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Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's Cambodia famous for....

So...who can answer?

Khymer Rouge? Pol Pot? Killing Fields?
They're all pretty nasty so lets also mention the most important probably soon to be properly-world-famous site: Ankor Wat. I'll come back to that later of course once I've mentioned the others....

Firstly, it does have the usual touristy sites. National Museum. Royal Palace, including a 40 metre by 10 metre fully silver floor, but at the end of the day, the major ticks of this country and in the list above.

Like I said, Cambodia has had a pretty turbulent history, especially in the last 30/40 years. Unbelievably, the Khymer Rouge managed to kill 2million people in the space of 4 years. Even worse, the 2million were all Cambodians. Even World War 1&2's famous dictator didn't even manage to be as ruthless in this way. It's pretty sad but full credit, they're very open to showing the history off.

I've posted some pictures below, if you're squeamish in any way, apologies as while I haven't been really graphic, they do give you an idea......

Phnom Penh is famous for having the Killing Fields nearby, and it's associated prison camp, S-21. Amazingly, and quite conflicting, is the fact that both are now situated right beside schools. It's pretty weird to walk around these sites in the knowledge that 20,000 people were killed, while listening to the sound of children playing next door. Surreal.

S-21 was the prison camp. Of it's estimated 20,000+ prisoners, only 7 survived. They killed 14 just as the Vietamese liberators were arriving. The photo below is from one of the cells, the photo on the back wall is of what the Vietnamese found when they arrived.......the second is a bit unusual in that I didn't place the flower, I found it there while walking around.

As for the Killing Fields, well to be honest, I've seen nothing like it before. I've been very lucky in my life to have travelled a lot, including Israel (and all it's nastier museums in relation to the World Wars), but also to the likes of Krakow (where Auschitz is based). The first view upon arriving is of a large memorial stupa, containing the skulls of 8,000 victims of the Pol Pot regime. Then, as you walk around what is essentially a large field, again listening to the cheerful/pleasant sounds of children playing, you stop to step over a bone jutting out of the ground. Talk about a poignant reminder of what happened here.
the ground is sand so as it rains, it is releasing some of it's darker secrets to the world....

A grim reminder of what happened......

All in all, a very humbling day out on my second day in Cambodia. You can only show hope for the locals though, it looks like they've done their absolute best to leave a reminder of what can never happen again, and to move on without vengence. Think a few countries in the world could learn from this!

Unfortunately, the sheen was taken off the day by the offer of my moto driver to bring me to a shooting range. Straight after both of the museums...... It turns out this hugely popular?!?!? Considering I have relations in the military, even I found this a bit sickening, especially as I found out that after you'd paid $30 for a full magazine for an AK-47, you could also pay an additional $5 to aim said weapon at a chicken....... There's some very f*&ked up people in this world