Many Intrepid travellers to Cambodia visit the Land Mine Museum near Siem Reap and learn of the sad legacy of war – the deaths, the amputees and the estimated five million unexploded ordinance (UXO) and landmines still left in the country. They also may meet the larger-than-life character, Aki Ra, who has just been short-listed in the Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2010 – out of 10,000 nominations!
At the age of 10, after being separated from his family through the war, Aki Ra became a child soldier and was given his first rifle that measured his height. He fought firstly with the Khmer Rouge (whose genocidal crusade was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians during the 1970s); he was captured by the Vietnamese and fought for them, then when the Vietnamese left he fought for the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces.
Some of the richest real life experiences revolve around food, and where better than Cambodia to combine flavourful local experiences with exotic regional dishes.
Cambodian cuisine is often described as a mixture of Thai and Vietnamese – but don’t tell that to a Cambodian. They believe their cuisine is in a class of its own, and they’re right!
Highlighting the delicious delights of Cambodian cuisine is non-profit organisation Friends-International. We are thrilled to announce the launch of their second cookbook From Spiders To Water Lilies, now available on-line. It features over 160 pages of mouth-watering traditional recipes, (one of which we share with you here), plus exquisite photography and inspiring stories from one of Asia’s most fascinating countries.
“Some people complain about the “dancing road” from Poi Pet (Thai border) to Siem Reap, but my groups so often say it was a fantastic experience of a life time. Yes, the road is bumpy, but have you taken a good look outside and noticed the countryside that you’re passing through?
Between the 9th and 13th centuries the Khmer Empire commissioned the construction of a magnificent temple site. Perfectly balanced in symmetry and composition, these wonderful temples of Cambodia continue to astound, as Intrepid’s Danielle Watts experienced…
“The alarm sounds while it’s still dark. A small but much-needed breakfast is served and we’re off on an adventure to see one of the most spectacular sights. We are in Siem Reap, the previous capital of Cambodia, to see sunrise over an ancient wonder of the world, Angkor Wat.
Cambodia has an incredible story to tell and books such as When The War Was Over and First They Killed My Father are powerful accounts of the tragedies endured. Travelling through this country you can’t help but be touched by the resilience of the people and those real life experiences will be your tales to tell, as Intrepid’s Carole Heffernan discovers…
“Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia and with its French Colonial architecture the city retains a very local provincial atmosphere. It is the final stop on Intrepid’s Road to Angkor Westbound and a visit here is a great way to spend the last day before crossing over to Thailand.
If you want to enjoy a really memorable birthday celebration, then the first thing you should try to do is find a great buddy like Intrepid’s Marina Mildenhall…
“My friend Ange and I set out for an adventure in Cambodia in late December. We were to start the Heart of Cambodia trip on New Year’s Eve and only four days later, in Siem Reap, it would be Ange’s birthday.
Having spent a wonderful day at Angkor Wat, I had arranged with our leader Marcus to help me execute my birthday plan. I wanted a decorated cake, a tiara (Ange had to wear it throughout dinner) and a Cambodian flag for all of us new Intrepid friends to sign as a memento.
The closest Khmer word for ‘strength’ is clang and according to Intrepid’s Jo Crisp, this is certainly something that is not weakened by wild weather in Cambodia…
“Siem Reap, home of World Heritage Angkor Wat, was the Venice of Asia in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana that rocked the Philippines and Vietnam. Storms hit Cambodia causing torrential downpours and flooding in many parts of the country.
On Tuesday night, 29 September, water was about a metre from my front door when I went to bed. By 4am the water started lapping at my fingers as I slept. I awoke to find water was over a metre deep throughout my house and small fish were calling my bedroom home! So after grabbing essential items and raising everything up on shelves and cupboards I waded out to the street to join the hordes of people who were also flooded out of their houses.
Bruce McPhie has just commenced his 197th trip as an Intrepid group leader. His experience is remarkable, his care of his travellers is second to none, and his compassion and respect for the people of Indochina is immediately obvious. Bruce’s recent return to Cambodia prompted this frank and thought-provoking blog…
“Cambodia is a fascinating country to visit, with a long and turbulent history, friendly people, and delicious food. It has a striking natural beauty, with the mighty Mekong River, the unique Tonle Sap Lake, and a landscape of sugar palms, white cattle and green rice fields among rural villages where time seems to have stood still. Against this stunning backdrop are the encouraging signs of progress and development out of poverty that is most evident in the major cities.
Many travellers have the amazing temples of Angkor high on their must-see list, but Intrepid’s Anna Harvie chose to set her sights even higher on holiday in Cambodia…
“Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia is always amazing, as you hear the monks chanting their morning mantras and see the golden rays of sun lighting up the thousand-year-old temples. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit, I could never tire of this sight.
But one of my best sunrises was when I went up in a balloon to see this spectacular event. The balloon is certainly cheaper and more accessible than helicopter if you want to witness Angkor by air – and from the sky is the perfect vantage point for a fresh perspective on how it all fits together. At ground level it’s sometimes hard to grasp the size and extent of the Angkor Empire and the waterways they built between temples.
Where do you start to rebuild and community, let alone a country? Cambodia is successfully regaining its national strength and each time Intrepid’s Sherryn Bowers visits she is amazed by the country’s courage and determination…
“Prior to completing my first Intrepid trip through Cambodia, if anyone had asked me what I knew about the country I would have looked at them fairly blankly and vaguely said: “It has some old temples and a lot of people died there in an internal conflict some time ago.”
Since then I have been privileged to visit Cambodia on a regular basis. I now have a much greater appreciation of Khmer history, especially the more recent events under the Pol Pot regime, through visiting museums and reading books, but even more so through the openness of local people telling me their family’s stories. It never ceases to amaze me given the atrocities committed, how gentle, generous and resilient the people are following times of such adversity and destruction.