If part of the point of travel is to be moved and touched, then there is scarcely a country I can think of that stirs the soul as much as Cambodia. Much of its recent history has been deeply harrowing, yet the country projects a certain sense of youthful optimism; the roughly 65 per cent of the population that is under 30 seems to be looking to a more vibrant present and future, which is part of what gives a journey through Cambodia some of its singular charm.
While it has always had its magnificent temple complex at Angkor as a huge draw, few tourists did more than fly into Siem Reap for two or three days of temple-viewing before journeying onward to Thailand or Vietnam. The rare one would, as George Morgan-Grenville of tour operator Red Savannah puts it, “occasionally make it to Phnom Penh to put themselves through the harrowing S21 Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields experience before retreating to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for a calming sundowner – the lack of infrastructure made further exploration fairly futile except for the most intrepid”.
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