Butterflies vs landmines

Inside the Angkor area there was also a butterfly exposition. Tanya, the attendant, was so nice to walk us through. We were able to see many species under all stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and butterfly.

Not far away there was also a landmine museum, telling the story of finding and removing the mines left behind by the US military and the Khmer Rouge. Attached to the museum is a relief center hosting 20-30 children victims of land mines. Notice in the last picture – the technician is using same kind of tool as we do.

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Built during the heyday of the Khmer empire (in the IX-XIII centuries), these temples cover a huge area just Nort of Siem Reap. On a 20km radius you can find at least 15 compounds, surrounded by lakes and canals, part of an ancient water management system.

The appearance is breathtaking. The Mayas and the Aztecas, the Romans or the Spanish, they were all great builders, but nothing I’ve seen matches these temples. Most of them are built of huge pieces of sandstone while others are built of briks. Rich decoration eveywhere, either in the form of narrative bas-relief or free standing statues. Most structures are well preserved and tremendous amount of work (originally by the French archeologists, but later by international organizations) has been put to maintain and protect them from future damage. At one point, during the civil war, the restorers had to abandon work so they covered some temples with sand to prevent harm from happening.


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Siem Reap

We left Phnom Penh and, later the same day, we arrived in Siem Reap. Many tourists everywhere, very popular destination. We got dinner at a restaurant featuring local apsara live music & dance. Then we went to a interesting type of massage called “fish massage” where you submerge feet in a tank and then fish come bite your feet.

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The Khmer Rouge era memorials

When the Khmer Rouge regime came to power in 1975 they initiated a total reform, meant to bring self sufficiency in all aspects of life. During the next 4 years they abolished industry, education, the monetary system, they resettled most of the city inhabitants to work camps in the countryside and eliminated all opponents. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 2.5 million people perished (20% of the population).

We visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (a former school converted to prison where opponents were interrogated and tortured) and Choeung Ek Killing Field (a place where people were summarily executed and then burred in common graveyards).

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Royal Palace – Silver Pagoda

This is perhaps the singe most important attraction in Phnom Penh. I was expecting some similarities with the Vietnamese style but I found none. Here the Naga is the main symbol, the snake-like figure that you can see at the roof’s corners. The palace is surrounded by a garden filled with various structures, most of them temples or other religious sites.

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