Published: March 8th 2011March 8th 2011
Catch up before I leave for Saigon
I was going to get an early night last night, but Yuki was going to check out the club scene with two guys from our guest house, so I thought it fitting that I go along too. We hopped onto the back of their scooters and drove for about 30 seconds to the first one (why didn't we walk?) I wondered how our two drivers would get it as I thought they were about 13 and 15 respectively. Turns out they were 24 and 27!!
When we got inside the clientele (sp) was unmistakable - fellow western travellers, middle-aged white men and (according to my guide), all the Khmer girls there were working - not a single one was just there for the clubbing! Which is why they can never go to clubs to meet girls, unless they want to play. I think I can say the majority of girls in English clubs aren't working, but here it seems the majority are. We went to the other club (apparantly there are only 2 in central Phnom Penh - all of them filled with the limited demographic aforementioned) to find the same pattern.
Beers were $2, which is phenomonomally (sp - I'm tired) expensive (you normally pay 50 cents, named after the hipity hop man), so a certain level of splahing out was required. After I hopped on the back of a scooter helmetless to be whisked through the ruleless PP traffic back to the hostel where I woke up with the first hangover of my travels so far...
Today I went to S-21 and the killing fields - both testament to the bloody regime of the Khmer Rouge. It's pretty chilling as they have preserved the converted school in it's execution facility guise - photos of the victims discovered in the interrogation chambers are on the wall to allow you to imagine their position on the beds. It really looked like something out of a horror movie, but it was the real deal.
What struck me about both S-21 and the killing fields were the size - they were both tiny (although the killing fields nevertheless managed to cram something like 180 mass graves into a tiny area). The skulls of the victims were in a display tower - it was huge and gave a scale of the shit that went down here.
But the stragest element of this is the way the Cambodians are using this history for profit, and the reactions of the westerners. I make an observation, not a judgement, but after seeing a bunch of german tourists pose smiling together around a tree which was used to strike babies to death on (Pol Pot didn't want anyone growing up with a grudge against him), then going to the shop where I was encouraged to buy "souvenirs" including books and DVDs on this bloody episode, I was left with a very confusing feeling. Which was sadder?
It is, of course, hard to relate - the photographs and rooms are meaningless unless you invest some imagination into it, and even then it's only horrific in the sense of seeing a violent movie is horrific - unless you were there, I don't think you can understand (or maybe a symptom of being raised [by my brothers, not my parents] on violent movies).
See you in Saigon