By: Brad K.
In January, I was given the opportunity to travel to Phnom Penh Cambodia to assist the US Embassy staff upgrade security around the city for residential housing. The trip over to Cambodia was a long one. It took around 31 hours to get from Orlando to Phnom Penh. I arrived in Cambodia around 11:30 PM local time, which is 12 hours ahead of Melbourne. The hotel had a driver waiting for me at the airport to provide transportation to the hotel. The travel and check in was uneventful and super easy. My first impression of Phnom Penh was positive…a large city with a great population. Arriving at midnight, I didn’t really get a sense of the traffic I would later experience.
On Monday, the RSO picked me up at the hotel for transport to the Embassy. I found out it was only about 2 blocks from the hotel. They got me checked in through security at the Embassy, which would be commonplace throughout the week. My first interaction was with the Embassy facilities staff. I gave a basic introduction to the operation and common troubleshooting of the slide gate operators they would be using. The facilities staff is the group I would spend most of my time with during the week. Each session, we added a different group to focus on their interaction with the gates. I was able to meet with the Embassy First Response team to train them on basic operation and initial troubleshooting techniques. The other group I met with were the contractors responsible for the majority of installation including converting manual gates into slide gates plus the welding and concrete work. Each group had ample opportunities to ask questions as well as get hands on experience with the two sites previously installed. I was able to discuss operation, troubleshooting techniques, and advise them of installation design to make the gates as safe as possible. The people were really friendly, from the hotel staff to the Embassy staff even the people I encountered in the street.
In situations like this, my weakness is food. I love local cuisine and have never been timid in trying new things. I was immediately told that it would not be safe for me to eat just anything. I was given certain guidelines which I followed. I was able to eat local food at the Embassy cafeteria with the Cambodian staff. I generally liked the food although it wasn’t the best tasting food I’ve had. At night, I would travel by tuk tuk to a local restaurant in areas approved by the Embassy.
My favorite thing about my visit was seeing the culture from the back of the tuk tuk. As we zipped through the crazy traffic, I was able to observe the locals doing life as usual. There were thousands of scooters on the road with very few cars or trucks. I was amazed daily at what I saw on the street from a scooter full of live chickens to a family of 5 on one scooter. I saw the religious symbols and monuments throughout the city. The Cambodian people are primarily Hindu and Buddhist, and there were monuments everywhere. I was able to visit a temple, Wat Phnom, very close to the hotel. There were people actually worshiping while I was there touring the area. There were dome shaped monuments called stupas all around.
I was also able to visit the Russian market, the Royal Palace, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The Russian market was an open-air market that seemed to go on forever. Shop after shop, it was full of everything from t-shirts to tools and jewelry. The Genocide Museum was a great experience, but it was extremely heartbreaking. This museum explains the horrific reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. During their short reign, one quarter of the Cambodian population was killed. The Tuol Sleng Museum is at the site of the Tuol Sleng Prison. Formally a high school, this place was truly a real-life horror story for so many people. I was unable to hold back tears as I listened to my recorded tour guide and walked through the place. I was almost too late to tour the Royal Palace, but I made it through as they were getting ready to close up for the day. At the palace I saw great architecture, incredible culture, and manicured gardens. There were a group of Buddhist monks touring about the same time I was there, and it was cool to be with them touring the palace.
Overall this was a great trip and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and experience a faraway land. I am very grateful for the opportunity, and I was able to meet some amazing people. The RSO rolled out the red carpet for me, and it was great to work with the Embassy staff. If ever given a chance to visit Cambodia, take it; it’s a trip that will not disappoint!
FDC was awarded this opportunity as part of our GSA Contract.
FDC is a GSA preferred government contractor on GSA Schedule 84, Contract # GS-07F-0599X.