Heart Of Darkness

Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Tuesday 10th August 2004
Still on route to Cambodia, and see a Cham tribe village - muslim people. Kids still try and sell you things, though thought it very ironic, seeing a Vietnamese muslim, outside a mosque, wearing a T-shirt with a US flag on it.

Long long cruise to reach Cambodian border. Rucksack is X-rayed by the Vietnamese before we cross - though pointless, as you have to go to a seperate building, which you could just walk straight past! Across the border on foot, then onto different boat, sail for a minute, then through Cambodian immingration, where they take great pride in stamping ypur passport with 5 different stamps.

First image of Cambodia is white cows - the river bank is full of them for miles and miles - clearly every family has 2-3 each. Mekong continues to be used by the local people as bathroom, kitchen, living room, swimming pool etc and you sometimes feel your invading their privacy!

Finally board bus, and the award for worst roads so far, goes to Cambodia. This road is tarmac - at least nominally. Pot holes, where filled in, seem to be deliberatly either over or under filled in - result is that you get thrown from your seat about every 20 seconds - very uncomfortable journey, with rucksacks either side of me all the way.

Enter Pnomh Penh in darkness, and raining, and there does appear to be uneasiness, more dangerous edge to this city - maybe its because of the dark and rain, but the mud and barely lit side roads dont help, neither do the limbless beggars which are far more prevalent here.

Wednesday 11th August 2004
Woke up at 10.00am - no windows and hence no natural light to wake me! apart from that Hotel is OK - started last night at $10, then dropped to $7, and then agreed to settle at $5 when he thought I was going elsewhere.

Hired motobike taxi to see the Killing Fields, appx 16km outside the city, most of it along a mud/gravel road, not assisted by it being the rainy season - ay least a motorbike could weave a little better than the odd tuk-tuk we passed.

Very sombre place, where memorial stupa holds hundreds of skulls, smashed in various ways. Outside are the mass graves, some where the bodies have been exhumed, some not, and walking around you still see fragments of bone.

Sombreness a little broken up from incessant kids "˙ou give me dollar so I pay for school?" or "you buy cold drink" or "you take picture {of them} $1"

Back then to the S21 prison in the city - you were generally tortured here, and executed at the Killing Fields. S21 used to be a school, and looks very ordinary - some gruesome photos, and hundreds of mugshots of their victims. This all happened here less than 30 years ago.

Also walked to the now rebuilt bridge where the New York times reporter was captured by the Khmer Rouge, as depicted in the film The Killing Fields. Walked the entire city (well, it felt like it) and now have my orientation (which usually means time to go!)

Wednesday 12th August 2004
Totally inappropriate considering I'm in Cambodia, but decided to go shooting today. Hired same motobike taxi guy to take me to the range, a fare distant outside Pnomh Penh, and he got lost a few times in the muddy country lanes before we found the place - a shady "military" shooting range where the gus tells me he's not supposed to let me take pictures...but $5 soon overcomes that

Here you have the choice of any gun you want, but Ak47 it was to be - 30 bullets for 30 dollars. Very lax - shows you the gun, loads it, and your away.

Not as much recoil as I expected, though still packs a punch - single bullets at first, then the occassional automatic burst - which gives you a hell of a rush. The SAS will undoubtedly be calling, as I managed to hit the target 18 times out of 30 (and have photographic evidence!) and it was very clearly dead. If anybody was wondering what to buy me for Xmas........

My guilt at wasting 30 dollars (the average monthly wage here) made me pay my driver 10 dollars - about 5 times the going rate, so at least I did some good!
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