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    Beyond the Temples

                                                                                                 By Wayne Hansen
   1934 to uncover, preserve and restore the site. This was inter-  Beaches of Cambodia
   rupted by Japanese occupation during World War II, contin-  While Siem Reap, for many, is the entry point into Cambodia
   ued until 1970 and then stalled again by war. Coordinated ef-  to visit the temples there is much more to discover and ex-
   forts resumed in the 1990s, when it received a UNESCO World   plore in Cambodia. Visit the coast and dine at the crab shacks
   Heritage Site designation.                              along Cambodia’s premier beach town. Cambodia’s beaches
                                                           are often neglected in favor of Thailand’s. But slowly, surely,
   This small country with a population of about 15 million is no   the country’s idyllic islands and shining white sands are be-
   stranger to strife, foreign domination and occupation, war and   coming known to the world’s beach lovers. Sihanoukville, for-
   the atrocities that accompany it. Cambodia’s people must be   merly Kompong Som is a seaside town featuring Cambodia’s
   some of the most resilient on the earth. Having experienced   best-known beaches. ‘Beach town’, ‘port community’, ‘fledg-
   tortuous war years, poverty and horror, they still are courteous,   ling resort destination’ - all describe Sihanoukville. It’s white
   friendly and welcoming. You will love the constant array of   sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with
   smiling gentle faces that greet you everywhere you visit.   a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropi-
                                                           cal getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach,
   I don’t know what it is here in Cambodia, but I suppose the his-  enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling
   tory has something to do with it. All Cambodians have grown   or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out.
   up hearing the horror stories from the Khmer Rouge genocide   Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambo-
   and forced slavery. And those who are older lived through it.  dian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the
                                                           town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most
   Given that context, times are probably relatively good, though   Cambodian provincial cities.
   by comparison to other places it’s not so good. But when you
   live through a genocide, life is kind of like a miracle. And  Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommo-
   maybe the people here live each day like it’s a miracle.  dations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach,
                                                           several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few
   I suppose when every day is a miracle, you see things you  ‘upscale’ three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses,
   wouldn’t otherwise see – things that make you smile.    especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill).

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