The Kingdom Cambodia, previously Kampuchea, had a troubled resent history (if, like me, you call the 1970’s recent).
Phnom Penh: Difficult history in your face.
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, prior to its closing, we enjoyed the old-world charm of the Bougainvillier Hotel at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. Drinking beer on the street and watching the world go by was fascinating.
The S-21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in the late 1970’s served as a torture and execution centre, operated by the regime of Kampuchea, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge for more than 18,000 political prisoners and their families. It is the most disturbing and gruesome location, preserved as found, and promoted by Cambodia tourism as a memorial.
A short tuk-tuk ride from S-21, the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, preserved as a memorial, was one of the sites used by the Khmer Rouge for mass executions of at least 16,000 adults, children and babies. There is a powerful Buddhist monument in tower form, in glass, that contains over 5,000 human skulls. Fragments of bones can be seen jutting out of mass graves in the fields during seasonal rains. Loudspeakers surrounded the site to minimize the sound of victims screams as they were executed on mass.
Scattered along the road leading from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are various shooting ranges promising the best action for all your needs, where you can shoot a rocket launcher into ‘big trees and thick forest’or shoot an AK47, M16 and other machine guns into LPG tanks, throw hand grenades or fire bazookas into a house loaded with barrels of fuel, or blow up traditional houses, or a car full of petrol barrels. Most offer free hotel pickup.
Siem Reap: Put on some rouge, Khmer and be gay
Further afield of beer swilling Phnom Penh, we headed towards pink frilly fabulousness. Gay culture in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is rich and accepting, and indeed all can adopt children.
In Siem Reap, we love the oasis and haven of the MEN’s Resort and Spa, one of several gay hotels in the ancient city, and adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Wat. This French owned, men only resort has a fabulous pool and wonderful food, with terrific service. It was a gay haven. I booked a couple of adjoining suites. It was difficult to leave.
The word “Angkor” means “capital city” in the Khmer language, while the word “Wat” means “temple. ” Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex built in the first half of the 12th century originally as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world.
We hired a private guide and driver and did tour the obligatory massive complex for a day to see the highlights of the many temples, but with soaring heat, and miles of walking, my gay family agreed to rush back and refused to leave the poolside of the resort for the balance of our stay.