Posted on June 10, 2011 - by mira
“Oh Phnom Penh. It’s exotic, it’s chaotic, it’s beguiling, it’s distressing, it’s compulsive, it’s repulsive. … Many cities are captivating, but Phnom Penh is unique in its capacity to both charm and chill to the bone.” – Lonely Planet
This elephant, on its way home from work giving rides to tourists, stands out in the center of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. I was both pleasantly surprised and deeply saddened by how much I could relate to this country and its people. With its lovely French architecture and the haunting genocide site nearby, Phnom Penh is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. It shares a French colonial past with Lebanon, with all its constructive and destructive influences, and a devastating dark history in the 1970s. I grew up in the bloody and senseless Lebanese civil war, which broke out in 1975, around the same time of the beginning of Pol Pot’s terrifying regime of the enslavement of an entire population, misery and genocide. I can understand how the Khmers are still trying either to forget or to make sense of that period. But everywhere you go people smile anyway, and it’s easy to forget the horror that many of them witnessed and experienced just one generation ago.
I’ll be posting photos of the chilling killing fields and the enchanting Angkor Wat.
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