Cambodia, the 15th country on our round-the-world, year-long journey, is like a spiritual awakening on steroids with its beautiful collection of ancient temple ruins in the jungles of Siem Reap Province. Walking through temples like Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Pre Rup, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm make you realize just how hard humanity strives to connect with the divine. The architecture and artwork still on display in these jungle temples, despite centuries of decay and neglect, are great testaments to man’s spiritual nature and yearnings.
As impressive as the ancient temples are, it was the people of Cambodia who made the biggest impression. They were among the friendliest and sweetest people we met on our journey through 23 countries, despite the many difficulties facing their nation.
The images in this “Cambodia Gallery” reflects some of the beauty of its people, their cultural heritage and daily life. To purchase a print or an image, just press the “BUY” button at the top of the page while looking at the image you want. A list of print sizes and framing options will appear on screen. A portion of the proceeds from any purchase in the “Global Travel” collection benefits two non-profit organizations.*
As you’ll see from these images, many Cambodians live in abject poverty and without basic services, such as garbage collection and easy access to education. We were told children sometimes have to bicycle miles to and from school, even in monsoon season, because schools are in such shortage. We wondered why there seemed to be so much garbage, especially plastic bags floating in rivers and lakes and littering the countryside. Government officials routinely take bribes from Vietnamese and Chinese companies in exchange for awarding them construction contracts over Cambodian companies, we were told. As a result, money flows out of the country and tax dollars are non-existent for essentials like rural garbage collection and school construction.
Meanwhile, some of the millions of landmines that were placed by the brutal Pol Pot regime during years of bloody civil war continue to maim and injure men, women and children. Almost an entire generation of educators and intellectuals were murdered by Pol Pot. Some 1.5 million to 3.5 million people (about 25% of the population) were killed under his regime in the 1970s.
Despite their troubles, the Cambodian people remain optimistic and welcoming to visitors.
© Stuart L Gordon Photography