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Phnom Penh, Cambodia - poverty, tragedy and progress

The Royal Palace was easily the most attractive sight here; the palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century

The Royal Palace was easily the most attractive sight here; the palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century

Set on top of a 27 m high, tree-covered knoll, Wat Phnom is on the only hill in town (that's because the hill was man-made); it is still the Year of the Dog since Cambodia is 2 months behind the Chinese calendar

Set on top of a 27 m high, tree-covered knoll, Wat Phnom is on the only hill in town (that's because the hill was man-made); it is still the Year of the Dog since Cambodia is 2 months behind the Chinese calendar

In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot's security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21); it soon became the largest detention and torture center in the country

In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot's security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21); it soon became the largest detention and torture center in the country

Our tour guide, who is Cambodian, had told us that we would see Rolls-Royces and Bentleys in Phnom Penh and he was correct; in this extremely poor country it is appalling to see wealthy, corrupt government officials flaunting their status

Our tour guide, who is Cambodian, had told us that we would see Rolls-Royces and Bentleys in Phnom Penh and he was correct; in this extremely poor country it is appalling to see wealthy, corrupt government officials flaunting their status

This is a famous photograph of the 5 children who survived S-21 Prison when it was liberated by Vietnamese soldiers in 1979; the oldest child in the photo wrote a book about his experience and was autographing copies when we visited

This is a famous photograph of the 5 children who survived S-21 Prison when it was liberated by Vietnamese soldiers in 1979; the oldest child in the photo wrote a book about his experience and was autographing copies when we visited

The most notable feature of the Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace is a small crystal Buddha (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) — undetermined whether made of Baccarat Crystal in the 19th century or of another kind of crystal in the 17th century

The most notable feature of the Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace is a small crystal Buddha (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) — undetermined whether made of Baccarat Crystal in the 19th century or of another kind of crystal in the 17th century

The Sisowath Quay is a 3 km long promenade along the west bank of the Tonle Sap River; I enjoyed the relatively peaceful walk but the smell from the river wasn't pleasant

The Sisowath Quay is a 3 km long promenade along the west bank of the Tonle Sap River; I enjoyed the relatively peaceful walk but the smell from the river wasn't pleasant

We stopped at a place that was serving fried tarantulas; our tour guide has had them many times and several brave souls in my group sampled them

We stopped at a place that was serving fried tarantulas; our tour guide has had them many times and several brave souls in my group sampled them

The 1917 Throne Hall at the Royal Palace is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King

The 1917 Throne Hall at the Royal Palace is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King

This monument at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek contains the bones of some of the 17,000 Cambodians executed here; today, you can still see the clothes of some of the dead buried in mass graves peeking up through the hard dirt

This monument at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek contains the bones of some of the 17,000 Cambodians executed here; today, you can still see the clothes of some of the dead buried in mass graves peeking up through the hard dirt

Built in 1958 in celebration of Cambodia's independence from France 5 years earlier, this monument's style is heavily influenced by the great temples of Angkor Wat

Built in 1958 in celebration of Cambodia's independence from France 5 years earlier, this monument's style is heavily influenced by the great temples of Angkor Wat

A scale model of Angkor Wat in front of the Silver Pagoda; the King's living area, which actually takes up half of the total Royal Palace ground area, is closed to the public

A scale model of Angkor Wat in front of the Silver Pagoda; the King's living area, which actually takes up half of the total Royal Palace ground area, is closed to the public

Two of the 18 adults who survived S-21 Prison until it was liberated come to the prison most days to speak with visitors and sell their books; the museum was pretty sterile but hearing a survivor tell his story was powerful

Two of the 18 adults who survived S-21 Prison until it was liberated come to the prison most days to speak with visitors and sell their books; the museum was pretty sterile but hearing a survivor tell his story was powerful

Phnom Penh had many new skyscrapers with more under construction; the cool feature of this one was the outdoor terrace near the top

Phnom Penh had many new skyscrapers with more under construction; the cool feature of this one was the outdoor terrace near the top

1932 Railway Station is a white elephant now since there has been no Cambodian rail service since 2009 due to budget issues; the center of Phnom Penh is relatively clean while other parts of the city and rural areas have roads lined with lots of trash

1932 Railway Station is a white elephant now since there has been no Cambodian rail service since 2009 due to budget issues; the center of Phnom Penh is relatively clean while other parts of the city and rural areas have roads lined with lots of trash

The Cambodia language is impossible to decipher; wisely, Phnom Penh has given numbers to all of their streets in addition to their proper names

The Cambodia language is impossible to decipher; wisely, Phnom Penh has given numbers to all of their streets in addition to their proper names

Admission to Wat Phnom was $1 for foreigners while locals got in for free; driving through Cambodia, it seemed quite large but is actually about the size of Oklahoma

Admission to Wat Phnom was $1 for foreigners while locals got in for free; driving through Cambodia, it seemed quite large but is actually about the size of Oklahoma

Our group enjoyed a traditional cyclo tour of the city; we joined the bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, cars and buses all sharing the streets in this city of 3 million

Our group enjoyed a traditional cyclo tour of the city; we joined the bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, cars and buses all sharing the streets in this city of 3 million

There are so many strange food items here!; most are labelled only in Cambodian so I can't even figure out what they are but they sure look gross

There are so many strange food items here!; most are labelled only in Cambodian so I can't even figure out what they are but they sure look gross

The National Museum of Cambodia is home to the world's finest collection of Khmer sculpture; the US dollar is the unofficial currency here but US coins are not used so your change will be in riel

The National Museum of Cambodia is home to the world's finest collection of Khmer sculpture; the US dollar is the unofficial currency here but US coins are not used so your change will be in riel

Locals tend to shop at the Central Market every day to get fresh items; the mini-markets in Phnom Penh were larger and nicer than those in other cities we've visited

Locals tend to shop at the Central Market every day to get fresh items; the mini-markets in Phnom Penh were larger and nicer than those in other cities we've visited

Daun Penh was, according to legend, a woman who built a temple at Wat Phnom to house 5 Buddhas that she had discovered; the temple became a famous destination for pilgrims and eventually the city of Phnom Penh resulted

Daun Penh was, according to legend, a woman who built a temple at Wat Phnom to house 5 Buddhas that she had discovered; the temple became a famous destination for pilgrims and eventually the city of Phnom Penh resulted

The Silver Pagoda (named for the 5000 inlaid tiles of the floor) at the Royal Palace houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds

The Silver Pagoda (named for the 5000 inlaid tiles of the floor) at the Royal Palace houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds

An enormous mural lines the walls of the building that encloses the Royal Palace's Silver Pagoda; it tells the epic Cambodian poem of Reamker which details the balance between Hinduism and Buddhism as well as good and evil

An enormous mural lines the walls of the building that encloses the Royal Palace's Silver Pagoda; it tells the epic Cambodian poem of Reamker which details the balance between Hinduism and Buddhism as well as good and evil

Many tour boats ply the mighty Mekong River through Phnom Penh but you can't help but notice how the banks of the river are just lined with tons of trash; waste management is a big problem throughout the region since locals can't afford trash service

Many tour boats ply the mighty Mekong River through Phnom Penh but you can't help but notice how the banks of the river are just lined with tons of trash; waste management is a big problem throughout the region since locals can't afford trash service

Our local guide described how Pol Pot's forces would take naked mothers and children to this tree; with the mother forced to watch, the killers would swing the baby against the tree to murder it (the mother would be executed next)

Our local guide described how Pol Pot's forces would take naked mothers and children to this tree; with the mother forced to watch, the killers would swing the baby against the tree to murder it (the mother would be executed next)

The post office is the oldest example of French colonial architecture (1894) remaining; it was brutally hot during our visit with temps around 100 and humidity close to 80%

The post office is the oldest example of French colonial architecture (1894) remaining; it was brutally hot during our visit with temps around 100 and humidity close to 80%

This bronze statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk depicts the leader who brought independence from the French to Cambodia in 1953; his son is the current king

This bronze statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk depicts the leader who brought independence from the French to Cambodia in 1953; his son is the current king

Posted by VagabondCowboy 23:31

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