There was once a King with a chubby face on the Golden Throne of Cambodia. Living in the grand royal palace encrusted with precious of diamond in Phnom Penh, his Grace might have believed that things could last forever until his abdication forced by the then Prime Minister Lon Lol. It happened in the year of one thousand nine hundred and seventy, when the king was travelling out of the country. The city then witnessed a series of political turmoil followed by the victory of the Khmer Rouge, who reset the calendar of Cambodia back to Year Zero. Under the guidance of the agricultural reform, the regime “cleaned up” the capital city with such humane achievement as executing numerous intellectuals, and sending the rest of them to labour camps in rural Cambodia where they were killed by exhaustion. Eight years later, a Vietnamese armed forced recaptured Phnom Penh and established a government. The survived Cambodian had to work unceasingly to rebuild this shelled city, which was still recovering slowly from its traumatized past.
Our trip to Ta Prohm started early in the morning. The big, red-faced sun was just coming up the horizon when our tuk tuk slashed through the plain in Siem Reap. Sleepy and waspish, I had no idea what was waiting for me. The name Ta Prohm, or in ancient Khmer, Rajavihara, sound equally strange to me. It didn’t take long before we arrived at the entrance of the temple, which was actually a hole under a pile of rubbles and rocks.
Imagine a regime that tries to kill all the educators in the countries so that the people become dumb and obedient. It is not a joke made by a pesky kid who hates school, but a part of modern history in Cambodia that still plagues the country today. On April 17, 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK, also known by the public as the Khmer Rouge), a former guerrilla made its way out of the jungle and started a four-year bloody ruling that turned Cambodia into something worse than hell. The Capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, had a population of 3 million before was made into the Cambodian version of Silent Hill overnight—thousands of teachers, doctors and scholars were executed, the rest were evacuated to labour camps in rural Cambodia and died of starvation or overwork.
The Angkor Wat is indeed a whole collection of temples and monuments spotted in the forest of Siem Reap, a town located in the north western Cambodia. The biggest site of Angkor Wat is called Angkor Thom, meaning “the Great City”. It is a cluster of stone temples enclosed by a wall of three thousand metres long. The city was once the capital of the Khmer Empire and now a must-see in Cambodia. Outside the city ran under a big bridge leading us directly to the entrance of the city, and along the bridge were two giant serpents being pulled by demons and God. There were four Gates like this in the city: one for the sinned, one for the dead, one for the King who returned after victory, and one for common people like us. On each gate there were stone carvings of faces looking at four directions. Then there were more roads and more serpents going through a terrace, then more gates and carvings of an unknown Goddess. All were big and impressive.