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Published: January 20th 2018
As arranged, we met our driver 'Sock' at 0830 hrs for our day's sightseeing, we were all early! We started with a short trip to the train station to book our seats for Sunday's journey to Kampot. For once, at the price we expected, USD6 each. Then the more sobering stuff, a 20 minute drive to the former Suburban High School nicknamed S21- also known as the Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum that Pol Pot and the Angkor (Organization) turned into a horrific torture chamber. Somewhere between 12,000 and 22,000 innocent Cambodians were tortured and killed, infants and old. The drama of those times are well documented and anyone who does not know about these terrible deeds can easily Google the basic facts on line. We make no excuses for not taking photos this morning, to do so would have been both too disrespectful and harrowing to reproduce.
Two hours later we emerge solemn and a little bit guilty for having been children and teens of a far more affluent regime than theirs. We then take the last part of this journey to the Killing Fields, a rural area some 18 km from S21, south of PhNom Penh. This was to
Leo in Indy mode
be the final resting place of most of the detainees, unknown to the victims, of course. When local burial sites were already filled, this is where the tortured were taken. The executioners processed at first two or three truck loads of people per day, which rose towards the end to over 30 truckloads. Those poor souls were mostly taken to pits where they were bludgeoned to death with agricultural instruments, women and babies were treated equally. An audio guide led us around and included interviews with one or two survivors, very, very emotional. Anyway, enough said on this matter other than to comment that it was thanks to members of the Swedish Communist party and US pressure, that allowed The Khmer Rouge to still be recognized as the legitimate Government many years after the Vietnamese army had liberated the depleted population, and helped Pol Pot avoid public justice . This is a difficult day, but we knew we couldn't visit this Country without paying our respects and at least paying homage to the suffering of its people.
Understanding our mood, Sock had another destination in mind and an interesting hour's drive later we arrived at Tonle Bati (Tonle means
Paula holding up the walll
Lake). Few tourists get out to this area due to a non-existent public transport service. Bumping along rough tracks through a small village of local houses built on stilts, chickens and children everywhere, we park in front of an astonishing pair of ruins that were 12th century temples, Ta Prohn and Yeay Peau. Not quite Tomb Raider but nevertheless spectacular. Brushing away a couple of beggars we explore happily before Sock drives a couple of kilometers further to the shores of the lake. It was serene, hardly a human being there, bliss. Just us and a whole strip of crude wooden beach huts ( nothing like a Brighton). Apparently, it is a very popular weekend picnic site where locals come to chill out. The place is packed and food vendors,musicians and fortune tellers peddle their wares.
So, on our journey home we learn useful things - like scooter and 2-wheeled vehicle drivers have no age restrictions and no license required by law, hence we see 10yr olds at the handlebars. There are 'driving' and 'driving' skills, and Cyprus can by no means claim to be a good example, however, we have never seen anything like the style here. There
are no lines or lanes, very few traffic lights and even fewer roundabouts. Simply aim and go! If anything bigger comes along, then give way, other than that just carry on regardless. For overtaking, just honk on your horn and hope for the best. We were not surprised to learn that our driver has just begun to take blood pressure medication. returning we were surprised by the huge number of large Factories relocating to rural Cambodia, mostly Chinese investment and management and local labour, more used to tend the paddy fields and farms, rather than mastering the art of over-locking! Not sure this is progress. Also of note, the U.K. has one of the smallest and diminutive Embassies. Most other major economies are far better represented.
We end our day after refreshing with an uninspiring meal next door to our hotel, and take an early night, reflecting on all that we had witnessed today.
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