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The trip was planned as a surprise visit for mother bear’s birthday. A colleague had recommended Cambodia as a lovely place to visit and was in Zen-mode upon returning from his holiday. I got the details of a personal hire car/tour guide from him and set out to plan the short getaway. Co-coordinating a trip from scratch was a tad bit hard with the guide having intermittent access to internet and delayed replies. All bookings and arrangements were made via internet/email and luckily, most things went well.

Places Visited (over 5 days):

  • Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre

  • Central Market

  • Angkor Night Markets

  • Pub Street

  • Angkor Wat , Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei & others

  • Phnom Kulen National Park, Big Buddha

  • Silk Farm

  • Tonle Sap Lake Wonder (Cruise)

  • Smile of Angkor Show

  • Royal Palace

We planned the 5 days and 4 nights trip to coincide with a public holiday as taking leave was a tad bit hard in the corporate world that I was in, at that time (back in 2013). We arrived in Phnom Penh on the 1st day (6th Feb) and stayed for a night before starting the bumpy and rickety journey by road to Siem Reap the next day.

There was a member of the royal family who had passed on and there was an obligatory mourning period that was declared. Hence, our plan to visit the royal palace on Day 1 of the trip was a flop. Surprisingly, I saw fireworks on that night and was told that it is a part of the “mourning”. We made do with travel lag and body massages by masseuses who came straight to our hotel! I also checked out one of the central markets in the area and was surprised by the variety of goods up for sale.

The next day, I visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre and it was quite a saddening traipse through. We had audio players with numbers to listen to, at various places throughout the centre. I was deeply moved by how realistic the players were – there were sounds of the trauma that people had endured and looking at the present day marked sites, I was transported in time. After this, we were meant to visit killing fields that made this centre apparently pale in comparison, but even this was too much to handle emotionally, hence we skipped the fields. There was a stupa full of skulls as a memorial for those who passed on. Cambodia was filled with prayer structures and memorials (there is a way to tell the difference, but I just wasn’t able to).

We visited a couple of other pit stops along the way and also tried local Cambodian cuisine. I loved the Fish Amok. It’s a traditional Khmer dish of fish cooked in coconut milk gravy that was fragrant, Zesty and Flavourful. I had this quite a few times during the trip and there were minor variations of it that I enjoyed.