Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire was a state of Southeast Asia that lasted from about AD 802 to 1431. It enjoyed its greatest prosperity from the 11th to the 13th century. The Khmer Empire ruled much of what is now Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Khmer Empire was founded by Jayavarman II in 802. He united the smaller kingdoms of the region and declared himself a god-king. The Khmer Empire was a powerful force in Southeast Asia for centuries. It built a vast network of roads and canals, and its capital city, Angkor, was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the world.

The Khmer Empire was a major center of Hindu and Buddhist culture. Its temples, such as Angkor Wat, are some of the most impressive and beautiful in the world. The Khmer Empire also made significant contributions to art, literature, and architecture.

Intro to Khmer Culture

There is so much natural beauty in Cambodia. My first experience with Cambodia was a brief border crossing from Thailand. I stamped my passport and received an extension on my stay in Thailand. The second time, I decided to stay longer and visited Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, where I fell in love with the country. Since then, I have learned so much about the Khmer Empire, the Cambodian genocide by Pol Pot, the history of Angkor Wat, and Khmer culture and customs.

I booked ATV tours in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, which are a great way to see the country's rice fields and villages. In Sihanoukville, I booked an enduro motorcycle trip, which was scary but fun!

Siem(ese) Reap the second-largest city of Cambodia

After spending some time in Southeast Asia, I began to understand the language a little better. I noticed that the word "Siem" sounds a lot like "Siam," which is the former name of Thailand. I decided to Google it, and sure enough, I found that "Siem Reap" can be translated to mean "defeat of Siam."

Siem Reap is a great place to visit. The ancient temples of Angkor Wat are alone worth the trip. But the food, culture, and villages are also worth exploring. The local people are friendly and welcoming.

I highly recommend visiting Siem Reap if you have the opportunity. It is a fascinating place with a rich history and culture.

Ankor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

The word "wat" is a Thai word that was borrowed from the Sanskrit word "vāṭa," which means "enclosure." In Cambodia, a wat is any place of worship. However, in Thailand, a wat is specifically a Buddhist temple.

If you are interested in seeing more photos of Angkor Wat, I recommend checking out the Google Maps feature called "Temples of Angkor." This feature provides a 360-degree view of the temples, so you can explore them as if you were there in person.

Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre

The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a great place to learn about butterflies and their life cycle. It's located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and is home to over 30 species of butterflies. The center has a netted tropical garden where the butterflies can fly freely, as well as a breeding room where you can see the process of butterflies from eggs to caterpillars to cocoons to butterflies.

Phnom Penh Capital of Cambodia

1.5 to 2 million people from 1975 to 1979, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's 1975 population died as a result of Pol Pot's genocide where the country basically was killing itself. As a result, the country has very stunted growth, a lack of roads and infrastructure, and today a massive younger generation that outnumbers the old. 

The black-and-white photo above shows the people of Phnom Penh cheering as Pol Pot's army rolls into town. They are happy and hopeful, believing that Pol Pot will bring them a better life. However, they do not know what is about to happen to them. This should be a lesson for all people who live in countries where governments have too much power. It is important to be vigilant and to hold our governments accountable. We must never take our freedom for granted.

S-21, Tuol Sleng

The most notorious of the 189 known interrogation centers in Cambodia was S-21, housed in a former school and now called Tuol Sleng for the hill on which it stands. Between 14,000 and 17,000 prisoners were detained there, often in primitive brick cells built in former classrooms. Only 12 prisoners are believed to have survived. 

Let's do the math:
14,000 or 17,000 humans detained
= 12 humans survived 😮

S-21 was a prison that was surrounded by electrified fencing. The fencing was there to keep prisoners from escaping, and it was a terrifying sight. The prisoners were trapped inside, and they knew that if they tried to escape, they would beElectricuted!

Electric Fence!

Electric Fence!

Electric Fence!

Rest in Peace to the Innocent

I was deeply conflicted while touring Phnom Penh and visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. On the one hand, I found the experience to be incredibly educational and informative. I learned a great deal about the Khmer Rouge regime and the atrocities they committed. On the other hand, I found the experience to be extremely upsetting and emotionally draining. Standing at the tree where Khmer Rouge soldiers would take babies and smash them into trees before tossing them into pits was a truly horrific experience. Seeing the skeletal remains of innocent people was also deeply disturbing. I can't imagine being a Cambodian back then and dying this way. 


United Nations of Enduro

The group of riders I joined on the bike tour was a veritable United Nations of Enduro, with each rider hailing from a different country. I would have taken more photos and videos, but I was too busy trying to keep up and picking up my bike 13 or 14 times. It was the craziest ride I've ever experienced, with us riding through soft sand and overgrown jungles, down 5-10 foot drops, rocky mountainsides, and across rivers with our bikes in tiny boats. It was scary, but it was also an incredible amount of fun.

I learned a lot about myself and about the other riders on that trip. I learned that I am capable of more than I thought I was, and that I can overcome challenges when I put my mind to them. I also learned that there are people from all over the world who share my passion for riding and traveling and that we can come together to have a great time and push each other to be better riders.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the United Nations of Enduro, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves to ride dirt bikes. It is an unforgettable experience that will challenge you both physically and mentally.