Yesterday it was 33 degrees when we arrived; today felt much the same. It's hot and sticky all the time, even when it's pouring. It rained almost continuously from midday today so it was fortunate we visited Choeung Ek, better known as the killing fields, this morning.
We had eggs, toast, fresh fruit juice and melon for breakfast, organised bus tickets to Siem Reap for tomorrow, then got a tuk tuk for $8 return to take us to Choeung Ek. The journey took 45 mins and on the way we saw the following:
• 1 man on a moped carrying a double mattress fixed on horizontally (and he was overtaking other vehicles)!
• 2 guys on a moped carrying an air conditioning unit
• a minibus full to bursting (literally) with people; the hatchback was secured with string and wasn't fully shut; parcels and packages were resting against the open hatchback and in the middle of this lot was a small boy
• mobile petrol stations at the roadside in the form of large drums of fuel, a man and a syphon
• overtaking on the pavement when the road was too full of vehicles!!!
Plus the usual entire families on mopeds, ten people in a tuk tuk and traffic coming towards you in the wrong lane (of which there are only two, one in each direction). Just like India really! Great fun to watch and as always I'm amazed there aren't accidents every two minutes.
Well, the killing fields. This is the most notorious site where mass executions took place under Pol Pot's brutal regime during the Khmer Rouge era. Almost 9000 bodies have been exhumed from Choeung Ek's mass graves alone. The site comprises markers and signs where various buildings used to stand (these were torn down in the 80s when the scale of the genocide became evident) and skulls, bones and clothing remnants preserved in a glass case entombed in a permanent memorial in a tall chedi. There is also a very small museum on the site. The $5 admission includes a headset which narrates the background and explains the way the site is laid out. It's not a huge site considering how many people are thought to have lost their lives there (more mass graves remain untouched under the lake at the site) and everything can be covered in an hour or do. When we return to Phnom Penh at the end of our trip we'll visit the Toul Sleng prison museum in the city, from where the prisoners were brought for execution. A shocking piece of history.
In the afternoon we braved the weather in super stylish 50 cent plastic raincoats that are seen all over the place and found the hospital where we both donated blood. We were given tee shirts and a small banquet each when we'd finished, completely unexpected.
Next we walked to Sisowath Quay to look at a great gallery containing vibrant cartoon-like paintings from a local artist, then along 178 street (artist street) where there were several art, clothing, craft and jewellery shops. We stopped for drinks at a French place on the way back and caught the new French president being sworn in on TV.
Tonight we just had fried rice at a Malaysian place nearby and beers at the Mekong River, the same bar we visited last night, as it was still very wet. Early start tomorrow.