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Published: April 10th 2015
Mui ne was cool. It's a beach resort, and I was sort of hoping it would be a quieter nha trang. Turns out you can't really access the beach; it's more of a fishing hub than a sand-and-parasols kind of place. In any event, the backpacker hotels had swimming pools and the weather was sunny and very hot.
I bumped into the guys again in mui ne. We and others from the main backpacker hotel flocked en masse to dragon beach bar in the evenings and danced and got drunk. A guy I got to know got punched in the face by a moto taxi driver.
I had an interesting second evening.
On my last full day I visited nearby sand dunes, which were quite impressive, albeit manifestly exploited.
From mui ne I made my way to Ho Chi Minh. I decided I needed some alone time so I split from the others. In Ho Chi Minh I visited the war remnants museum which contained exhibits pertaining to the Vietnam war. Memorable sections included the catastrophic long term effects of agent orange and shocking photographs of the death and destruction wreaked by the war.
couple of occasions I visited this rooftop bar which afforded a breathtaking view of Ho Chi Minh.
From Ho Chi Minh I made my way to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. On arrival the first thing that struck me was how oppressively hot the place was. This guy I had met in dalat, and then serendipitously on the coach, and I made our way to mad monkey hostel. We chatted to this cool London/Australian girl in our dorm and then in the evening under lonely planet's recommendation we went to this happy pizza restaurant. I slept when I got back.
The following day I visited the 'killing fields'. This is a genocidal site where scores of Cambodians had been mercilessly slaughtered under the Khmer Rouge regime, the aim of which was to create a 'pure' communist state with an economy based principally on rice production. The government regarded the peasants as the key to achieving its vision, and procured the peasant class through oppression and accorded privileges to execute its murderous policies. In particular, those in the towns and cities were systematically persecuted. Indeed, those with glasses were also targeted as they were perceived intelligent and therefore a threat.
Our driver ran out of petrol on the way to the sand dunes and ditched us without explanation
Under the regime, if one family member was killed, the rest of the family would normally also be executed in order to preclude the possibility of revenge against the regime in the future.
Descriptions provided by the audio guide were graphic and detailed. Perhaps the most appalling site was a tree against which babies' heads had been smashed as they were swung by their legs. As so many people had been buried here, bones literally protrude from the ground in front of you as you walk along the paths and there are signs asking you not to step on the bones. A memorial in the middle of the site contains thousands of victims' skulls - on display. One display contained victims' clothes. After the killing fields, we visited the prison where Cambodians had been detained before being murdered in the fields.
The experience was so fact-filled and overwhelmingly horrific that I could not register what my brain was processing on an emotional level. It almost defied belief and it was hard to imagine. And yet it did happen. 3 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime.
That evening we had a few drinks.
Ho Chi Minh
Penh I made my way to kompong Cham, a riverside town. Here I rented a bicycle and cycled across a bamboo bridge (which is in a constant state of reconstruction (they were building the bridge as I was riding on it)) to a nearby island. It was a relatively sizeable island and rural Cambodian life abounds here. I cycled around for the day in the sun and had pesto pasta.
Now I'm in Kratie. This is another riverside town. Currently weighing up whether to see some Dolphins or cycle around the island next door tomorrow. I'm probably going to opt for the Dolphins.
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