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Moving to China
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As the plane made its approach into Siem Reap, it dawned on me that my dream of traveling around Cambodia was about to turn into a reality. I wasn't exactly sure what the next three weeks would show me, but I couldn't wait to find out.

I decided to start in the northern part of the country and then gradually work my way south from Siem Reap, going through the capital city of Phnom Penh, crossing over into Vietnam to visit Ho Chi Minh City, then following the coast back across the border to Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep.


The must-see place in all of Cambodia is Angkor, the City of Temples, which is located right outside of Siem Reap. A few days into my journey I decided to visit Angkor, one of the most remarkable places I've ever seen. It isn't just a ruin, but an entire city of ruins.

In the predawn darkness our tuk-tuk sputtered down a long jungle road. In the distance I could make out the silhouettes of huge structures climbing towards the heavens. I had arrived and found myself in the shadows of Angkor.

The temples at Angkor Wat are the national symbol of Cambodia and are part of the largest religious complex in the world. This was once the largest city in the world, with over a million residents. Angkor Wat is the result of ancient Khmer kings each trying to outdo their predecessors with the size and symmetry of their creations. Angkor Wat is only a small part of the Angkor complex stretching across 115 square miles. Building started in the 9th century and took over 500 years to complete. This area is one one of the most important archaeological sites in the world consisting of many temples as well as a series of waterways and communication routes. Many consider this place to be a wonder of the world and it's easy to see why.

A few days later I made an eight-hour journey down the Mekong River and arrived in Phnom Penh, a hectic, noisy city of about two million residents. During the long journey to Phnom Penh a local man gave me a great overview of Cambodia's turbulent history.

When the Vietnam War ended, a whole new series of horrors was about to begin here. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime had a vision of a self-sufficient Cambodia, and they wanted to create a communist peasant farming society. All the thinkers, artists, activists and anyone who opposed him were killed. Pol Pot refused to allow much needed food and medicine to enter the country, and as a result, two million people were killed, starved or died of disease between 1975-1979. That was one quarter of their entire population! Their bodies were placed in mass graves famously known as the Killing Fields, which are now sad monuments. Pol's campaign of terror was then followed by a lengthy civil war that the country is still recovering from today.

I left Phnom Penh, and after a few days in Vietnam, I eventually made my way to the pristine Cambodian coastline. Sihanoukville is a relaxed city full of backpackers and expats, many looking for warm weather, fresh seafood grilled on the beach and to forget about their lives back home for a while. Hotel rooms can be found for ten dollars and meals and drinks are also ridiculously inexpensive. I discovered these same type of prices all over Cambodia.


I finished my journey in the seaside town of Kep, which is truly a paradise. Kep is a place you must visit if you ever come to Cambodia. It took all the strength I could muster to get on a plane and fly back to the cold climes of northeast China. As my plane departed the airport in Phnom Penh, I knew that this wasn't the last I'd seen of the resilient, beautiful country of Cambodia.


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