Two Cambodias

If you buy into nationalistic history then their appears to be two Cambodias that you see.

statue angkor

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.

angkor wat

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?

cambodia road


The roads of Phnom Phen

Within ten feet you see the difference between Cambodia and Vietnam. The faces, the language the odd mix of local currency and USD. The roads seam to scream dust.

You dodge trash and find your way down a suspiciously dark street. As you walk into the bar about twenty or so prostitutes say “hello” in unison. The only reason they don’t swarm is because a girl is already with you. As you watch the street from the balcony a prostitute glances up at you and opens her mouth wide to lick her lips. You feel almost famous by the attention. You don’t even want to but the ease of it all makes it tempting.

Phenom Phen

The night is blown away by dust as you make your way on a tuk tuk to one of The Killing Fields. There are literally bones coming out of the earth. You can’t tell if you just stepped on a stone or a bone. Across the chain-link fence a man begs for money of foreigners trying to comprehend a massacre that most of their governments helped to cause in one way or another. The irony that this memorial for the killings during the Cambodian Wars is almost only accessible to foreigners. A nation’s history for others. The dust stings your eyes as you realize how Cambodia is seemingly incomprehensible. As you stare at the high school turned prison and torture camp where only seven out of more than five thousand people survived.


The dust from the road swirls around you in the same way that your thoughts are twisting in your brain. Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders were once teachers, yet they used schools for torture, killed any intellectual and basically forced their people into slavery in order to liberate them. The leaders were the very people they said were bad. The insanity of intellectuals liberating people from other intellectuals.

You want to stay in Phnom Phen for longer, but you don’t know what you’d do so you are going to a beach tomorrow instead.

There are many dusty roads in Cambodia and one day you hope to see through the dust.