Colonial Clubs and Killing Fields

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

2nd May 2010


Another early start and a more direct bus journey had us arriving in Phnom Penh around midday.   The journey here was an uneventful one, Cambodia, unlike Laos, has towns rather than small villages, but the houses are all on a similar scale, shabby bamboo homes or fancy brick houses.  The roads are extremely straight and separating the towns are acres of farming, mostly rice fields.  We did drive through a small town built at the edge of a lake, this lake obviously breaks it banks in the wet season as all the houses were built on really large stilts with unbelievably long walkways to their front doors.

The Tuk Tuk frenzy wasn't as bad as Battambang but there was still a large welcoming party when we got to Phnom Penh.  We had already chosen which Guest House to head for, another recommendation from Grant, a busy place outside of town, 2 mins from the river.  We went for an Air Con room, TV, Hot Water (seems to be standard here) massive room with a big bed, the best room in the house we were told. 

We are back on the Mekong River; this is where the river Sap, an enormous lake in the middle of Cambodia, meets the Mekong River coming down through Laos.  We had a stroll along the river, which has been tastefully done with a large walkway, showing flags of the world all the way down.  We passed the Royal Palace and a number of small waterfront restaurants before heading back to our guest house for a hot shower before dinner.

The traffic is really busy, crossing the road is a nightmare, they keep to the basics like they drive on the right hand side, but to turn into a road, they drive into the flow of traffic until enough of the oncoming traffic stop, then make the turn.  It’s scary to watch, even scarier should you be in a Tuk Tuk and making the turn.

Another one of Grants recommendation was a visit to the FCC (Foreign Correspondent Club) we are thinking of hiring Grant to plan the rest of our trip. The FCC was a delightful place, it looked a little tatty from the outside but was a blast from the past on the inside.  The place was straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.  Large high back leather chairs, with such a colonial feel you just needed a few men sitting round reading newspapers and smoking pipes and you were back in the 1930’s.  We had a beer and soaked up the ambiance.

Choeung Ek, is better known as the Killing Fields, this is the camp where twenty thousand prisoners from S-21 detention centre were sent to be executed during Pol Pot’s regime.  It was a long ride from our Guest house to Choeung Ek and we knew it was going to be a hard thing to see.  This is their history and what makes it more unbelievable, it was only 30 years ago.  Pol Pot tortured and murdered intellectuals, doctors, teachers, anyone with an education that could challenge his reign and he didn’t stop there he took their families - wives, parents, children, siblings and killed them all.  Choeung Ek has a Memorial Charnel that houses 8000 skulls found in shallow graves.  You can walk round the fields out the back where the 129 mass graves have been left open after the bones have been removed, one grave had over 600 bodies in.  There are still large areas that haven’t been excavated.  We left dazed, it was so recent how could something like this happen in our life time?

We have about a week left in Cambodia and tomorrow we are going down to the coast for some sea and sun tanning.  We have booked our ticket for Sihanoukville.

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