Our time in the temples was over. Our itinerary was to fly from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville. Our guide in Siem Reap took us to the airport and dropped us off, saying he could not come into the airport. Yeah, OK, whatever. We walked in and looked at the departure board. Our flight, booked on Cambodia Angkor Airlines was canceled. There was no office to go to to figure out why. At the checkin counter there was a long line for a Vietnam Air flight to, of all places, Sihanoukville. we waited in line and it turned out that Viet Nam air was taking all comers. Our ticket on Angkor Air was honored no questions asked. This had happened to us before in Myanmar. Airlines in that part of of the world trade passengers like that to keep their planes full. I’ve flown Viet Nam Air before and did not mind, but I was hoping to see the livery on Angkor Airlines.
Maybe next time.
We arrived at the quite small airport in Sihanoukville. The airport has no connections to anywhere besides Siem Reap, and at present only Bangkor Air and/or Viet Nam air serve it, so it was a simple exit.
We were booked into the Independence Hotel. It was the oldest and finest hotel on the beach.
The second beach town we went to, only a half hour drive away, is named Kep.
Peppers that do not pass the QC test here are passed on to the local markets. These women work 8 hour days separating pepper corns that are too small or too something else, to put in their containers and ship worldwide. Kompot pepper is like Burgundy wine, only pepper grown in Kompot can be called Kompot. If you ever see any, buy it. It is truly different and absolutely excellent.
Our tour guide was anxious to show us a couple of undeveloped islands off the coast. They were perfect tropical islands with nothing but a few grass and bamboo buildings. They have “villas” you can rent for US$15 a night, right on the beach. Of course they are very popular with budget travelers “in the know”.
On the way to one of the islands we did a little fishing. My wife always catches fish, luck of the Irish I guess.
The last touristy thing we did in Cambodia was visit what has been called “The Killing Fields”. Some people think this should be the last thing you do in country, so that the rest of this marvelous place will erase it from your mind. Others say do it last so it does not foul up your head for the rest of the trip.
The killing fields are the result of one of the most murderous regimes ever. Certainly the most murderous in my life time. Estimates say that two million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge in three years. Pol Pot, the leader of this regime was not committing genocide in the common definition of genocide. He was killing his own people. He killed, teachers, professors, doctors, dentists, bankers, business owners, for that matter anyone who wore glasses just in case they were intellectual. He outlawed trade. He outlawed money. He emptied out the cities and forced everyone into the fields to do nothing more than grow rice. Then he prevented these same people from being able to eat the rice they grew. Starvation and disease killed as many as did the beatings. One of our two guides on the trip was 12 years old when his family was forced out of Phnom Penh. His father, a professor, was killed in front of him and he learned to just obey and survived.
Millions of others met an even worse fate.
I hate to leave you with this last image of Cambodia. Believe me when I tell you this is now my favorite South East Asian country. If you are considering a trip to Thailand, think again. Cambodia is better. They use US$ everywhere and speak English almost everywhere. The food is better, the beer is cheaper. Everything is less expensive. I can not think of many more ways to recommend Cambodia, except to say we loved it. As soon as we have seen the rest of the world, we will return.
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Next two trips…back to CapeTown then onto planet China. I am a lucky guy or WHAT?