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Published: January 30th 2010
Skulls of the murdered
Choeug Ek - The killing fields
The weather is much cooler today unfortunately we were woken in the night by a large rat trying to chew a hole through the ceiling, it ran off but came back again a short time later so we changed rooms for the remainder of the night. After we showered and ate breakfast we packed up our belongings and waited for our Tuk Tuk driver who arrived at 7.30am. We said our farewells to Pete and Jones (Pete said that we were the first volunteers at the sanctuary to ever go visit the temples) and then headed south away from Phnom Penh to visit some temples.
The first stop would be Phnom Chisor built in the eleventh century, the trip to the temple was bumpy but the villages we travelled through were pretty the houses all built on stilts and the people were all very friendly smiling and waving as we went by. We stopped briefly at Mr Oh (our drivers) house along the way, where the village idiot wandered over to drool at us from his bicycle.
Soon we arrived at the base of Phnom Chisor and began the 412 step climb to the summit, a bit tiring in
the morning heat, to be greeted by a number of monks working at Prasat Preah Ko Preah Kaew. We then wandered around the top of the hill until we found the ancient Prasat Boram with its beautifully carved lintels, to the east were lovely views of the country side and at the foot of the hill could be seen the original ruined gates. The temple was fantastic and we both enjoyed walking around taking photographs of the carvings. I entered the central temple which had a roof damaged by a US bomb and was greeted by a carving of Shiva on the back of a pig and an old man (an achar) sold me a prayer and a handkerchief for $1. On our way back down the hill we ran into the gate keeper who was running late for work, he hit us for an entrance fee, we almost got away with not paying.
When we reached the Tuk Tuk it was 9.30am, we took a different route back to the main highway stopping at Prasat Neang Khmao on the way to visit a couple of ruined towers surrounded by a modern temple. We met some lovely children here
who were very keen to have their photographs taken, soon after we emerged back on the main highway. It wasn’t long till we passed the Free The Bears guesthouse on our way towards Phnom Penh.
It took an hour to get to Tonle Bati as the roads were often rough and the Tuk Tuk was quite slow, poor Ruth had a stomach problem and a sore back so the trip was tough on her. The temple here was wonderful Ta Prohm was built by the builders of Ankhor and was fantastically carved and beautifully maintained. Unfortunately there were touts here that insisted on following us everywhere we went, which always puts a dampener on things. Still the temple and gardens were memorable.
About thirty minutes later we arrived at Choeung Ek the Khmer Rouge death camp made famous by the movie "The Killing Fields". This is not our first visit to a death camp and the murders weren’t carried out with the same "precision" or on the same scale as the Nazi atrocities but still the central glass Pagoda holding the skulls of 9000 men, women and children is a testimony to Pol Pots viciousness. We walked the
grounds navigating amongst the mass graves passing the tree that they beat children to death against and visited the small museum; this place certainly had the sombre morbidness expected of such places.
Soon we were back at our hotel, we dropped off the bags and went to a restaurant nearby where I ordered a big breakfast it was sensational after a week of rice. After an afternoon kip I wandered out to get something to eat at Happy Herb Pizza where they actually do a hash pizza and was stopped many times and offered a variety of drugs including cocaine and heroin, the pizza was really good though.
Bloody hell that aerobic/dance class woke me again at 5am this morning, I could believe it I laid there cursing until it finished before going back to sleep about 6.30am before going for a pretty average buffet on the roof at 8am. A few hours later we grabbed a Tuk Tuk and headed for the Russian Markets which truly rocked we wandered through the maze of stalls purchasing knick knacks for an hour or two; we finally left with quite a few shopping bags.
After finding our driver we
returned to our hotel poor Ruth still has a sick stomach unfortunately and needed a rest. Later in the day we wandered the streets I bought a Lonely Planet for a few dollars for my next trip to South Africa, before stumbling on a Mexican Restaurant where we stopped for a late lunch before wandering through a few shops and having a drink at a riverside bar.
I noticed that there was a massage parlour across the street called Seeing Hands that employed blind masseurs, so we wandered over and had a massage each for about seven bucks an hour. It was great especially after the week of hard work at Phnom Tamao the sun had set by the time we exited the parlour so I grabbed some cold drinks and we headed back to our room to relax and watch some TV. At 8pm I headed back to the Pizza Bar running the gauntlet to grab another pizza and a piece of fudge cake. Tomorrow it’s on to Siem Reap.
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