Published: March 15th 2008March 4th 2008
When I was younger I was allowed to listen to what ever music I wanted, within reason, I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted, within reason, to voice an opinion, I did that anyway regardless of where and to whom I was saying it, I basically had creative, expressive freedom. Cambodia was a country that had many restrictions and so I didn’t think they would have any such creative Idols, but I was wrong, Cambodia had a massive heart throb singer songwriter ingenious genius who was all theirs and from Battambang itself. His name was SIN SISAMOTH, originally a medical student from Battambang City, this man was the first person to introduce western pop music into Cambodian ears around the early 1960's through to 1975. His songs were naturally about sorrow, gravity, the pains and pleasures of romance, desperation and social situations of the time, but with a certain kind of up beatness to them all. He wrote new verses in Khmer of western songs, Sanskrit and Pali language, such as 'The House of the Rising Sun' as 'I'm still waiting for you', sung in a very funky Khmer language but it is melodically slightly different to the original. He
was crowned king of Khmer music where young girls and older women drooled over him and all young and grown men wanted to be like him. He became a Battambang hero, the song "Champa Batdambang" won him musical acclaim across the country and soon the pop scene in Phnom Penh grew, he helped blend rock and roll, rhythm and blues, he was beyond his time. So it was sad to read that he was taken by the Khmer and taken to the killing fields and shot dead. It is rumoured he sang to everyone on the bus that took them to their fatal end. How very sad.
The only song I knew that related to Cambodia was the classic Holiday in Cambodia by Dead Kennedys
So you been to school for a year or two and you know you've seen it all, Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day slave for soldiers till you starve then your head is skewered on a stake”
I don’t believe I was meant to listen to this kind of music when I was a young teen. I view this as an education as since the age of 15 I have always wanted to come to Cambodia. Here I am.
A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” George Santayana
The Killing Cave is in Battambang at Phnom Sampeau is unfortunately the main tourist attraction, the road a is long and dusty one, all the trees, houses, markets and
people were covered in thick copper dust, a face mask is necessary to breath. It is best to go early morning or very late afternoon as the sun is painful. We walked up the steep hill and entered the site. I first met the monk pictured with the beaten face, the Khmer had broken every bone and beaten him within an inch of his life, but his spirit proved stronger. Let me tell you, when you stand next to him his energy is God like, he had the softest eyes and I instantly loved him. He looked after all the money donations to renovate the temple, the long road leading up to the caves, the big gold Buddha or the cave itself, he places your name on a plaque to say thank you.
The small temple was formally used to hold all the Battambang people including women, children and the elderly waiting to be killed. I sat inside and found myself in mediation, this was due to it being very hot to really move about that much, it was the first time I felt a wave of absolute peace, you would think I’d have felt the residual energies of
aggression, fear, anger, rage and death but I didn't, much spiritual cleansing had happened here since. But the short walk to the cave is where I felt anxious, my stomach started to churn, then you see where and how the people were killed, they were either bludgeoned to death or their throats were cut, finally being thrown down into a deep cave grave all on top of each other. Today their sculls are piled upon each other in a glass shrine, it’s eerie in there. Island was our tuk tuk driver and all his grandparents died here, hearing this from a real person is when this becomes real.
We arrived at EK PHNOM hungry and in need of food; we ordered chicken fried rice from a nice looking shack. After a few minutes I saw a featherless chicken swinging for its life from a young boy’s hand like a handbag. Its feathers were making their way to the floor beneath, the carcass destined for our dinner plate. I was soon distracted by a young girl reading English from the English Grammar book so I helped her out; she was thrilled by this, a real English person reading to her
in English. We got to the bit about 'is the car purple or blue, is the apple red or green?' Important stuff. I was practising my Khmer on her too with”Joom reeup soua, Sok sabai tay?, Bantop dtuk no ai na? Awkun”. (Hello, how are you? where is the bathroom? Thank you). I suddenly heard the most almighty squawking and flapping, the chicken part of the chicken fried rice order was being slaughtered right then. Lunch arrived one hour later, the meat was very brown and full of freshly pimpled looking plucked skin, God then sent me a very skinny starving hungry dog who slipped in by my knees, shielded by the plastic table cover and out of view from the chief, I felt a bit Judas but the dog was gratefully scoffing down the fresh meat, we continued to maintain a steady level of starving for the rest of the day.
The same small girl escorted me up the many steps to the top of this lovely 11th century temple. Her English was great and she didn't hassle me for money at all, I bought her a drink and we both sat and hung out together talking English
Mr. Sin Sisamoth
The Golden voice of Cambodia
phrases and laughing at pronunciations like we were both graduates from Oxford. I showed her the photos on my camera, she saw the monk with the broken face, who was now miles away in the opposite direction, and she shouted his name like he was her grandfather, so he must be much respected around here. When we left she stood clutching the empty green tea bottle of juice that id bought her 4 hours ago and waved goodbye until our tuk tuk was just a spot of dust in the distance.
NORI-The Bamboo Train
He who would find the deathless essence must not be dismayed by a few unadorned skulls. Human inadequacy becomes clear in the gloomy abode of miscellaneous bones.....Paramahanda Yogananda
This is like being in an original St. Trinians film, a bamboo train is the more novelty way of seeing some sights in Battambang like some cows and a bit of flat country land leading to know where special but more rurality. It is made from two sets of railway wheels, a mat, cushions, and a generator. The young Flash Harry steers this thing at 100 mph (it seemed like this when on board..see video for proof...!) along a flat line. When another Bamboo train approaches one of them stops suddenly, dismantles gets out of the way, the train passes, they get back
on the tracks, re-build the Bamboo Nori train again and carry on up the track. I'm not sure who has right of way especially when a real train comes along which they do.
There are more photos below