Sorry this blog has been delayed; we've had a few ups and downs over the past couple of days.
Our last day in Siem Reap was a nice chilled out day; we slept in as late as we could before check out time and then went to the local cinema, where you can choose from an array of films and have your own private cinema. We felt it was appropriate as our next stop was Phnom Penh to hire The Killing Fields, very emotional film which prepared us a little for what was in store for us in a couple of days time. As we had 10 hours to kill before our coach trip we sat in numerous cafes and had lots of chats and drinks, trying to plan the next week of our trip. It didn't take long before we ended back at 'Charlies' the bar which shows the cricket! Spoke to the owner, quite a frightening man, who was originally from India but moved to Aberdeen but came on holiday here 11 years ago and never left. Every other word was a swear word and when he laughed you felt compelled to laugh too. Before we knew it we were waiting for our coach where another couple were folding down their bikes; they've been travelling around Cambodia and Vietnam by bicycle......the thought alone of riding a bike made Chris and I sweat haha they cycled approximately 16 km a day whereas Chris and I would walk to the bar and need a rest :) The couple are from Clapham but sadly were finishing their trip.
We found our'VIP' coach; and as we were passing the driver our bags to be stored at the bottom of the coach a man behind starting yelling at me to hurry up and get a move on. You can imagine my response! Chris simply steered me around him and onto the coach; what the man didn't realise was that I was having to squeeze my bag between 2 mopeds and 40 planks of wood, neither of which were supposed to be there! This was simply the beginning. We were told that as we were getting a VIP coach we would also get a blanket, free wifi, an onboard toilet and a free bottle of water. How many of those do you think we received? That's right.... Just a free bottle of water! A man enquired about the wifi and the driver just laughed and walked off. About an hour into the journey I asked the driver where the toilet was; there was a lot of mumbling and non-Englishness then eventually after 10 minutes and a lot of huffing and puffing from me he pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and opened the door. (queue the laughing) I walked out in the pitch black, rather petrified and did what was necessary. It wasn't long and we drifted off to sleep; I counted only 20 times or more that the driver pushed the horn so ferociously that i woke up which doesn't include the many pot holes the size of Texas that we road over. How anyone got any sleep I don't know. We made another toilet stop around 6am then everyone was awake for the last bit of the journey. The driver would use his horn to let all other drivers know that he is here and is not going to brake so you must move your vehicle. On one occasion the car in front didnt move so we had to veer to the left to avoid the car which made the coach almost topple over! No exaggeration, all the people screamed and the driver laughed. The whole journey was traumatic but again funny now that we look back.
We arrived in Phnom Penh and were surrounded by Tuktuk drivers. Chris was being indecisive as to which driver to take; all I could think was that I need a shower because goodness knows what was on my legs from the toilet ordeal! I kept saying come on Chris! He whispered at me in a rather unpleasant tone not to pressure him haha after looking at 3 different youth hostels, one of which we were pressured to have breakfast in haha we found a wonderful place called Number 9 Hotel. It's so lovely and as Chris could tell that I was becoming irrational it meant we had to find something nice not cheap! It's $20 a night which includes a roof top jacuzzi, pool table, yummy food, huge bed and warm running water :-) it was a good thing that we chose such a lovely place as the next day I felt awful; full of cold,cough, headache, exhaustion the whole nine yards. So Monday I spent sleeping for most of the day and it also enabled Chris to calm down; if one more tuktuk driver asked him 'tuktuk sir?, sir tuktuk?, tomorrow tuktuk? Where are you from?' he was going to lose his wick haha
On Monday I still felt dreadful but we were both adamant not to waste anymore time; we went to both the Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison. Both of which I think will leave a permanent impression on both of us; at the end of the day we both just wondered how on earth can this sort of thing still be happening? Firstly we went to the Killing Fields, you get a headset and follow a map around the site which was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be. To briefly explain or refresh for anyone; the Khmer Rouge Regime ruled over Cambodia for almost 4 years in the 1970's. The leader known as Pol Pot envisaged Cambodia to be ran by the proletariat and become a agricultural country; he ended all forms of currency, all schools were closed and furthermore he felt that there was no need for any intellectuals who ultimately encouraged capitalism. Over those 4 years nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population, 3 million, were brutally murdered. This not only included intellectuals like Doctors and teachers, but also anyone who could speak a foreign language, had clean hands which implied a modest lifestyle, the elderly or disabled and anyone who was against the regime. All those from the cities or considered wealthy were sent to work on labour camps in the countryside, the poor families particularly the young children and adults were ordered into the Khmer Rouge army where they were manipulated and brain washed into believing that Pol Pots way of life was better for the country. Initially people were sent to S-21 Prison where they would be interrogated and told to confess crimes, they were tortured for crimes they didn't commit then sent to the Killing Fields were they would be executed and buried. It took merely three days for Phnom Penh to be emptied, majority of which were sent straight to the Killing Fields. In this particular Killing Field, one of over 300, had 20,000 corpses. By the end of the regime, when the Khmer Rouge began to flea, only 7 people were found alive in the S-21 Prison. To this day, the people of Phnom Penh and Cambodia as a whole, are still trying to rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and even trying to find family members. Everyone here has a connection to that devastating era. But the Cambodian people are very resilient, resourceful, hard working and passionate. They have not forgotten the past but they want to ensure that it never happens again; as unfortunately there is still an underlying presence of the Khmer Rouge which must be prevented from ever rising again.
I must say even before our trip to the Killing Fields and the Prison, I love the Cambodian people. They work so hard and always go out of their way to help someone. We're thinking of heading down to the coast before going into Vietnam; Phnom Penh has been unforgettable but I think we need to go somewhere with a few less tuktuk drivers for Chris' sake haha
Today we're both relaxing by the jacuzzi reading our books before going out tonight to see the buzzing nightlife. Hopefully getting a coach to Sihanoukville tomorrow, and slowly but surely I will be on the mend :) just in case it hasn't resonated through my blog, we are enjoying ourselves haha but me getting ill and having horrendous coach journeys is all part of the fun :)
Love to all,
Love J & C xxx