Tag Archives: khmer rouge

Lagniappe 1, Riki’s Thoughts….Cambodia

(I have been hounding Riki for months about typing up his journal notes for me to post.  Now, as we are sitting in the Swiss Alps, it all comes together and all you guys who have been bugging me about this can all relax.  And check out the pictures too – some hand drawn maps included.)

The Journal (Just a bit larger than an index card)
The Journal (Just a bit larger than an index card)
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Cambodia Map

 

Border Crossing from Phu Quoc (Vietnam)

– 5 Buses, 1 Boat, & 1 Clueless Tuktuk

– Didn’t have luggage with us at one point, separated when driving to Bus Station, was not cool

– There was an immediate change in buildings and stores on the other side of the border (much poorer construction with far fewer supplies). There was also a crazy big casino right on the Cambodian side (many vices found in Cambodia are not allowed in Vietnam).

– Drive through the countryside was really cool – dried rice paddies, flat, pockets of palm trees with little wooden huts. Much more similar to Laos than Vietnam.

 

Phnom Penh

– Crazy Tuktuk guys introduced us to the city as 10 of them would run 30 meters alongside the minivans seeking any business they could (each time we let a person off as we wound our way through the city), absolute madness.

– Traffic in this city is like Vietnam, but more cars and absolutely no organization whatsoever. They have quite wide roads, which makes it far more difficult and dangerous to cross (nothing like the organized chaos of Hanoi & HCMC), and there are Toyota Camrys everywhere, likely 90% of all the cars, all different ages (probably some knockoffs too).

– Great to be able to get draught beer again, $0.50 for a glass, but I miss ripping off the labels from the bottles (to save for art projects at a later date).

– Back to seeing SexPats (far more than we saw in Bangkok). Granted the Khmer women are all beautiful, it’s very weird and off-putting to see 7 skinny women, dressed like they are out clubbing, hanging out in front of the bars, at ALL hours of the day trying to lure in tourists, as well as all the 18 year old Khmer girls (some likely younger) hanging out with 60 – 70 year old white men.

– Some of the SexPats are young (but really quite unfortunately ugly) men hanging out with these beautiful women.

– Saw, at a minimart, a short Khmer girl holding the crotch of the much taller white guy… from behind (through the legs)… at the cash register (while the cashier, her friend, Julie and I all look at each other trying to hold back our ?laughter?).

– Genocide/Prison Museum was very intense (especially the movie we saw where one of the few surviving prisoners was interviewing his former guards), you could still see the signs of it being used as a school before the Khmer Rouge took control.

– I noticed that all the faces of the KR leaders were completely scratched off by people (even some I didn’t recognize).

– I also noticed that the pictures they had of the prisoners, were awful and showed an obsessive/crazy rule (where everybody was always suspicious of all others), but there were a number of duplicates (saw this even though all prisoners had the same haircuts, women: short bob & men: even shorter).

– The City seemed a little more sketchy/rustic/poorer than all of the other major cities we visited, but it definitely wasn’t the shit hole that a bunch of people made it out to be before we got there.

– Once again, the men, like in the rest of SEAsia have these amazing mole hairs on their faces that grow out about 3 inches/8 cm, everything else they shave or can’t grow (I heard somewhere that they are good luck).

– One can definitely notice that there aren’t as many older Khmer people as there were older people in the other countries in the region (a still highly visible aspect of the genocide).

– We are convinced (especially Julie) that we need to buy these awesome PJ’s that all the ladies here are wearing (usually top and bottom matching) all day…

– It is really odd using US Dollars here (with Khmer Riel as the small change 4000=1). Got a $2 bill! (a couple we met didn’t realize that they are legal tender in the US, you just don’t see them much) But apparently they often don’t accept them at stores/food stalls in Cambodia (though they are more than willing to include them in your change).

 

North East Cambodia – Kratie & Banlung

– The red dirt/soil up here is amazing (much like Cuba), but it can be quite awful when it’s all dust

– In Kratie, just a couple of minutes up the road from the Irrawaddy dolphins was this amazing place with boardwalks, thatch roofs & hammocks everywhere over these small rapids (whish I could spend every weekend there forever…). There were some kids doing flips and posing for pictures after we went onto a sandbar past where the people use the toilet, pretty impressive acrobatics.

– All the kids in the northeast are really cute when you ask if you can take their pictures (they never ask for anything, candy or money, unlike all the other touristy places we go), and they are always very excited to see themselves in the picture.

– In the north especially, but really most places in Cambodia, the locals are all wearing soccer/football jerseys (literally half of all people, mostly young to middle age men and women, the older ladies all wear PJ’s).

 

Siem Reap & Angkor Park

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Angkor Map

– “Siem Reap is a tourist town that I like.” – Julie remark at the market

– The city is completely transformed at night, with ten times more people out and about (having all just left a long day at the temples).

– Was fun to go to Angkor Wat at sunset (instead of that hill where everybody else goes) and be slowly chased out by the guards at closing (like 20 other people doing this too). Was actually able to get a couple of photos of the temple with a few, if any people, ruining the view.

– Waking up in the morning and leaving the hostel by 5 and arriving at 6 at Bayon, all alone, was super frigging awesome! Walking around, losing your bearings, all dark, mysterious faces on the stones, etc…. We did the same thing at Ta Prohm the next day and it was equally as awesome, but two British girls beat us by half an hour (but they hadn’t entered yet because it was still too dark to see anything).

– It was so amazing climbing over the boulders and stones at the fallen temples (especially Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Beng Mealea, etc.). Though it was awkward to be “contributing” to the slow destruction of the temples… but everybody else was way worse, and I was always very careful never to step on any of the carved stones.

– The temple being restored by the Chinese (every temple has different countries helping to restore them in their own unique ways: France, India, Japan, Germany, etc.) looks disappointingly fake, with new stones of different colors everywhere.

– Our guidebook ($10 in Phnom Penh with a week to read it vs. $5-8 in the Temple park) is obviously a rip-off used there for the last 15 years, but also awesome. I would read it twice before we visited a temple (so I could walk around a take pictures of the stuff I had learned about), while Julie studied it and used it as a guide at the temples (though sometimes it was quite hilariously out of date).

– Saw a gutter punk looking white guy without shoes on at least three occasions throughout the day… I dunno… I guess its relatively clean, but still, how does one climb over all those sharp rocks and steps?

– Its really interesting to see the legacy of when the region changed between the religions (Hinduism, two types of Buddhism). Lots of whole Buddhas scraped off walls, same with some of the faces of Hindu gods. Looked way different from the general looting that has taken place (& it’s vast).

 

Koh Ta Kiev

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Koh Ta Kiev Map

– Various thoughts while sitting on beach/patio: It’s so cool here with all the little beaches where you are alone and feel like you have the whole island to yourself. Perfect setup they have here at Coral Beach, right before the rocks start, and after all the other bungalows and day trippers, with 3/4 nice little beaches.

– What I’ve “accomplished” since I’ve been here (on the island): sewed on all of the flag patches I had, made a piece of “art” – an intense dream catcher thingy with stuff found on the beach, started working on my journal again, and learned a couple of new fun games.

– One of my favorite things to do on a vacation (or in life really): have a nice breakfast, with coffee, sitting on a small dock over the clear blue water with an amazing view of the gently lapping waves of the bay…

– Perfect situation #10 (I don’t remember all, they just happen…): sitting on the tree house level platform with the sun going down, with a group of people playing music and singing on the beach below (some of them had great voices).

– Different times at the Absinthe Distillery: First Night – with staff , had the green one, kittens playing all around me, guy (owner?) asleep in corner. Second Time – with Chilean couple, show up right as they are closing, kittens asleep, guy asleep in corner, tried the strongest one. Third Time – no drink, changed camera battery, guy asleep in corner.

– Funny moment when a group of Italian girls from Florence and Rome were arguing about who’s city had the greatest culture/legacy.

– Pretty sad when we had to leave the island. I had an amazing time doing nothing, but would not have made it much longer there… tummy issues, wanted a hot shower (had only washed with soap maybe two times), no more sand…

– … only to be stuck at a shithole place for two terrible nights with termite noises, Rat poo, and the giant accompanying Rat (who moved rocks and wasn’t afraid of us at all!).

Otres Beach One

– I imagine this to be what Phu Quoc (Vietnam) was like 5/10 years ago. But here there are more shacks (“bungalows”), a flat red dirt road, and a bunch of empty beach chairs.

– Said “Aokun” (Thank you) for the first time in a week (was a little weird how it was like a western peoples utopia on the island). I was also odd looking at some of these beach places (bar/restaurant/hostel things) where it looks like 5-10 western kids (“employees”) were doing nothing , one “working” at the bar while all the others took up all the bar chairs, while the one Khmer guy or girl does all the actual work.

– Ladies and Girls selling trinkets in Cambodia (at least the southern part) be like: “If you don’t buy now, you promise, if you buy later, you buy from me? Pinkie promise?”

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History Lesson….Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Preface:

1. Check out our new poll on the sidebar – where should we go next? (full site view only)

2. If you don’t know much about Cambodia’s recent history, read up.  It’s been a rough half-century for these people.

Leaving Phu Quoc, Vietnam for Phnom Penh was probably our most confusing day of travel yet.  We knew it was going to be rough going in and we had downloaded Insurgent to listen to on the way, so we thought we were prepared.  But alas, we weren’t.  We boarded a jam packed minibus to get to the ferry, which turned out to be an older one (not the nice Superdong we took over).  Our bags were put on the open top deck, too close to the spray from the fast boat in my opinion.  An hour and half later we were picked up at the ferry station in Ha Tien by a very nice minibus, large and clean.  Thought that was a good sign.  Wasn’t.  We were shuttled to a travel agency with a bunch of other Westerners, where we were told to give over our passports, $35 and our yellow international health books to get our visas.  I’m pretty sure the visa fee is only $30, but the lady would not budge and then insisted we would have to pay an extra $1 if we didn’t give the yellow health books.  I’d like to point out that the only thing in my yellow book is a yellow fever shot I got 7 years ago.  Its not going to tell the Cambodians much, if anything.  So we did all this and were told to wait an hour.  Meanwhile, we ate lunch and waited 2 hours before being put into a different, not as nice minibus with 8 other people to go to the border, without our passports.  At the border, we were kicked out of the minibus without our bags and told to walk.  To where, we didn’t know.  We went through one building, right around the metal detectors and out again.  No one stopped us until we reached an open hut, where they actually had our passports and proceeded to distribute them to our growing group of confused tourists.  Then we were beckoned back to our minibus, which had gone through a different route.  We were told to grab our bags and switch to a different minibus, that some other tourists had come across on.  We settled in, only 10 of us, half going to Phnom Penh.  Its comforting when you have other people in the same boat.  But that sentiment didn’t last, as we went about 3 minutes down the road, past the brand new casino, and turned around.  The driver got out and beckoned for Riki and I to exit the bus (not the other 4 people going to the same place).  We were loaded onto another minibus, empty, except for the 30 or so flies swarming around.  Then we just sat there.  With the flies in the heat, no English explanation.  Eventually, a bunch of Cambodians boarded the bus and off we went.  From there we did the normal thing, load as much stuff and people as you can possibly cram into the bus and go hurtling down the road, at top speed, only to stop abruptly when someone waves you down.  We eventually arrived in Phnom Penh, got dropped off in the middle of nowhere, except conveniently next to the bus driver’s friend, a tuk tuk driver.  We paid an exorbitant price to a different tuk tuk who didn’t know where he was going and arrived 30 minutes later at our hostel.  So long story short – 5 minibuses, 1 ferry, 1 lost tuk tuk and almost 10 hours later, and we were hungry.  Walking around that evening, we ran into one of the other couples from our original minibus in Vietnam.  Turns out, after they dropped us off, they stopped on the side of the road for no apparent reason and waited as well, arriving about the same time as us, but with about 10 less people in their minibus and not left in the middle of nowhere.

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia.  It has about 2 million of Cambodia’s almost 15 million people.  But there isn’t much to do as a tourist.  We walked to the waterfront and then up to the S-21 genocide museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEver wondered how to dry meat?  All you need is a chair and a laundry basket, and a little sun.  And maybe some flies.

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In the 1970’s Cambodia had a leader, Pol Pot, who thought education was bad (despite going to universities in France).  He uprooted everyone from the cities and forced them to walk to rural areas and work the land.  So Phnom Penh became pretty deserted.  At one of the old high schools, a prison was created.  Pol Pot sent people perceived as political enemies here, some just for being educated.  Some for being “lazy.”  The people here, men, women and children, were detained and tortured until they confessed.  Most who confessed, confessed to made up things, like working for the KGB or the CIA or to wasting too much fabric in their tailoring shop.  The museum is housed in the school buildings and has an incredible exhibit on what happened here.  There are thousands of mug shots of prisoners displayed, as well as the “confessions” they made.  Once the prisoners confessed, they were killed, either from the torture or when taken to the killing fields nearby.  Only something like 12 people survived this prison.  Guards were also killed, for leaning on the walls while on duty.  In total, it is estimated that about 2 million people died while the Khmer Rouge were in power.  Half from executions and half from disease or starvation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey also had a video at the museum of an artist who survived, interviewing some of the guards who had worked there.  The guards were mostly teenagers at the time and had been told the prisoners were terrible enemies.  So that was a pretty somber visit.

After, we walked to the Russian Market, which has nothing to do with Russia anymore.  Then we went back to our hostel and had pizza for the first time since Nepal.

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Our last day, we did a walking architecture self-tour.  It was a bit tough, as there weren’t any addresses on our guide and some of the buildings had been torn down.  But we found a book store and bought a book on Angkor Wat to prepare for next week.  We also went to the National Museum, which was mostly ancient sculptures that have been recovered from all over the world after being bought or looted from their original homes.

The next day, we boarded a real bus, – big, with only one person per seat and made it in a record 6 hours to Kratie, north and east of Phnom Penh.