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Mat and Vendy's travels

Phnom Penh, S-21 and the Killing Fields

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 12 August 2009 | Views [1111]

royal palace

royal palace

Welcome to Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder. That was the sign we saw on arrival to Cambodia. It didn't seem much different to Vietnam at first, just less motorbikes and more cars. Coming in to Phnom Penh though it was obvious that this was a very different place. There must be some very wealthy people here as there are a lot of expensive, new cars on the road and lots of car dealerships - something we didnt see at all in Vietnam but was more startling because we saw so many. On top of this we saw a lot of big houses and brand new buildings, as well as more mine victims and disabled people begging on the streets, so it seems a country of contrast. Once settled into the hotel we went on a cyklotour and saw how new the city centre is - probably due to the Khmer Rouge and war with Vietnam. The centre is absolutely beautiful, with Thai style buildings - not the Chinese influence we were used to seeing in Vietnam.

After the cyklotour we went for cocktails at FCC and then for dinner. The food here seems to be similar to Thai food too but without the spiciness!

Next morning we went to the prison first (a converted school) where Khmer Rouge took 'criminals' to torture and starve them. I've been to concentration camps before but this seems somehow even worse. They punished their own people for no other reason than being educated or speaking a foreign language and murdered aroud 14000 people here. It is a very moving and chilling place, there are photos on the wall of what Vietnamese liberators found here, people locked to beds and cut to pieces - with vultures eating the corpse in one room. After looking round the prison and seeing the cells and atrocities committed here all of us felt numb. Then it was time to go to the killing fields which was where most of the prisoners were taken and butchered. They think about 20000 people are buried here and there are over 100 mass graves. Most were beaten with spades or iron bars to save bullets. Even babies were killed with their mothers.

Over 3 years almost half the population was killed. About 3 million people.

Later in the day Vendy and me went to visit Wat Phnom and watched the monkeys playing before going to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda - built by the French and now being restored to its former glory. Its a fabulous building in fabulous grounds. The weather was glorious too, lifting our spirits after a depressing morning.

In the evening our guide for the morning had invited our group for dinner - little did we know that we would be doing an improvised english lesson for the local kids first! They were asking us all questions and their ages ranged from 8-15. It was fun. 

After that we went up for dinner and saw his house - where about 30 people lived! Its usual for the husband to move in with the wifes family and its normal to have a big family! His wife has 5 sisters - all married!

After a lovely dinner we were surprised to be offered fried tarantula, a local specialty! I couldn't eat it but several of our group did - and our guide's son! It was gross, but next day I forced myself to try a fried cricket after Vendy ate 3 of them and really enjoyed them!


Tags: fried cricket, fried tarantula, killing fields, s-21

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