I was looking up holiday spots in South East Asia and I was as amazed at what I saw...breathtaking sights of nature, bewildering abit inspiring architectural structures that were constructed without the fancy technological machinery of today yet have gracefully stood the test of time. But just as those sights amazed me, so did the ravishing manmade destruction set around them.
The one country I was particularly looking into was Cambodia – home of the famous Angkor Watt and rich histories that time can never erase (who can deny the glorious times of the Khmer Empire, which ruled Cambodia from the 9th to the 15th century CE and how will the world ever forget the infamous dark times of the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 under the rule of Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot).
Cambodia or Kampuchea as it was once known is a beautiful country located in South East Asia. It borders the three countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. With magnificent natural sights such as the Mekong River and the unique Tonle Sap Lake which flow changes direction twice a year and expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons, Cambodia is a fantastic tourist destination rich with culture and diversity, bursting with delicious seafood to offer.
Sounds delightful so far?
But before you go booking a ticket for your entire family to that beautiful country, you might want to be aware of the issue about active landmines and other kinds of unexploded ordinance (UXO) that plague the unfortunate place. Hardly a laughing matter or one to be taken lightly, the legacy of three decades of war in Cambodia is left in many forms throughout the country (amputees in all ages and sexes are obvious and abundant).
If you’re just an average tourist who plays it safe, than perhaps there’s less alarm for you because if you just plan to stick around the area around Angkor Wat and the central plains near Phnom Penh, those are safe as they have already been cleared.
However, if you love a good walk or hike up the tempting remote green forests and hills of Cambodia, it’s advised that you take more care and get the approval of the local people first – they’d probably be able to tell you if it’s safe from landmines or not. Even if you don’t plan of hiking but instead taking a bike ride on the back roads of Siem Reap or Battambang provinces, landmines safety must be your priority and remember no one really knows where those deadly mines are. And in Cambodia, mines are a very real nightmare, not just squares with flags and digits on your computer screen (minesweeper).
Now isn’t sad to see how war even after so many years still manages to terrorize in silence? Just one wrong step and one is never whole again (mines are sometimes stepped on my poor unknowing animals too). Nature which has so much to offer can never be appreciated again because of the death that is buried in its soil. Beautiful natural life (trees, healthy soil, animal life, rare plant life) are all destroyed each time a mine goes off.
Cambodia is a beautiful country with a dark past, one worth visiting with respect and much caution.
War, it doesn’t just ruin lives, it ruins life!