Published: April 2nd 2010
March 21st 2010
Regulations for the prisoners
We left Ho Chi Minh on a bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For a capital city it is very quiet compared to the others we have visited in Asia. What's disturbing about this is that the reason behind the small population is the thousands that died during the Pol Pot era, which left the city about half the size of what it once was. Aside from the usual mass of temples, the main sights here are regarding this era, which made for a pretty depressing few days in Phnom Penh.
We started with the Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide), formerly a high school, it became the Khmer Rouge main torture and interrogation centre. Our guidebook says that of the estimated 20,000 prisoners that were taken there only 12 survived and that was only because they were deemed to have certain skills useful to the Khmer Rouge. It seems as though the government have made the decision to leave it almost as it was found because blood still remains on the floor of the cells, along with shackles and torture implements. As if all that wasn't harrowing enough, we then headed to "The Killing Fields". This is probably best known
for where the skulls of thousands of victims that were unearthed here are kept in a huge glass encasement. You can walk around the fields to view all the mass graves and although the bodies have been removed there are still bones that can be found around the site.
Following all this not very pleasant sightseeing we travelled North to Siem Reap. Everyone's only here for one thing and that's Angkor. There are so many ruins in this area that you can actually buy a 3 day ticket to see it all, one day was more than enough for us. We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day to take us to all the ones we wanted to see. Starting at 9am and ending gone 6pm, I would say that the overriding memory of this day is that we did not stop sweating for over 9 hours. It was boiling, so much so that when the driver dropped us at one of the sights we just hid around the corner in some shade until it was time to go again. However, Angkor was really incredible, I ended up taking over 200 pictures for your viewing pleasure! OK no not
really don't worry I haven't put them all up. Possibly the best thing was the trees that have grown through the ruins, actually even better was Daniel being photographed next to said trees by a 20 strong Chinese tour group, they were even more excited by the fact that he was sporting his Chairman Mao t-shirt.
After Cambodia we headed to Laos, the border crossing here doesn't seem to be a very official affair. They charge you a fee of their choosing just to get a stamp. Also, when finally my visa was ready I popped my head through the hole in the wall to find what seemed to be the whole (male) department waiting to give it to me and asking me if I was married, I quickly ran off. In Laos we stopped at the Mekong Islands, here we stayed in what we have ranked as the worst accomodation to date. A dilapidated beach hut with a very undesirable squatter toilet, which we shared with 5 lizards, various other insect species and a rat (I have to admit that we never actually saw the rat, this conclusion was drawn after Daniel did a thorough investigation on some
droppings he found near his toothbrush). Our porch thankfully was nice in comparison, with two hammocks overlooking the river, we spent a relaxing few days lounging about here and swimming in the river. We then took a sleeper bus to Laos' capital, Vientiane. We had assumed that the sleeper bus would be like all the others where your seat just reclines further than normal, however, it was in fact actual bunk beds in a bus. The bunk beds were clearly only big enough for one person but two are expected to sleep in it, it was such a tight squeeze that I can't imagine what you would do if you were in it with someone you didn't know.
Vientiane is a really nice city, very French with loads of nice cafes and wide leafy streets, a lot more laid back than most capitals. We went to the the main temple which according to our guidebook is a "must see", but after having visited so many temples in Asia I have to say it is getting very difficult to get excited about them anymore. So instead we decided to give ourselves a bit of a break (on top of the
9 month one we are already enjoying) and just wander round drinking and eating for four days, and very nice it was too.
There are more photos below