Frontier town

Trip Start Jan 03, 2010
Trip End Apr 03, 2010

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Friday, February 19, 2010

Cambodia is riddled with corruption, in particular the modern wild-west town that is Phnom Penh. Just getting into Cambodia requires an additional (illegitimate) $2 at the border crossing with Laos – one for the medical officer and one for the immigration officer; given they were armed I didn't really want to bring them up on the small matter of casual fraud. 

Phnom Penh is best described as a city partaking in a system of total unorganised chaos.  Filthy litter strewn streets, hawking tuk-tuks and motorcycles, massage parlours and ladyboys , Land Cruisers and Khmer yuppies (with a wilful disdain for all), guncrime and metal detectors, the absolutely rich and the absolute poor.   Yet it all makes for an incredible experience for an outsider like me – this is very much a city that never stops running, let alone sleeps.

The devastating insanity of recent Cambodia history is clearly evident on the streets here – I lost count of the number of amputees I had seen, almost certainly victims of the Khmer Rouge.  Visiting the Genocide Museum in Tuol Sleng was pretty stark – an old school used by the Khmer Rouge to torture fellow Cambodians deemed unsuitable for Pol Pot’s vision of an agrarian Cambodia.  Various photos left little to the imagination as to the horrible fate these inmates must have endured.

Following torture to extract any allegations the interrogators sought, inmates would be sent to Choeung Ek, otherwise known as the 'Killing fields’.   A memorial set up in a glass structure contains all the skulls of bodies exhumed so far, some 9000 in total; men, women, children, and babies.   The Khmer Rouge perversely asserted that all family members would be dealt with to prevent revenge attacks in the future.

Moving onto lighter matter,

The nightlife in Phnom Penh is, for want of a better word, energetic.   The Riverside has a nice promenade to walk along with numerous bars, clubs and restaurants frequented by tourists and (wealthy) locals alike.  My particular favourite was the prostitute free Riverside Bar and Lounge.  Finding a bar without any working girls is quite an achievement in this city, believe me.

I tried an AK47 and K52 bolt gun at a firing range – I don’t think I’m quite military standard as I hit the target (for the avoidance of doubt, a sheet of paper) a grand total of once!  What’s even better is that this wasn’t some dodgy underground shooting gallery; this was done at an army camp with full instruction by a trained officer.  Unfortunately the officer didn’t know how to use my camera properly, but I wasn’t going to complain.

I decided to go for a shave and haircut as I was starting to resemble an unkempt yeti; I think I was still under the influence of alcohol that morning hence my brave and foolhardy decision to go to a local barber.  He butchered my sideburns which I have always gone to great lengths to keep, and as sunlight didn’t quite penetrate my bushy bits I now have a face tan line.  On the plus side, it all cost me the princely sum of 1 dollar.
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