Cambodia’s Angkor heritage site reveals its dark side

Tuk-tuks and food vendors jam an area across the street from Angkor Wat, visible in the distance.

Tuk-tuks and food vendors jam an area across the street from Angkor Wat, visible in the distance.

The Angkor Wat complex enjoys enviable status as a Unesco World Heritage Site and as a prime tourist destination not only in Cambodia itself but in all of Southeast Asia and even the world.

And therein lies one of its biggest problems: Tourists.

Angkor 6Built mostly 1,000-1,200 years ago — more than a millennium — the site including Angkor temple itself covers more than 400 square kilometers (154 square miles).  Thus, the second problem: Continue reading

Stroll through the poorest excuse for a zoo anywhere

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Notice the dark patch on the thigh, evidence of effective discipline of a performing elephant, which took money, casually passing it back to trainers.

Although I never intended this blog to be a travelogue, I seem to going places and doing things that prompt a post.

Our most recent excursion from Phnom Penh was to a zoo, a lake and a nearby ancient temple.  It was a long day of seven hours, but I promise to restrain myself from going on and on and on.  Well, maybe I’ll stop at on and on.

A gang of monkeys and two animals like big deer or small elk assaulted us as we entered the first chain-linked enclosure, snatching from our hands bananas purchased for that purpose.

As we trudged through the dust in the enclosure we saw Continue reading

To locals there is nothing like Cambodian New Year

Dangerous and exhausting as this transportation looks as the New Year approaches, sometimes passengers dare death by riding atop vehicles.

Dangerous and exhausting as this van transportation looked Friday before the New Year, sometimes passengers dare death by riding atop vehicles.  They reflect how powerful is the tug to go home.

Phnom Penh is emptying out as I write this, just before the start of the Cambodian New Year. The exodus has begun.

The holiday is a three-day celebration when the Khmer people head for party points, seaside resorts and, most important to them, the rural provinces and farms that mean “home” to them. Consider this sad post on Facebook from a student/waiter I know at the cafe where he works:

Why all of u give me alone? I’m really lonely….. All of u can go to ur homeland n happy but I can’t…. I really miss my homeland so much. I want to meet my family…. What should I do? How can I do?

Siam Reap, where Continue reading

Reflections on three weeks of travel in Cambodia

A major artery in the capital city of Phnom Penh (click to enlarge photos)

Among the numerous images that I have retained from my recent travels in Cambodia are two indelible ones.

Those impressions involve a family in the seacoast city of Sihanoukville on the one hand and, on the other, works of tourist art in sprawling markets as well as in hotel rooms and lobbies.

In a country of grinding poverty, there is no avoiding beggars, child laborers, individuals asleep where they work or on the street, shop after shop that literally is a hole in the wall, and one-room hovels that many must call home.

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof’s superior work aimed at ameliorating and his writing on humanity’s deprivations around the world, child labor, sex-trafficking and child abuse cannot be far from one’s thoughts.

What remains engraved in my mind is Continue reading