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KHMER’S LAND

Land of Peace


Larina Arrowsmith was overawed by what Cambodia offers

For many people, a place known as the ‘Land of Peace’ would elicit images of meditating on beaches or finding tranquillity in sacred spaces. After arriving in Phnom Penh however, I soon found that there’s much more to Cambodia than that; and I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of its capital when it was lit up at night.

The monuments and statues illuminated against the backdrop of a bustling city provided spectacular views for us as we enjoyed a tuk-tuk ride to a restaurant. We were then briefed about our next visit, which was to one of the most important sites in Cambodia known as the ‘Killing Fields’ at Choeung Ek.

When we arrived, our guide left us to explore the area at our own pace. But I was totally unprepared for the scale of emotions that I was to experience while at the Killing Fields. In addition to the horror I felt upon learning about what had happened at Choeung Ek, an overwhelming feeling of peace engulfed me as I admired the flowers people had left as tributes before making my own contribution.

After meeting one of only four survivors of Prison S-21, and hearing his story of strength and enduring love, I was left feeling emotionally drained. Nevertheless, I was extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating chapter in Cambodia’s history.

We then travelled on to Siem Reap to see the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Having arrived before dawn, we crossed the floating bridge to find the perfect spot to watch the sun rise over this magnificent temple, which was worth the 4 a.m. start.

Following a leisurely walk around the grounds, we had some interaction with monkeys before climbing to the top of the monument. Angkor Wat is every bit as beautiful as photographs suggest and the climb to enjoy the view from the top left me breathless in more ways than one.

CAMBODIA EXCURSIONS
  • Ride the bamboo train in Battambang and see the bats at dusk
  • Visit Rabbit Island by day and take a river cruise at night to see fireflies
  • Catch the ferry at Sihanoukville and spend the weekend on the beach relaxing, fishing and snorkelling for luminous plankton in the moonlight
  • Spot gibbons and go trekking in Ratanakiri
  • Explore the floating villages on Tonlé Sap’s lake and river systems

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