Siem Reap is a one of the most bike friendly places I’ve been to and that’s what made me like this place even more. You can go from point A to point B without stepping on a gas pedal or hailing a cab. And like what they always say, “Do as the Romans do” so I made sure to rent a bike immediately after settling in my guest house.
I cycled my way around most of the time in Cambodia’s vibrant town. I tried out the long stretch of the highway and also explored the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom the next day.
One more place was still unchecked in my itinerary and it was the popular Cambodia Land Mine Museum. I pulled up my navigation app and found out that it was around 35 kilometers from where I was staying. With my hydration bag and a poncho wrapped around the seat post, I started the ride along highway 67.
It could have been a quicker route from Angkor’s temple complex but I didn’t have a ticket anymore. I took my chances on alternate passages but guards were not allowing me to gain access any longer. This made me get back to the main highway which was the longest route to my destination.
What I like about Siem Reap’s spacious roads is that it doesn’t have too many cars. It also reminds me of our very own Daang Hari minus the sloping ascents. Siem Reap’s highways are so flat that you don’t have to struggle with the pedal in spite the long distance.
Passing by rural areas and seeing the livelihood of locals in another country made my trip more interesting. It was quite an experience that I almost forgot the scorching noon time heat and occasional smog from trucks.
And finally, after pedaling in the middle of the afternoon, I have reached the Cambodia Land Mine museum.
The Cambodia Land Mine Museum houses various kinds of mines and bombs. Some may think that it is just another war museum, but what made me intrigued about this place is that the contents are actual remnants of war that ravaged Cambodia for years.
These real instruments of death were unearthed from several parts of the country and the live ones were dug out using only a stick and a pair of pliers…
… By this guy.
Aki Ra was a former Khmer Rouge soldier who founded the Cambodia Landmine Museum and an orphanage where some kids were victims of landmines. As a child, he was raised by the communist group and planted 5,000 landmines a month under the wing of the notorious regime.
For the last two decades, he continued scouring Cambodia’s dense locations to disarm the country of these threats. Armed with only a stick, pliers, and occasionally a wrench, he used to poke the ground for live mines and then carefully remove the detonator in the process, which in modern standards is pretty hardcore.
Today, he wears a suit and uses advanced tools funded by NGOs who supports his humanitarian work. He was even chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 and also got several awards under his belt.
The place is simple yet interesting. The walkway at the front was lined up with rusted bombs that were dropped by foreign aircraft during the war.
There wasn’t any guide except for the staff in front who handed me an audio device. It was a peaceful and quiet day inside the museum and there weren’t much people.
I recommend taking the audio tour since it’s for free. It also adds a dramatic feel to the whole experience and the narrator informs you of the details as you enter each sections of the museum. What got me was the testimonies of victims and how their lives changed because of the war.
In the middle of the museum is a gazebo with thousands of mines, each one was carefully disarmed and unearthed by Aki Ra himself! Imagine the days spent poking and pulling these devices which may explode without warning.
The mines vary depending on the country of origin and years it were made. It may also be an anti-personnel or an anti-tank device. Contrary to what the movies show, these bad boys don’t go ticking before it sets off. It just explodes abruptly upon initial contact, a problem Cambodia is still facing until today.
The museum also has a fenced area where it shows how difficult it is to spot a landmine.
The Landmine museum makes you sad and at the same time feel hope for the victims of this horrific ordeal. Cambodia is still waking up from a recent nightmare that most of the people from other countries were still not aware of. I will write about it in my next post when I traveled to Phnom Penh.
Imagine living in the far reaches of Cambodia in the absence of medical help and the convenience of urban life. living in these fields is like a game of Russian Roulette.
There are still thousands out there waiting to be detonated by Aki Ra’s team. Some of it is still possible to be stepped on by playing children or an unwary farmer. It’s just a matter of time. It may take 50 or more years to clear out the whole country of these terrible remnants.
Cambodia is a very intriguing country. Their breathtaking temples and tragic past will make you want to reopen the history books and delve deeper. My stay here may not be long enough to explore more of its beautiful attractions, but this Kingdom that is smack-dab in the middle of the Indochina region is one place that is worth going back to.
Reflecting on the tragedies and triumphs of Cambodia during its past, I got back on my saddle for another 35 kilometer ride back to the town to get a well-deserved beer in Pub Street.
- Entrance fee: $5 (Free entrance for children under 10 years old)
- Bike Rental: $4
- Tuktuk from Siem Reap (About 30 mins from Angkor Wat): $15
- Opening Hours: 7:30am – 5:30pm
- Location: Highway 67, about 35 kilometers north of the town proper.
- Website: http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org/