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Published: October 11th 2014
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by coach, 7 hours on a National Highway. Always a great way to see the country. Mostly rural, passing through the odd town, on a road that was in places concrete, but for significant stretches just earth, uneven at that. As we entered Phnom Pehn things didn't improve, just more vehicles/mopeds on the roads, so massively congested and polluted. It seems that people generally don't walk very far, so as soon as you outgrow sitting on the family moped, you get your own and that appears to be early teens.
Our hotel, the 252 (in road number 252) is an oasis of calm, lovely room with air conditioning, restaurant/bar area next to the outdoor pool. With temperatures in the thirties, what in some places are luxuries (air con and pool)here are essentials. As we have encountered throughout our stay in the country, the people are ever so helpful and friendly.
On leaving the hotel the first challenge is to run the gauntlet of the assembled Tuk Tuk drivers. It has to be a case of either a firm and persistent decline of help or a couple of minutes of agreeing a price, usually something
like half or more of what they first state. Fortunately the hotel has provided a list of "good" prices to many of the local tourist spots.
Our longest ride out was the 15km to The Killing Fields. In what had been originally a Chinese cemetery, in 1979 after the fall of Pol Pot returners to the city discovered the mass graves of thousands of people who had been designated as enemies of the regime and consequently killed. The place is now a memorial to those that died, not only in that place but also the other Killing Fields ( something like 300 altogether). The descriptions of the atrocities are presented very simply and starkly. If ever an example of the worst of human nature was needed this place would fit the bill.
To round off the experience we then headed back into the city to visit the Museum of Genocide. In 1974 a secondary school, in 1975 a prison which was used as the holding place and place of torture before victims were taken out to be executed. Of the thousands that went through there only 7 survived!
Phew, what an experience. It certainly makes you very
wary about the world in which we live. All of this was happening whilst the regime was represented at the United Nations, along side the US & UK, who will have known about what was going on.
Today has been a much simpler day. All Tuk Tuks have been declined. We have walked around the city, dodging traffic, negotiating sidewalks filled with stalls, rubbish or parked cars. The National Independence Monument, Royal Palace, National Museum make up most of the tourist set piece itinerary; job done and back by the pool to recover. Tonight we are going to the theatre to watch the battle between thunder and the Sun, as depicted in ancient Khymer folklore - lots if traditional dance and music.
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