Published: August 8th 2007April 29th 2007
After one of the best months of my life in Vietnam, it was time to go to Camodia (well the Visa had run out).
I was very apprehensive about Cambodia. It is much poorer than Vietnam. There is a greater amount of amputee's and landmine victims who have to beg to survive. The nightclubs frisk you to make sure you are carrying a piece!
But this place has captured my imagination. Yes the people are poor, but they all have a smile on their faces. They have suffered probably more than any other nation on the planet over the last 30 years or so.
In 1975 there were about 8million people living in Cambodia. In 1979, 44 months later, about 2 million had been executed at the hands of the Khymer Rouge and their "glorious" Republic of Kampuchea.
As a result over 40% of the population is below the age of 18. There is hardly anyone between the age of 30 and 50. 20,000 of them were tortured at S21, an old high school in Phnom Penh, before being driven to the village of Choeung Ek 15km south of the city and executed. You may know them as the Killing Fields. There were many around the country accounting for somewhere between 1million and 2 million men, women and children.
Both of these have ben turned into shrines to remember those who suffered and to prevent this kind of thing ever happening again. Last week a visit to the war museum in Saigon was one of th most harrowing of my life. It was nothing compared to this.
However the country is recovering, and Phnom Penh is a delightful city. We had some nice evenings on the bank of the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in SE Asia, and I even managed to sneek an all nighter at the Heart of Darkness night club. But all this is just to prepare us for the temples of Angkor....