There is not much to report today. We are all feeling a little sad that there are only two days left on the trip. We have had a great time but are ready to go. It's been a perfect amount of time but I've seen enough temples as my mom said.
We bummed around this morning. Dad bought a suitcase, I went to a meeting, Mom read her book, Jason went for a walk, TB took a nap. It was quite relaxing. Then we packed up and headed to the airport to Siem Reap, Cambodia! We were not very sad to leave our guide Vuong. Did I mention that Vuong means King in Vietnamese? That he was not. Also our driver was not our favorite. But alas, first world problems. I mean can you believe he didn't give us cold water and cold towels like our last driver? And he woulen't start the hot ass car before we got in so poor TB had to sit in the stifling air waiting for the air con to kick in. What nerve. I kept joking when he would hand us water when we'd get in the van he'd say "more water"…with his accent it sounded suspiciously like "warm water"…I remind you the weather was almost 100 degrees there.
Dad must not think my history lessons are up to par so he volunteered to write a short synopsis on Cambodia for me. I took him up on the offer because I'm nose deep in a book I can't put down so it was a nice change to have him writing and researching while I chillaxed and read. We got into Cambodia around dinner time and just ate at the hotel. It was alright. More mango salad and spring rolls. Jason had a foie gras and mom had osso bucco. They said the non Asian food was good. They're clearly over the SE Asian food. I'm probably the only one who isn't. I can't get enough of kaffir lime, chili and lemongrass.
Written by Dale Linebarger, I take no responsibility for the opinions as written below:
Cambodia has a population of 16 million, and is in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula and is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. Indochina and Southeast Asia are used interchangeably throughout this narrative.
Cambodians, as well as most other Southeast Asians for that matter, were not nearly as friendly and cheerful in the past as they seem today. In fact, they have a long history of strife and wars between each other, and all of them with China, a notable fact not recognized by our American leaders during the buildup to the second war in Indochina. As a matter of fact, Vietnam and Cambodia have fought the Chinese - and each other off and on for the last nine hundred years, probably longer but that is as far as I got.
After the French, through arrogance, and an effort to prove themselves following their embarrassing occupation in France by Hitler, and Indochina by the Japanese, returned to Southeast Asia after WWII, they re-established their control of Cambodia and Vietnam. They had compounds where locals could not go, schools they could not attend, and generally treated the locals as not fit to do much other than provide labor near slave-labor in French owned farms, and domestic duty for their French overlords.
How the hell our leaders from Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford were fed bad advice, especially from Kennedy's Whiz Kids, namely the lying Robert McNamara, and did not double-check or listen to people familiar with the history of the area is nearly beyond comprehension. Our leaders' ignorance and arrogance led to the war in Vietnam and contributed ultimately to the deaths of some 58,000 Americans, as well as death and injuries to our allied soldiers from Australia, England, and other nations. Numbers don't mean much until you think that each and every soldier had a family, and children who mourned or will mourn their loss for the rest of their lives. Then, stop to think that dead are an insignificant number compared to the millions of Vietnamese who died in the war, and then later, the millions of Cambodians who were murdered under the Khmer Rouge regime that was at least partially a result of American errors. All of these millions had families, too.
What we Americans did not realize was that Ho Chi Minh, after having first been snubbed by the English, Harry Truman, and Eisenhower, went to the Russians and Chinese for help. He began a guerilla war to kick out the French, which culminated with the Communist victory at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Peace talks resulted in the separation of Vietnam into North and South, with the north being Communist and the South being a Democracy. Elections were to be held to reunite the country, but that didn't happen. Americans were sold a bill of goods that if we didn't make a stand in Vietnam, the dominos would fall and all of Asia would become Communist. Remember, this was soon after Mao Zedong had defeated the Nationalists in China, Russia had launched Sputnik, and the Cold War had begun.
As our involvement in Vietnam escalated, the Communists in North Vietnam began assisting the Viet Cong rebels in the south. Their supply lines were in Cambodia near the Vietnam border, and this became known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. From Cambodia, the Viet Minh and Viet Cong were able to use jungle cover and their tunnel system to filter troops and supplies into the South.
Of note, when discussing America's involvement in Southeast Asia and the newspaper accounts of atrocities, napalm burnings, Lieutenant Calley murdering 22 unarmed villagers, and so forth, is that our dirty linen was aired world-wide but the North Vietnamese atrocities, if anything, were much worse. They were extremely cruel, murdering village chiefs, publicly disemboweling them in the town square, burying dissidents alive, carrying out bombings in public gathering places - like ISIS today. In essence, both sides in war commit atrocities; the difference in Indochina was that the Communists offered hope, land distribution and were able to unite the people against the Ugly American invaders who never took the time to learn the local customs, the language, nor tried to get the support of the people.
From the Cambodians standpoint, the ruler at the time, Prince Sihanouk, secretly allowed the U.S. to bomb and napalm Cambodia, and our troops to invade the country - while at the same time telling his people that he detested the American oppressors. American bombers killed tens of thousands on non-combatant Cambodians. The result was that the Communists were able to effectively create a hatred and fear of the dreaded American murderers.
In 1970, a right-wing dictatorship, supported by the U.S. deposed the king and established a pro- U.S. republic. The deposed king then gave his support to the Khmer Rouge, his former enemies. The Khmer Rouge began a guerrilla war, taking Phnom Penh in 1975, and began carrying out a systematic purging of anyone associated with the dictatorship and their families. It is estimated that from one to three million Cambodians were murdered. The book and Angelina Jolie's movie, "First They Killed My Father" provides a chilling account of the grisly horror experienced by Cambodians during those years.
Following more years of strife, including a war with Vietnam, peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 which resulted in a peace settlement in 1991, which resulted in the creation of the Constitutional Monarchy, and the current system of government.
Today, Cambodia is an elective constitutional monarchy with the King serving as head of state. The head of government is the prime minister, currently Hun Sen, the longest serving non-royal leader in Southeast Asia, having ruled since 1985. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population. Virtually everyone greets us with a nod and hands clasped together at chest level.
And last, for the good news, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Laotians, all love Americans, strangely enough, and perhaps because they are not particularly fond of the Chinese - although they love their money as evidenced by the hordes of Chinese tourists visiting the countries. After all, China has been an aggressor in Southeast Asia for about a thousand years, and we were only a******s more recently, and have done a lot since the war to atone for our earlier mistakes. Maybe that has something to do with it. Curiously, the Chinese tourists also seem to really like Americans, so maybe we're doing something right for a change.