, but monuments are just monuments and I tried to catch how history affected life today.

And it did, oh it did. You can still see it in people's eyes.  You can still see it in people's eyes. But you can also see hope , optimism, you can see the reflection of the beautiful temples and palaces, the better part of their history, of their identity, of their force as a nation, as a kingdom.

A visit to the notorious S21, the elementary school that was transformed into a torture jail for the Khmer-rouge victims and is now the official genocide museum, is a powerful experience and I recommend it to all, but take also the time to walk in the beautiful quiet neighborhood this school is located in, and you will learn history in a more direct way.

I have found the Cambodians to be almost as charming as the Thais, which is a lot to say, and even with those historic scars, life in Phnom-penh is as vital and warm as any Asian city in the neighborhood. As always , Phnom-penh is a reminder that in the end … life wins.
You got to love Asia.


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