First impressions of Cambodia. Cleaner n more western than Vietnam. Considering their war ended far more recently than Vietnam, you wouldn't know it had happened in Phnom Penh, the capital. The people are like the Vietnamese friendly n smiley but the city is nowhere near as busy or manic as Saigon or Hanoi. After a while you also realise there is a far higher proportion of young to old..being that in the Pol Pot years most of the older generation died or were killed by the Kymer Rouge boy soldiers. The houses are also much bigger, as govt doesn't restrict size as in Vietnam nor do they limit family size as total population only 14millon. The democratic govt means the people are more relaxed n open on their views although their Buddhist religion is stricter than the Vietnamese.
On landing we were met by our guide,Tiernie, who took us to eat at the popular 'Friends' restaurant which is operated by street kids who are attempting to build a better life for themselves. A great restaurant and service was faultless. Then onto The beautiful King's Palace, still used by the current King n dominating the landscape in front of the Mekong Delra riverside. It is so opulant, some parts built in pure gold n one pagoda has a pure silver floor, teak beams n billions of £s of gold n diamond encrusted statues and only 2 guards to protect it all!! The palace was one of the few places not destroyed by Pol Pot due to his need to keep on good terms with the exiled King from 1975. The King now restored, lives nearby.
Tierney's mother lived in the capital during the Pol Pot regime,working for the King n then survived the Pol Pot years by being a cook for one of the work camp chiefs although her husband was murdered by the regime as he was a professor. Anyone of any intelligence was killed. We got told a lot of awful stories about what happened during this time n won't put it all on blog. The awful fact though is over 2 million people killed (nearly half population of cambodia at the time) or died of starvation n the brutality was in same vein as the Nazis. We visited the Killing Fields n Genocide museum aka S21 where people were tortured for 1-3 months n then sent to killing fields to be killed by different means...the bones n clothes all visible n more rise through the earth on wet season we are told. The torture centres of which there were 160 in total were all ex schools,hospitals or even Buddist temples n photos were taken of every victim when they arrived which are on display. The original cells n torture rooms n killing weapons are as they were. .they didnt use bullets ..too expensive! And once again the USA got involved supporting Pol Pot as he was anti Vietnam n therefore anti russian...they insisted he kept his UN seat even after he was defeated in 1979 as the new govt were backed by Vietnam!
Onto lighter things, hotel is great lovely pool area, very bohemian!! Met up with a couple we first met in Hue n had dinner together on last night..they are doing similar route so that was fun. Put Put drive around capital was fun n sun lovely. Downside unfortunately lots of v creepy looking old guys prowling the streets as told sex trade big here. Oh for that AK47! Even saw our first elephant!
God doesn't Dan go on!!! Will keep brief!! Following from last blog Dan didn't puke from seasick which we anticipated but instead cut his toe and bled everywhere and the "horrid french" fellow passengers turned out to be orthopaedic surgeons so dan was in his element having so much fuss being made over him and his very small cut toe!!! Loving the French now!!
I won't say too much about the visit to the famous "killing fields" and genocide museum in Phnom Pehn apart from it's as bad as I could imagine Auschwitz to be.
Was good then to bump into a couple we knew, as dan said and brought us out of a very sullen mood. They are backpacking, the downside is the horror stories of their accommodation but the upside being they can stay as long as they like anywhere and as much as we are enjoying the luxury of our hotels them telling us how they have fallen in love with Phnom, we are off again and do not have opportunity to experience the same. But we saw an elephant meander by!! X