If you buy into nationalistic history then their appears to be two Cambodias that you see.
One is the dirt road one that you drove through from Kep to Kampot on a scooter. An hour drive just to go to an ATM, but it was a great excuse to rent a moped. The learning curve is low. It feels like a jet-ski on land. Bellows of dirt embrace you as gifts when larger cars drive by. It feels almost like whack-the-mole in reverse as you dodge potholes. A thought pops into your head. Pol Pot potholes. You kind of smile, but who can smile when Pol Pot comes to mind?
When you stop you order a vodka to calm your nerves. On the way back you feel like the top cowboy in the wild-west. The wild-west feel is supported by the constant dust storms, “I don’t care about you” driving manner and even how most railings are made of wagon wheels. Then it rains. It is surprisingly easy to drive in the rain, and at least it cleans your clothes. When the rain stops you notice a Muslim community, you want to enjoy it but like a falling branch a cow comes across the street. You swerve honking, feeling a little silly for honking at a cow. Your friend remarks that you should’ve said “Mooooooove”.
The other Cambodia is the remnants of Angkor where historical artifacts act more as spotlights than shadows, illuminating your mind to the genius and richness of an older Khmer world. It is said the whole city only took 30 years. You can’t even imagine thinking up the design of the bridge, where countless statues of men are pulling a giant snake. At one point Angkor had over one million residents, making it the biggest city in the world for a time. Your main thought is simply “Damn!”. You see a smooth-less transition of beliefs, from a more Hindu to a more Buddhist influence within the halls of buildings that inspired The Jungle Book. Bear Necessities is stuck in your head. At the top of one overlooking structure you feel like Indiana Jones, minus the copious amount of sweating you’re doing. At the bottom you feel like a simple fool.
Humans aren’t any smarter now than they were then. What is that we are loosing between the pages of history books?
How can we go from the wonders of Angkor to the pot filled dusty roads and poverty left behind by Pol Pot?