Published: May 21st 2012May 21st 2012
Memorial at the Killing Fields
Does anybody remember that song? The one that the title refers to? A song from the Dead Kennedy's, but this was in the time of the Khmer Rouge, so it was a bit cynical to say the least. Anyway, just constantly have to think about this song as I travel around Cambodia.
Now what about this holiday in Cambodia? First I managed to cross at the most corrupt of corrupt border crossings, not that I knew it at the time. I hadn't read up closely enough on border crossings, and only after somebody told me that what I had paid was thirty percent more than I should have paid, did I find out that I had been scammed.
For a seasoned traveller I sure seem to make some stupid mistakes. Actually I blame the Lonely Planet, yes they mention it, but not on the obvious page, which is the page where they tell about this specific border crossing. And that is the page I looked at, where they only mention that the price is this and this much, not that that is actually a different price from all the other borders. So, I looked at the price in the
One of the mass-grave sites
book and it was the same as at the border, so I thought it was alright. Then I come to Phnom Penh and I get told by some guy that this border is corrupt. Naturally I re-read the information, nothing there. Than I go to the Cambodia section, to the directory, and then to the visa part and there it is mentioned!
So that was the start of my Cambodia trip. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, if that guy had never mentioned it, I would never have known. Now I know and I am pissed off. But on to a happier subject. Ok, that was a lie, because in Phnom Penh some of the sights are certainly not of the happy, happy variety. More like the horrible and depressing kind actually. I am of course talking about the 'Killing Fields' which is one of many Khmer Rouge massacre sights. This one just outside the city, so easily accessible. About 20.000 Cambodians were killed here, ranging from babies to the elderly and everything inbetween. Not only were they killed here, they were often bludgeoned to death in the most horrific ways. This in order to save bullets. I won't go into
Bones sometimes are still unearthed during heavy rains
any details, but suffice to say, it is a very sobering experience. It is very well done, with an audio tour. I don't think I saw anybody leave who wasn't somehow touched by it. Some people were crying, others just sat silently on a bench taking in what was being told on their headsets. To augment this already highly depressing experience I then decided to go to Tuol Sleng, which was a Khmer Rouge torture centre, the one where most of those killed at the 'Killing Fields' spent part of their time before being escorted away and killed. It wasn't as well done as the 'Killing Fields' with a lack of English captions, but the photos of the victims were extremely impressive, especially the faces of babies staring back at you. Their crime? Born to the wrong people.
When you walk around those places it makes you think. And the thoughts mostly dwell on the fact that we don't seem to learn of our mistakes. I have concluded that up until now some sort of genocide happens somewhere in this world about every 10 years. And not all of them are remembered. Here the victims are remembered, memorials are
Sandals and more human remains
erected, tribunals have been set up and so forth, but there are more places out there, some obscure, which have faced similar experiences which nobody knows about. Anybody heard about Equatorial Guinea? From around 1970 to 1979 its dictator, a man who went by the name of Francisco Macías Nguema, killed around a third of his population, a similar percentage as in Cambodia, but since the population was only 300.000 the figures are of course lower. Nevertheless, I think very few people know about this genocide. So, here it is. You know! Remember them, because nobody else does. This man did get his just due, he was overthrown, and killed, though truth be told he was overthrown by his own cousin, who is the current dictator. And there are more of such places I am sure, where the victims and the crimes have simply been forgotten. Perhaps there should be some memorial for all the forgotten victims of genocide, or a day of remembrance for those who have slipped through the cracks of our sieve like memories.
Well, now I shall truly move on to happier times and circumstances. To dolphins as a matter of fact, and what better
Pieces of clothes and other remains
than dolphins to put a smile on peoples faces. These dolphins are in fact "Flipper's" fresh water cousins, and they live in the Mekong River and are highly endangered. There are a few spots you can see them, in Cambodia the best place for this is Kratie, north of Phnom Penh. And so I went to Kratie and I came and I saw. They are bloody hard to take a picture off though, so don't blame me if you find my photos of the little critters lacking in quality. I did my best!
A more unusual and surprising source of entertainment in Kratie was what seemed to be the local pass-time. At night as the lights go on everybody goes out and catches crickets! Yes, you read it right: crickets! They run after them and put them in bottles, for eating later on. And what a fun they have as they are catching these buggers. Laughter and banter and rivalry! Who can catch the most of them, and that sort of stuff. And what do they taste like? Well, I found fried cricket rather bland. It needed some sort of dip sauce, maybe a good chili sauce, or perhaps
The tree where babies were smashed against
smother them in garlic. As what the crickets though of all this? Probably they would classify the catching, killing and eating of their brethren as genocide as well. The world is cruel indeed.
As Cambodia at this time of year is excruciatingly hot, I decided to cool down a bit by going to Ban Lung after having my fill of dolphins and crickets. Ban Lung is situated in the north-east of the country, in the hills. It wasn't much cooler, but there were some waterfalls and an old crater lake that brought the necessary refreshment. Only for as long as you are in the water though, as soon as you are out and need to get back to your guesthouse the heat attacks you again with a vengeance! Especially when like me, you cycled out there and the ride back is all uphill. Phew, talk about being drenched in sweat. I feel sorry for the guy sleeping in my room, oh no wait, that would be me. I feel sorry for myself.
And now, I am actually in Siem Reap, but that is for my next blog. All I can say for the moment is that some thieving
At the base of the tree
bastard stole my flip-flops!!! You can take away my freedom, you can take away my dignity, put keep off my flip-flops!
There are more photos below