Published: January 4th 2008October 17th 2007
Still heading upstream along the Mekong river, we arrived in Cambodia without any real problem. They issued us a visa at the border and we then boarded another boat to take us further into Cambodia.
It was a long journey, longer given the boat kept on breaking down. Eventually we arrived at a small town where we took a bus the last distance to Phnom Penh, the capital.
Neither of us felt particularly safe in Phnom Penh so we decided not to stay long, only one night. So in the morning we headed to the 'Killing Fields' one of the camps used by the Khymer Rouge in their campaign of terror against their own people.
I was quite surprised that we had never heard of the Khymer Rouge and the awful events that occurred in Cambodia until we started planning our trip. For such a terrible occurance and within my lifetime I could not believe that I had never seen anything on TV, in print or taught in school (what do they teach kids these days?).
Basically from 1976 to 1979, Pol Pot, the leader of the ruling party of Cambodia, waged a campaign of terror against
Curious locals along the Mekong
Watching as the captain tries to fix our boat
his own people. He separated men and women, forced people into the countryside and killed anyone who could be an intellectual (This included people who spoke more than one language or even wore glasses). Anyone who opposed him was killed and their family was killed. And as millions died no other country did anything. Vietnam eventually invaded when Cambodia started raids over the border. But despite the millions of people killed by Pol Pot and his Khymer Rouge, he was then supported by the west in his guerrila war simply because he fought the Vietnamese (and communism).
Politics aside, walking through one of his death camps was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Unlike the organised and structured murders done by the Nazis, this place had a raw brutality to it. Thousands of exhumed skulls stared at us from the monument in which they had been placed. Even though so many bodies had been exhumed, many more hadn't and as we walked the grounds, we could see bones sticking out from the dirt path beneath us, and rotting clothing as well. Only the day before beautiful children waved at us from the riverside, and it was
Broken skulls in the killing fields
Most with the killing blow to the skull clearly visible
heartbreaking to think that so many children like them met their end here.
So after that horrible (but eye opening experience) we boarded a bus and headed off to Siem Reap where we could explore the temples of Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap was quite a surprise to us, it was filled with western eateries and more westerners than we had seen for months. We were truly back on the main tourist trail. In Siem Reap I promptly got very sick and instead of a few days exploring the temples I ended up having five days in bed and one day in the temples. So it was not exactly as we planned, instead of exploring some of the most amazing ruins in the world, I was in bed with the Ian Bothams (100 runs before lunch). Still Siem Reap was an aggreeable enough place to be sick, as it is a nice enough town for lynda to explore alone while I was bedridden.
When we eventually got to the temples we made a long day of it, and it was fantastic. So many amazing sites, especially the smaller not so visited temples such as Preah Khan and Ta
Prohm. We had a fantastic day creeping around ruined rooms and hallways, some of which were slowly being swallowed by the thick jungle.
Still, Thailand was calling us, we had to move on, so we took a 12 hour long bus journey to Bangkok over something that was called a road, but really was just a long smear of mud.
There are more photos below