I have had the privilege to make a number of trips to Cambodia, and specifically to Siem Reap, the closest town to the temples of Angkor. Without hesitation I would advise anybody to visit if they possibly can. Nothing really prepares you for the scale, sophistication and sheer beauty of the area.
But remember too what happened here in many of our lifetimes. A short story will suffice. On my first trip, two friends from New Zealand were also visiting, so one one day we arranged to hire a truck and driver to take us a little off the beaten track to a temple called Beng Mealea. This is in an area about one and a half to two hours away from the main temples, depending on roads, traffic and weather. The temple is still in a part of the country where they are clearing the mines, so it was imperative that we had guides and did not wander off any of the paths or routes we were being taken onto.
On the way back, we asked the driver, who was chatting away with us happily at the time, if he knew of any traditional Cambodian music that we could listen to. He told us a couple of places to try out in the town and then told us that he had a CD of some of his favourite singers from his childhood. He put on the CD and to our surprise Cambodian cover versions of 60s and 70s pop music and disco started to play. We talked about how popular this had been and how his parents had loved to dance to this, joking and enjoying the familiar, but slightly surreal sounds of the arrangements.
The driver then simply said “Of course, all dead now. Killed”
The terrors that took place here are never far away, but the resilience of the people is astounding. This is a country that has the potential of a bright future should things all go well