Wow, its hard to believe that we have "been there and done that" with Cambodia. We only spent about a week in the country checking out only the major attractions. We knew that the beaches of Southern Thailand would follow, so we decided to keep Cambodia short and sweet to allow more time for the beaches But we definitely saw a bunch.
We started out in the capital city of Phnom Penh as mentioned in our last blog, our first day there was election day and many of the sights were closed. So we were left with just one day to see the sights in the city. Phnom Penh is marked with reminders of the countries horrific past with the Khmer Rouge of the 1970's. For those of you that are not familiar with Cambodian history (I sure wasn't before our visit) let me give you a quick recap so you better understand some of our photos and what we saw.
In the 1960s Cambodia was also sucked in to the Vietnam War. The US began secret bombings on suspected communist base camps. This continued for years until around 1970 when US and S Vietnamese troops invaded the country to get rid of the Vietnamese communist forces, which didn't work. The fighting only ended on April 17th 1975, when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took over the capital city of Phnom Penh. When they first arrived they were embraced by the locals. But shortly after, Pol Pot forced the people to evacuate the city and move to the country. He had this "1984" (just like the book) vision for the country. For the next 4 years, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians (including the vast majority of the educated) were relocated in to the country and were force to work the rice fields. The money was abolished along with books, history and anything that reflected education. People who spoke foreign languages or seemed educated were thought of as "parasites" and so were killed. Many who survived the city evacuation and who's intelligence were not considered a threat to the regime eventually died in the countryside due to mistreatment, malnutrition and disease. They figure about 2 million people (about a quarter of the country's population) died as a direct result of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The most disheartening part of it is that to this day they have yet to bring anyone to justice for the murders of millions. Finally in 1978 Vietnam invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. The country has come a long way since then. But it was crazy to look at anyone 30 years or older and wonder how they were directly effected by the Khmer Rouge. Such a crazy sad past that I really never knew about before travelling to Cambodia.
So anyhow, while in Phnom Penh we knew that we had to see some of the sites reflecting this brutal part of Cambodia's past. Our first stop were the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Here they have built a stupa as a memorial to the 17,000 people who were executed by the Khmer Rouge. There were about 129 mass graves at the site and inside the stupa there were thousands of skulls found during the excavations in the 1980's. The stupa was a beautiful memorial but as we walked around the grounds it was unsettling to see clothes in the ground and realize that they belonged to the victims.
Clothes still in the ground, with human bones.
Thousands of skulls were in here.
mass grave, the sign says something about headless bodies....
Not sure what this says, just looked cool
After the Killing Fields we then went to the Tuol Sleng Museum. The museum was originally a school but in 1975 Pol Pot's forces turned it into Security Prison 21, which was the largest detention/torcher center in the country. In one building the rooms are remenisant to how they were while they were being used. Very basic with a metal bed in the middle of the room, some beds still had chains on the bed or a variety of torture devices. There were also graphic photos on the walls showing the different prisoners lying deceased on their beds. Definitely not a place to take someone who is prone to nightmares. Other buildings had walls lined with mug shots of the different victims. It was crazy to know that the crimes of many of the victims here might have only been their profession (doctor, lawyers, scientist) or being the family member of the educated. They also had a collection of the different torture devices used on the victims. It definitely gives you a glimpse of the darkers side of the country's history.
After spending a day in Phnom Penh witnessing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge we were ready to head to Siem Reap to take in a more positive aspect of Cambodia's history......Angkor Wat.
(Breezy writing now)
Angkor Wat is AWESOME!!!! Hundreds of square miles of ruins, large stone heads and lots of jungle mixed in. The huge religous temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries and later abondonded and reclaimed by the jungle. Around 1860 some french dude stumbled into them on accident and later wrote a paper that caught the attention of the western world, which felt this would be a great way to exploit a poor country.....I made that last part up. We hired a tuk tuk driver named Po(we kept saying "call the po po ho, call the po po ho" and giggled but I don't think Po got it) to show us the sites. The place is ginormous and the heat made it torture to bike around. So after three days of this fat and lazy site seeing we got the hell out of cambodia via another pleasure bus ride, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. This one was a bit better than the one we took into the country, but the roads suck. It must have rained a couple of inches the night before and the dirt road/highway turned into red slop. I was lucky enough to have my window open when a motorcycle rode by and splashed a large amount of this red slop right into my face and shirt, ha ha laugh it up chuckles. At the border we were greeted by a much nicer so called VIP bus that took us to Bangkok. We just happened to get there the same time our Irish friends were getting back from their travels. Reunited we headed south to the beaches, YEA!!! At this moment we are wasting valuble lazy beach time so we bid you farewell for now. Hope everyone is doing well!!
Here are a bunch of Angkor Wat(WhaT?) pictures.
Hangin with Po
Snake bite wiskey, looks like crap to me....
And here's a new map, whoa!