Published: May 27th 2012May 27th 2012
Something about this country and the people touched my heart, not just because of all they've been through but because of who they are today. They are such lovely people, and the children are utterly adorable. A lot of them are sadly on the street begging though, or trying to sell books or bracelets. We were told giving them money would only keep them on the streets so I bought a couple of them an icecream instead. The youngest was so cheerful and cheeky, he jumped on the back of our tuk tuk as we drove away giggling before jumping off.
I read somewhere that after visiting the killing fields you would never look at the world in the same way again, and found this to be true. How can you see the world the same way after experiencing a place of such tragedy? It really was awful. On arrival you are given an audio guide which gives you a step by step account of the attrocities that took place there. First you are shown the spot where the van dropped them before they were signed in, many signed their own death warrant on arrival, totally unaware of what was going on. Basically it all happened because of the Khmer Rouge Regime which went on till 1979. After the civil war Pol Pot had everyone who was associated with the former government arrested, and also wanted to wipe out everyone who was educated. He was like Hitler in that he wanted to create a new nation, one he could brain wash. One of his sayings was something along the lines of It is far better to kill an innocent than to spare a criminal.' It is evident that he spared no-one. We witnessed mass graves, and were informed that over 2 million people across Cambodia died during that time. They were slaughtered as if life had no meaning.
The audio allowed us to listen to real accounts of what five Cambodians had experienced. What we heard was heartbreaking. One man witnessed a woman being beaten to death just for eating a bannana. The guard accused her of stealing it, but she told him she was given it by another guard whilst working. He did not believe her and beat her to death. The witness said he had felt so sorry for that woman but that there was nothing he could do, and it had stayed with him since. Another account comes from a woman describing how she was thrown on to a field and raped by 5 men as if she was an animal. She then had to fled her village because of the shame it had brought upon her. Other accounts included a woman who had lost her young baby, and a man who had witnessed his cousin killed before him.
The most haunting part of the field was a tree that has childrens braceletes hanging from it. It was named 'the killing tree' because babies heads were smashed against it in order to save precious bullets. They wanted to wipe out all children so that none of them would come back for revenge later in life. I just could not comprehend how anyone could be so evil as to take childrens lives in such a brutal manner.
Apparently every time it rains more and more bones and rags come to the surface, they are stored for all to see in glass boxes. Seeing the bones and teeth brought home even more what had happened here. At the end of the tour you come to a memorial which has 13 layers of skulls within it, most cracked because of the beatings they had received.
On leaving the killing fields one of the workers asked Claire what she had thought of it whilst I was buying a drink. He went on to tell her that he had lost his father, mother and uncle. So many people were, and still are affected by what happened. I just hope nothing this evil happens ever again.
Afterwards we went to S21which is the prison were many were kept and tortured for information. This again was heartbreaking. The cells still have the beds in which many perished, with instruments of torture laid upon them. Other rooms include hundreds of black and white photos of all the Cambodians that had been brought into the prison, each photographed on arrival. All but 7 died in that prison, the only ones to survive had some kind of skill such as photography that they were used for. The faces in the pictures stare at you like ghosts. It is very eery and unsettling, especially as some were innocent children who didn't even get a chance in life.
Apart from visiting the Royal Palace we used the rest of our time in Phnom Penh to relax as Claire wanted some chill out time before she started work again on Monday. We found a nice hotel with a pool, and went to the riverside one evening for a yummy Cambodian dinner, followed by icecream in an American style restaurant! And of course we went drinking too.. we started at Top Bannana which is a backpacker bar and went on to Pontoon nightclub a couple of nights too. It was mainly full of Cambodians but there were some Westerners dancing away too. Unfortunately you witness a lot of older Western men with young Cambodian girls which is pretty gross.
One night we went to Pontoon with an Aussie girl who was extremely amusing to say the least, she was a complete and utter nutter, and had us in hysterics most the night! She was even raving in the tuk tuk, changing the words of Keishas 'tik tok' to 'tuk tuk' whilst blaring the song out on her iphone. Later on her antics became very undignified but that's a story for another day! And on our last night we came across our Canadian friends again which was fun.
I almost stayed in Cambodia as I loved it so much. I am desperate to see Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, and the beaches too are apparently beautiful too and almost untouched. But I will make sure I come back :)