Friday, April 8, 2016

Cambodian Cemetery in Siem Reap

This cemetery, like most of my cemetery visits, was not a planned trip, but rather, a serendipitous happening. After my first visit to Angkor Wat, the tuktuk drove down a small road toward the town of Siem Reap, and I saw this place come into view on the right side of the street. The driver asked if I wanted to stop, and I said yes.

This cemetery belongs to a Buddhist temple that was also used as a killing field from 1975-1979. A collection of skulls and bones can be found in a glass stupa, a memorial to those who perished. Nearby, a small cemetery remains attached to the temple.

Following Buddhist tradition, people are cremated in Cambodia. The ashes are then placed in an urn and put in the stupa. From what I gather, the stupa height reflects the wealth or status of the deceased person. At this cemetery were colorful stupas of red, gold, white, and sky blue. There was also one Chinese grave amidst the Cambodian stupas.

This cemetery looked sorrowfully neglected. Garbage was  scattered around the grounds, so deep that it obstructed the paths and prevented me from walking through the entire cemetery. Many of the stupas were broken or desecrated. It looked as though a family of homeless people were living there for a while. I found a tarp that covered a pile of old pots and bed sheets and children’s clothing, but it looked as though the family had left long ago.

It was a sobering place.

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