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Old 21st August 2011, 16:57   #1
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Post Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

After lots of thinking, debating , few debates leading to arguments, browsing,texting, blog reading, mailing, myself and my wife shortlisted places for our vacation.
As usual,our minds were clouded with all genres & places - adventure, leisure,exotic, unchartered, inside our desh ya videsh. Our priority was fun first rather than where.

Manali -Ladakh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia were in the top. Other trips clouding our mind were Bhutan, Kerala, some such places but nothing got firmed up.


Then started rounds of elimination
  • Sri Lanka / Thailand - somehow failed to excite because
    • Nothing different - "We had such holidays even earlier - beaches, scuba etc"
    • Nothing unique - "Almost everyone had been there"
  • Ladakh
ME: If its Ladakh we should go by bike
(I was adamant on a bike trail - Thanks to fellow bhpians who inspired thru their trip adventures & blogs)
Wife : Its damn cold out there. We should go by bus / airbus.
ME: At least, we should do one way (Manali to Leh Ladakh) and fly back
Wife: You can go alone.
ME: @$#!@! (Inner Voice: 'Happy Holidays" plan nahin lag raha hain. RED alert Code:1324. Change topic)
Idea was shot down as it was cold season. I donít know when Ladakh would be hot enough for a bike ride. Dropped.
  • Other picks were from various travel sites, company packages.. Hmmm didn't help. We wanted more.. More .. MORE !!
  • "Cambodia" triggered fascination - mystery / history / monuments slowly started sinking in. Cambodia : Angkor was getting anchored.
Ok - so it is Cambodia. But the ordeal didnít end there.

There was limited practical knowledge available about this place. No travel packages available from any travel popular travel sites - normally we 'benchmark' the itinerary & make our own plans. Even the embassy site was less helpful on few subjects related to immigration .
Surely,travellers' reviews in various sites came handy.I also acknowledge Evo8's travelogue - only one in Team-bhp so far.

"Rome was not built in a day;
Similarly,a trip to this nation can't be planned in a day ! " Is our conclusive understanding.

As we would travel to a country once - we thought of making a comprehensive trip and we had few days in hand.

Though I travel places for work & bit with my wife this is my first attempt to write a travelogue - my endeavour would be to make it useful & worthwhile.
Your comments would say whether its interesting too .

Yes, there are loads of pictures coming up.

Wherever there is a mention of "I" in this travelogue pl read it as"we"; 'I' is a just a convenience.

Enough of the background, let me narrate the meat of the matter. This is going to be a bit long - so'll post in parts.

Sample this - Bayon Temple.
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Old 21st August 2011, 17:08   #2
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Quote:
Originally Posted by vigneshnr View Post
"Cambodia" triggered fascination - mystery / history / monuments slowly started sinking in. Cambodia : Angkor was getting anchored.
=========
Similarly,a trip to this nation can't be planned in a day ! " Is our conclusive understanding.
Fantastic appetiser. Waiting for the main course now.

I have long had dreams of going to 3 places: Cambodia-Laos, Iran and Central Asia and Argentina. Let me live 1/2 a dream through your eyes.
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Old 21st August 2011, 17:37   #3
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This trip took us on a roller coaster of emotions- recent history soaked in sorrow & ancient history boasting great pride

I suggest anyone traveling to this place to take a dig into the recent history of this country to add more purpose to the travel. May be you'll know more by the end of our trip narration.

So our trip has two major parts.
  • Recent History - Kind of dark tourism
    • Communist leader Pol Pot regime
  • Ancient History - Wonderful Khmer civilization
    • Angkor - pre & post
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinkara View Post
Fantastic appetiser. Waiting for the main course now.

I have long had dreams of going to 3 places: Cambodia-Laos, Iran and Central Asia and Argentina. Let me live 1/2 a dream through your eyes.


Sure, Chinkara . Hope our story is vivid for your eyes. But believe me, nothing matches walking those streets, meeting those people & seeing those ruins on your own. I'll try my best

Note from the Team-BHP Support Team: Please use the "edit" button if posting within 30 minutes of the first post, instead of creating another back-to-back post.

Also use "Multi Quote" option for quoting Multiple posts.
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Last edited by n_aditya : 26th August 2011 at 09:00. Reason: posts merged
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Old 21st August 2011, 18:25   #4
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Post Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Day 1:

Where: Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh


Recent History (Only a brief)
Many of us would be slightly aware of the atrocities which happened in Cambodia under the cruel communist leader - Polpot. He is the asian figure comparable to Mussolini or Hitler. During mid 70's, he tortured & killed millions of his innocent people, aristocrats, intellectuals & whoever he felt as a potential threat to his political power.

His principles were
- Cambodia has to become self reliant
- The way to achieve this is engaging in agriculture & inducing social reengineering.
Every one has to become farmer irrespective of their profession & background. Urban centres were evacuated & all were sent to villages. Doctors, teachers etc all have to work hard in the farm lands.

Wiki for more detailed history.

First, the arrested citizens were brought to the prisons & tortured in the name of interrogation. Biggest of such facilities is S-21 which is now converted into a museum. The cells, large picture galleries, methods in which the inmates were tortured. Visuals were screaming and the impact was so deep that we could hear the far cries which were echoing in the walls, stair ways & cells. Its a place to witness the edge of inhumanity towards the fellow people.
I'm not posting the entire part of the pictures taken - only glimpse. (Most of the pictures are gruesome showcasing the punishments)
Attached Thumbnails
Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-dsc_0765.jpg  

Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-dsc_0757.jpg  

Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-dsc_0744.jpg  

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Old 21st August 2011, 18:46   #5
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Vigneshnr - amazing choice I must say. Eagerly waiting for a detailed travelogue with loads of pics..especially Angkor Wat .
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Old 21st August 2011, 19:11   #6
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Nice start, Cambodia always has been a destination for the "next" trip of ours, but has never happened, thanks to you it might just be the catalyst required to push it through, will stay tuned to this thread.
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Old 21st August 2011, 20:34   #7
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Post Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Day 1

Where: Choeung Ek (popularly called Killing Fields), Phnom Penh

Brief background

Earlier, those who couldn't withstand the torture died and were buried in the prison premises. With increasing number of inmates, the starvation, disease counts raised. For the fear of epidemic spreading in the city, Pol Pot decided to find a remote location to kill the prisoners. Choeung Ek is roughly 15-20 kms from the city centre. It is otherwise a quite paddy field turned into a slaughter ground & grave for thousands of people - women, kids included.

We were not sure, what to expect of the place. Our tuk tuk driver took us to the killing fields before visiting the genocide museum. But what we saw there was the most gruesome thing in our life so far. Let the pictures below do the talking.


The killing field was discovered in the late 70s. And the excavations post floods and rainfalls revealed the skulls, skeletons, clothes of the victims. All of us would have seen skulls in some point of our life - school days, labs etc - 1,2,3.. may be 10 at a time. But to step in to a place where close to 8000 skulls have been collected is bewildering. And they are still excavating more from the mass graves in the fields.
Attached Thumbnails
Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-killing-fields-10.jpg  

Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-killing-fields-11.jpg  


Last edited by vigneshnr : 21st August 2011 at 20:46. Reason: More content to be added in the same post
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Old 21st August 2011, 20:47   #8
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Hi Vignesh,

Good thread. Eagerly waiting for details. Will you also be telling us how you traveled to Cambodia,ticket fare, visa details as well?
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Old 21st August 2011, 20:51   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C300 View Post
Vigneshnr - amazing choice I must say. Eagerly waiting for a detailed travelogue with loads of pics..especially Angkor Wat .
Hi C300.. definitely you will get to see the glimpses to satiate your desire for Angkor temples. And currently I'm stepping through the day wise plan & hope your wait will be worth.
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Old 21st August 2011, 21:44   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prabhuferrari View Post
Hi Vignesh,

Good thread. Eagerly waiting for details. Will you also be telling us how you traveled to Cambodia,ticket fare, visa details as well?
Hi Prabhu, I was thinking of posting on this in detail later. I'm happy to share it here for you right away.

Majorly, there are two ways by which we can reach Cambodia.

City info: Phnom Penh is the capital city. Siem Reap is the pivot city for temple tours. See my itinery for more details.

Routes
  • Via Kuala Lumpur / Singapore (Air)
    • Journey with 1 Stop over in KL / Singapore
    • Mostly KL is cheaper as the traffic is high between KL & cambodia airports
    • You can choose to fly to Siem reap or Phnom penh directly
    • If you land in Phnom penh, you can take a bus (5-6 hours) to Siem Reap. I did this for my trip, pretty comfortable.
    • Pros
      • Quick (travel time ~ 6-7 hours)
      • Less complicated - no border crossing
      • Only Cambodian visa required
    • Cons
      • Expensive compared to via Bangkok by road as we take two flights
  • Via Bangkok (Air + train / Road)
    • Fly to Bangkok
    • Take a early morning train / bus (6 hours) to a border town in Thailand.
    • Drive to the border - Cross the border by obtaining immigration clearance
    • Take a taxi reach Siem reap
    • Pros
      • Much cheaper compared to Air route
      • You can plan Bangkok if you want to
    • Cons
      • Border crossing in the late hours is considered unsafe
      • Time consuming - because you have to reach the border in the day time. So you need to reach Bangkok the day earlier and start the next day
      • The authorities are corrupt and may hold you for some documentation - medical certificate etc. They may expect some tips / cash.
      • Queues are longer some times as regular transports / many tourists from neighbouring towns in Thailand come via land
      • Visa required for Thailand (Bangkok) entry is an additional expense if you are not travelling in Bangkok
Tip: If you have e-visa, you can cross the border with less hassle.

These details are only out lines.I've did enough research on this. If you require more details, I'll be happy fetch and send you.


If anyone knows better way to reach, please update.


Visa Procedure

Again, you can obtain visa in two ways.

Visa on Arrival
  • Indians can obtain visa on arrival = USD 20
  • Carry passport with 6 months of validity and sufficient blank pages
  • One 4X6 passport size photograph
  • Very simple - I had my visa on arrival in Phnom Penh
On line visa (e-visa)
Kingdom of Cambodia - Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation
  • Easy to obtain online - pretty clear procedures laid out.
  • Charges : USD 20 + USD 5 (service charges)
  • Carry evisa if you are crossing border by road to avoid delays & trouble.
These information were hard to collect and most of the sources were not authentic . Even the embassy web site data was ambiguous. Now as I've travelled and come back this is the most authentic you can believe


As far as my travel plan, I flew to Phnom Penh - took Bus to Siem Reap - Flew back from Siem Reap.


Return flight tickets - 30K person Malaysian Airlines (we booked just 2 weeks before travel as vacation was planned in a short while)
Bus fare - USD 6 - 10 depending upon the service & Company. The bus we took was very comfortable air conditioned coach with attached WC toilet + On board entertainment - they play combodian movies, we happened to enjoy few really good comedy flicks.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 15:11   #11
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Post Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Day 1 ( continued)

Where : Killing Fields

You need fairly a strong heart to walk through the mass graves. A large forensic team is involved in studying the skulls & remains.
There is a small museum in this field where we can see the weapons used to kill the victims, few galleries illustrating sorrowful stories and more. They have also placed details of the judicial trials conducted on the accused. Of all the accused interrogated, Only one person has accepted that such cruel things have happened & rest all have pleaded ignorance / not guilty. Shame.

Though this place is not for the faint-hearted, it is essential for one to pay a visit to witness the deep dark inhumanity and appreciate the value of love & peace.

Must See.

Folks, I have never did black tourism before this. Never felt for it.
But now I know why people take interest in this genre.
Attached Thumbnails
Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-killing-fields-6.jpg  

Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-killing-fields-29.jpg  

Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !-killing-fields-31.jpg  

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Old 22nd August 2011, 18:35   #12
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Quote:
Originally Posted by vigneshnr View Post
This trip took us on a roller coaster of emotions- recent history soaked in sorrow & ancient history boasting great pride

I suggest anyone traveling to this place to take a dig into the recent history of this country to add more purpose to the travel. May be you'll know more by the end of our trip narration.

So our trip has two major parts.
  • Recent History - Kind of dark tourism
    • Communist leader Pol Pot regime
  • Ancient History - Wonderful Khmer civilization
    • Angkor - pre & post
Interesting Narration . With sensational happenings in the history Cambodia, it seems to be an interesting destination. I am glued to your informative and interesting TL

cheers
NH
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Old 22nd August 2011, 20:15   #13
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

I'm hooked on to this thread. Cambodia has been on the must visit list for a long time - both for the stunning beauty of places like Angkor Vat, and details of the Pol Pot Genocide. Good narration, but please post more!
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Old 22nd August 2011, 20:41   #14
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Default Re: Kingdom of Wonder - Cambodia; Enthralling Hidden Charms !

Brilliant teasers, now for some solid writing and pictures please!

Those skull images have a eerie feeling to it. Almost as if they have a tale to tell. Post your experience esp when you did that 'dark tourism' part.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 21:01   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by predatorwheelz View Post
I'm hooked on to this thread. Cambodia has been on the must visit list for a long time - both for the stunning beauty of places like Angkor Vat, and details of the Pol Pot Genocide. Good narration, but please post more!
Hi predatorwheelz, 'm really happy to see response from you and few other fellow bhpians for my travelogue. Your comments are surely encouraging me to go on & complete my log. With regard to narrating more - I'm afraid that I'll kill the curiosity : ). Though nothing matches being there, my worry is about how well I can say it all.. Ha ha !! But, pucca I'll try. Cheers.
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