Cheers!Siem Reap - Phnom Pehn
Our first Angkor beer...
Jason & Kirstyn O
Caught a bus to the capital city, Phnom Pehn......a large bustling city still bearing scars of the war years with large rich houses amongst the poorer slums. The differences in class are very apparent here from the homeless beggars on the street to the rich people driving Mercedes and brand new Landcruisers (we also saw a Lamborrghini Diablo). It is also very busy here making it difficult to cross the road. There is only one road rule which seems to be strongly obeyed: Give way to Landcruisers!
Stayed our first night at the backpacker ghetto. A cluster of bars and run-down guesthouses situated on a 'lake'. Here you can buy any form of elicit drug you require from the many touts on the street...or just buy it from your guest house and book it up to your room! After spending so much time in beautiful small villages in Laos this proved a bit too much and we moved to the more touristy part of town on the river the next day.
Spent time in Phnom Pehn exploring the museum, Royal Palace (complete with a floor made entirely of silver and the biggest collection of gold we have seen)
A quick photo as we hadn't paid the $2 fee to take your camera in...
and took a trip out to the 'Killing Fields' and S-21 Prison. Had many beers and debriefing after visiting the two latter as they were very very confronting. The prison was one of many that were used during the Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot era from 1975-79 as a place where they took prisoners to torture them into confessing that they were either educated (and therefore a threat to the Khmer Rouge's greater plan) or a soldier for the previous government. If they did not die through the horrendous tortures they were then taken in trucks (about 200 prisoners a day) to the killing fields where they were either shot, decapitated (sometimes just with the barbed edge of a palm branch) or hung. This was one of several hundred prisons across the country...in all about 2 million innocent civilians were killed during the four years of occupation.
The decision to visit the Killing Fields was a difficult one to make as we knew it would be gruesome. We decided to go ahead as it is a story that needs to be told and felt by us. While we're glad we went, there are some things we saw there which will remain
Now which one is my electricity cable?
Wouldn't like to have to repair these lines....
vivid in our minds for ever. Bones lying everywhere on the ground, the huge monument erected in memory of 9000 victims which consists of a large glass tower filled with their skulls (most of which have massive fractures or gunshot wounds), clothes of the victims are still lying on the ground and the small dirt tracks you walk on with teeth emerging from the dirt. Have never been so overwhelmed and frustrated at human behaviour in our lives! Such carnage inflicted on a people by their own people.......makes us really question everything that is going on in the world at the moment (especially the role western countries play) and makes us feel genuinely grateful to have grown up in such peaceful surrounds.
The S-21 prison museum whilst not so confronting was also an emotional experience. For some bizarre reason the Khmer Rouge took photos and kept documentation of the tortures they inflicted on the prisoners and these are now on display. S-21 used to be a school before the Khmer Rouge took over and the lower classrooms are now full of boards with photos of victims. Some of them are Khmer and some are Khmer Rouge as towards the
Go moto....Jas and Andy (Kirst and Nicola where on the other moto)
end of their occupation they began killing their own soldiers. On the upper levels were makeshift cells or alternatively large open rooms (a former classroom) where around 50 prisoners were shackled to rails of wood on the floor. There were even the electric chairs they used for torture. Quite an eery experience.
We have seen people taking photos of these two sites but we could not fathom getting our camera out. These people died such an indignified death it would not seem right to expose and disrespect them further by photographing their remains. Thanks to Fay from Kirstyn for listening at the other end of the Skype phoneline when she needed a de-brief session afterwards!
Amongst all the devastation and destruction there does seem to be lots of re-building of lives and property going on. We dined several times at a restuarant run by the Friends organisation which houses orphans and trains teenagers in restaurant jobs as well as others. The children's hospital also runs a great program to get foreigners to donate blood complete with free t-shirt and can of coke! We are now sporting two very fresh new white t-shirts which makes a nice change from
Mekong river in Phnom Pehn
the old smelly clothes we have been wearing lately.
Our last night before heading south we decided to splurge out and went shopping for wine and cheese to have on the top floor balcony. It was great to sit back and polish off a couple of bottles of wine accompanied by some cheese and bickies (felt like we were back in Perth almost). Few late night drinks out on the town and we shared some food and got to know some of the many child touts.
Next we head off to the beach side tourist spot of Sihanoukville.
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