A Heavy Going Morning at Genocide Sites
Jun 2, 2015
|With the heat of the last couple of days we decided to head out early today. Teena had wanted to take a Hop on Hop Off bus to see the 9 attractions listed in Phonm Penh but I managed to talk her out of that for two reasons. Firstly, we have a couple more days here and to see everything today would leave not much to do tomorrow. Secondly, half the fun in a place like this is to do what the locals do. I suggested we take a tuk tuk to do our touring – the breeze would keep us cool enough as we were heading out early. Breakfast at the hotel first before we caught a tuk tuk.
I thought Teen’s head was going to rotate 360 degrees sometimes – she just couldn’t take everything in at once.
The traffic was your usual Phnom Penh chaos with tuk tuks, motorbikes and huge Lexus, Prados and Range Rovers all attempting to get where they needed to go.
Families of 4 and 5 on small motor bikes, businessmen and government officials on their iPhones, women heading to market and brave tourists in the middle of it all.
Our little tuk tuk driver, called Peter by Teena because he couldn’t speak much English and she wanted to know his name, agreed to take us to 3 places, The Killing Fields, S21 prison and the Russian Market. With our tuk tuk only capable of a top speed around 30kph, it took us almost an hour to wend our way along the highway then through the backroads to the site of the Killing Fields. Teena was very grateful she borrowed a hand towel from the hotel and she was able to cover her nose each time we passed over a fetid waterway filled with human waste and neverending refuse. Plastic has been the biggest curse for countries like Cambodia as it doesn’t disintegrate and lays around for years.
We did see a couple of garbage trucks on the way but they were empty. Teena seemed amazed at the businesses being conducted out of ramshackle premises, the fuel for motorbikes sold at shops in Pepsi bottles, the welders working with sunglasses for eye protection, the stonemasons, furniture makers etc. etc.
Although this is my third visit to Choeung Ek or The Killing Fields , the impact does not lessen.
Now with the facility of an audio tour it is much easier to walk around Choeung Ek and know the story. It is still unbelievable that nearly 40 years ago such atrocities took place under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s regime, and that the bones and clothing and teeth of those brutally murdered at the site are still surfacing with the rains each wet season.
They can only estimate that perhaps a million Cambodians were killed at this particular site, anyone who had an education was accused of non-existent crimes and then tortured and finally brutally killed. Workers around the fields scan the areas of the mass graves every few weeks to retrieve any bones which have surfaced. The huge Buddhist stupa contains the bones and skulls of around 5000 victims of genocide.
It is very hard to visit the site and not be moved to tears with what you see and read. Teena didn’t want to go into the museum after walking around the fields. She will see enough when we stop at S21.
Back to Peter and our tuk tuk, we make the return trip of 17km to Phonm Penh city and stop at the Russian Market for a quick browse.
Even though it had just gone 10.30 am, it was hot and stifling in the market which was filled with locals going about their daily business. We managed to find Teena a hat to replace the one she left behind in KL and she also bought some cotton tops which are just fabulous for the climate here. Wash and dry so quickly overnight. Wanted to buy some oranges but the price kept jumping up when Teena became a little befuddled about using Riels or American dollars. We decided she was a rip off merchant when her price rose by 5000 Riels – about $1 US. Had a look at some DVDs in the hope of finding her the 2nd series of Outlander but not here yet. Probably the only thing that isn’t. They seem to have every other series and movie released!!!
Last stop for the morning was at S21, the high school which was quickly turned into the infamous prison where those arrested were continually tortured and questioned before transporting to the Killing Fields.
Once again a bit daunting for Teena so we did not stay very long – just a quick glance through the rooms of pictures of victims and then the rooms containing the paintings of the tortures used.
Back in our tuk tuk, Peter putt putted us back to our hotel for a welcome relief of the oppressive heat at around midday. 35 degrees again today and just so hot. We showered, changed and lay on the bed to read only to wake up at 4pm!!!! The heat is just so debilitating even though we have resorted to hydralite to replace electrolytes in an attempt to avoid dehydration.
We headed out around 5.15 to be confronted by big black clouds and all the café and restaurant workers moving tables and chairs in under cover.
A wet season monsoon storm was about to hit. That quickly put paid to our planned walk to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda just around the corner. Instead we perched ourselves at a table, ordered a Coke light and watched the locals enjoying the downpour when it came. Children across the road on the riverfront walkway were playing and dancing around in the rain, little naked babies were having a bath in the downpour and needless to say some clothes probably being washed while being worn. We were soon besieged by little kids trying to sell their woven friendship bracelets that they carry around on a wire coathanger.
The storm pelted down for around half an hour but the locals just carried on as usual, just stopping to put on their plastic ponchos. We waited until the rain eased and made our way to 136 Street (our hotel is on 148 Street) to the Smile minimart to stock up on milk and nibbles for the night. or The Killing Fields Stopped at a DVD store and purchased 5 movies for $5 to watch on the computer at some stage.
Still drizzling as we walked back to hotel and checked out dinner in the rooftop restaurant. The view across the river to the new huge hotel complex was fantastic but unfortunately no umbrellas and a heavy drizzle meant dinner in our room tonight. Of course my choice was again Loc Lac as they did not offer Amok and Teena again had the Nasi Goreng which suits her strict dietary needs for a medical condition.
We soon polished off our meals, ate our oranges purchased from another vendor at the Russian market and chilled out watching the tail end of Richard Gere and Sean Connery in First Knight and Teen now watching Spiderman as I type.
Soon time to do our daily washing and hit the sack again for a fitful nights sleep. Teen seems to be sleeping very well as am I in the air conditioning.
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom tomorrow early in the day and then some photos of the local market – I think I will be the only one going in there!