Cambodia


by Dr’s Prabhu and Savita,  TMA members Sydney

Cambodia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South East Asia; Airfare, accommodation and food are cheap – though you can splash out and spend up to $800 dollars a day in Raffles hotel. We started our 6-day visit in the capital, Phnom Penh with a local cycle rickshaw ride. Hundreds of cycle rickshaws take tourists around the city highlights; the markets, Royal Palace, and the old colonial French area (including the only post office where people have to collect their mail instead of having it delivered to their door.)

Our Palace visit started uneventfully enough, but as our guide walked us to the palace entrance to obtain an entry ticket, an elderly gentleman waiting in the ticket area suddenly collapsed, falling heavily on his face onto the concrete floor. We went to his aid. After his condition improved we learnt he was a holidaymaker from Adelaide travelling in a group – which at that moment was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, as he was feeling unwell, he decided to rest while the rest of the group were visiting the Palace. He told us he was diabetic, on medications, and had became unwell the previous night. The heavy fall resulted in a nasty laceration to his face and nose, plus a few missing front teeth.

When his group leader returned, we advised the tour guide that the gentleman needed to be escorted to hospital for medical attention: repair of the laceration and possibly a brain scan to ensure he had not suffered any head injury.

This event highlights the importance of obtaining Travel Insurance prior to departure, just in case of this type of un-foreseen circumstances. Furthermore it is most important that travellers have current Tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccination.

The Royal palace is architecturally well designed and covers a vast area with palace museum, official visiting place for dignitaries, royal residence and stupas. The French occupied Cambodia from 1853 to 1963. However, though the French ruled for well over for 100 years, the young Cambodians all speak English. Cambodians also have a notable preference for American dollars over local currency.

We visited the killing fields close to Phnom Penh, and the School museum. This is a very emotion charged and sad place, where thousands of people were tortured and killed during Pol Pot’s evil regime from 1975 to 1979.

There is monument erected in killing fields which contains thousands of skull and other skeletal remains unearthed in the area: very somber and moving. We had the good fortune to meet one of the killing field survivors, he has published a book, (worth reading)

On Day 3 we travelled from Phnom Penn to Siem Reap. On the way we stopped at a village commonly known spider village. The market sells baskets of cooked spiders, cockroaches, grass hoppers and frogs. These local delicacies were on sale next to cooked birds / sparrows, and an interesting selection of small marble size bird eggs. We were not inspired to taste this exotic fare however.

There is also a museum of land mines. It is a bit disturbing to learn there are still many unidentified land mines, and bombs are detected periodically by the locals.Close to Siem Reap are a series of floating villages on the river. Many houses are built on stilts to avoid being flooded by the river during the rainy season. Thousands of people live on make shift houseboats on the river. Fishing is one of the main industries, and Catfish is one of the most popular meals. The river water is very muddyWe also visited Silver city where detailed solid silver and copper based metal work is undertaken. Small family businesses scrape a living doing slow and meticulous handwork. Children start early and are involved with this type of workSiem Reap, is a fairly modern well-organized tourist city surrounded by splendid historical temples dating back 7th to 12th century. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are among the best known temples. April & May in Cambodia are really hot and humid months. Travellers need to take care to stay well hydrated, especially if visiting temples in Siem Reap area. You may be climbing many temple steps.

The region is littered with other ruined palaces and temples – inspired by the ancient Hindu culture. According to history, although initial kings embraced Indian culture and built the temples, later kings adopted Buddhism as their religion, and erected Buddha’s images in the temples along with Stupas

It is nice to see world heritage authorities and other countries helping Cambodia to restore the ruins of temples, and protect them for posterity.

Travellers visiting South East Asian countries will encounter a great deal of exotic food, but the consequence of tasting these foods should be kept in mind. Care should be taken when choosing food and drink. A medical kit with antibiotics is useful if ‘travellers trots’ should develop. Before departure, all travellers should have routine childhood vaccines up to date and be vaccinated against at least Typhoid and Hepatitis A. Some visitors may also be recommended vaccines to protect against disease such as Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. Ideally travellers should seek advice from their nearest TMA 6-8 weeks prior to travel.

This months newsletter was prepared by Drs Prabhu and Savita, TMA members in Sydney.Their specialised travel medicine clinic has been operating in Sydney central business district for 14 years, supplying travellers with all necessary information, vaccines, medical kits and other useful travel health supplies. They have both lived in India, Savita has lived in Africa and England. They can speak iHindi, Kannada and Gujarati. They migrated to Australia in 1972. This husband and wife team are holders of an International Society of Travel Medicine Certificate in Travel Health. They are enthusiastic and extensive travellers, with the knowledge and practical expertise to help Sydney travellers make the most of their trips. They consult at three clinics in Sydney CBD, Bella Vista and Seven Hills.For more information about their services, visit their clinic website – click here!

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