Sunday, 25 March 2012

Cambodia - Sok sobai tay?

It's more than 10,000 miles (or just less than 17,000 km) from Bridgetown, Barbados to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia - the next place I've chosen to blog about.

My own experience of Cambodia
My choice of Cambodia is an unusual one, in the sense that it's a place I've actually been to a couple of times. With the exception of the Netherlands and Veneto, most of the places I've blogged about thus far, are places I have never visited and, in many cases, places I may never get the opportunity to visit. A couple of them, eg. Hong Kong and Iceland, are places that I've visited subsequent to my blogging about them, as I felt so inspired by everything I'd read and seen.

I found Cambodia to be incredibly beautiful and welcoming and it's a country I feel strongly about.  I would love to see Cambodia prosper and move on from the troubles of its recent past.

The legacy of the Killing Fields

Khmer Gris at Angkor
It's impossible to do any research into Cambodia without coming across texts, movies and references to the terrible period of suffering under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. In previous blogs, I've talked a little bit about 'national traumas', like the famine in Ireland, the loss of religious identity in Mongolia or the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho. Attempts by the Khmer Rouge to turn Cambodia (or Kampuchea) into an agrarian socialist society is very much part of Cambodia's national trauma.

After travelling to Cambodia, I became a bit obsessed about this period in the country's history and I've already read quite a few books and eye-witness accounts of life under the Khmer Regime. One of my favourite's was Pin Yathay's Stay Alive, My Son - a very moving account of displacement and survival. I've also watched Roland Joffe's 1984 movie The Killing Fields, but I would like to watch it again, as I've actually visited Cambodia since I saw the movie.

I bought a copy of Loung Eng's First they Killed my Father when I was last in Phnom Penh in 2007. I wasn't ready to read it then, so it's sat on my bookshelf for 5 years and I'm ready to read it now. I've also bought a copy of River of Time by Jon Swain, the journalist portrayed in The Killing Fields.. I've tried, in vain, to find modern Cambodian literature available in an English-language translation. So if anyone knows of anything, I'd be interested in hearing about this.

The Splendor of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat, taken in 2004
I guess the flip side to Cambodia's 'dark history' under the Khmer Rouge is the resurgence of interest in the remains of the Cambodian (Khmer) temples at Angkor, just outside the modern-day town of Siem Reap. My first trip to Cambodia was in 2004, crossing the border from Thailand, I spent three days being driven around Angkor, exploring the various temples that are scattered around the Cambodian jungle.

It really is a wonderful place and I returned in 2007 with my Kalmyk/Russian partner. It's being overrun by tourists though, so I don't think I'll return, as I've had my chance to visit Angkor and the temples now have more visitors than they can handle.

Again, it's going to be challenge to get beyond the legacies of the Angkor and the Khmer Rouge, so I can find out even more about Cambodia. As usual, I want to read, watch movies, cook a Khmer dish and listen to Khmer music.

Spotify and Khmer play lists
Heaven and Earth
Although I registered on Spotify several years ago, I've never been able to make it work properly until now. I've got a 30-day trial of their Premium account, which allows me to listen to music on my iPhone and I want to see how this works for my blog research, amongst other things. So far, so good - as I've been writing this blog, I've been listening to an album called Khmer Passages: Songs for Cycles of Cambodian Life as well as Dengue Fever's album Venus on Earth. Interestingly there are Cambodian music playlists on Spotify as well, so I intend to absorb as much Khmer music as I can over the next month or so!

A fleeting obsession with Photoshop

Also, because I've been in Cambodia, I have my own photos, which I'm using to illustrate this current blog post. I'm a big fan of the Flickr community and I like to highlight some of the wonderful images that Flickr members have shared with the world. But I'm also quite a keen (amateur) photographer. I have relatively few photos from Cambodia, as I was there in my pre-digital camera days. My Cambodian photos, as you may have already guessed, reflect a period when I was obsessed with Photoshop!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these images and my future blog posts about Cambodia.

Image credits:

All images in the current blog post were taken by me. Please feel free to reuse them with the Creative Commons license:

- Attribution (especially to this blog)

- Share Alike

- Non-commercial

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