After breakfast at hotel, you will be transferred to boat station at 7am to take the speedboat to Phnom Penh. Arrival at Phnom Penh, the tour guide will pick you up for lunch. In the afternoon you will enjoy cycling trip to Killing Fields. In the evening, you will have dinner at a fine restaurant in the city.
Cycling: approx. 15km
At the hotel there were about 100 steep steps from my room to the restaurant and reception. It was built on a hill – which is a little obvious re: the steps! My legs felt really tired and achy going up. After dinner I trekked back down to the rooms with the others but forgot I was in a different row to them so had to go back up again! Ouch!
Thankfully I slept through with no interruption this time. Fantastic. But when the alarms (yes there were many) went off at 5.30 after I had finished the blog at 11.30 the night before, I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. So now I have to get up and quickly get organised – that’ll teach me!
It was lovely to facetime Lorraine, Stephanie and Jason even if we did only have a few minutes to chat. Home seems so far away and even though my days are full here I do think of you all a lot and miss you loads.
Once again it was a shame to leave such a nice hotel. Having only slept there and had early breakfast we didn’t have time to enjoy it.
We had a lovely boat ride. It was even hot and humid as we set off at 7am! We were travelling on a small speed ferry for us and about 10 others and I spent most of the 4 hour journey outside sitting at the back of the boat looking at scenery and chatting to David and Alan.
After an hour (20 miles) we arrived at the Vietnam part of the borders. We had to get off with our hand luggage wait for about 20 minutes whilst they did our exit visa and then get back on the same boat for 5 minutes! We got off again at the Cambodia border and queued up to get our visa stamp. Then re-boarded for the reminder of the journey.
We had a lovely packed snack at 10.30 of synthetic white bread onto which we could spread a triangle of soft cheese or hard boiled egg or jam. If only we had matzah instead of bread (highly unlikely here!) just like old style Passover packed lunches! For once, I didn’t eat much!
A sobering thought crossed my mind at the Cambodian border. I couldn’t help wondering how the holocaust compares with the Pol Pot killing and genocide. I wasn’t looking forward to that part of the killing fields but nevertheless my inquisitive side wanted to find out more.
Once again there was no guide when arrived but the guide from the transfer boat called the company for us and said they were 5 mins away, which turned out to be the case.
Nice lunch. A beer (we weren’t going to ride much today so dehydration wasn’t going to be a problem) but it made me feel even more sleepy. We then transferred to the hotel and had a quick shower. After a 45 mins turnaround and sort-out we went to the Killing Fields.
In the bus our guide informed us of the following which I just noted down quickly at the time and have put the facts in bullet form below:
- Around 2.2m people died in the war. 1.7m under Pol Pot and 0.5m in the war with Vietnam afterwards.
- Very rich and very poor people live in the city.
- No building in Siem Reap is over the height of Ankor Wat.
- In the war people fled or were forced to the countryside leaving all their possessions behind. Many didn’t come back which meant there were many empty houses left from those who were killed. Those returning could choose from the empty houses.
- Streets very busy – 10 kph in rush hour.
- Many markets and biggest mall in country in Phnom Penh
- Grow lot of pomelo where we will cycle in later.
- We are now not going to cycle to the Killing Fields as the streets are too busy due to extra visitors for the Dragon Boat festival here this weekend (see pic above).
- Guide is called Siem as in Reap! That’s where he is from!
- KIlling Fields guide’s name is Pherry!
- Pol Pot was Red Kehmer. Others were White Kehmer.
- China forced Vietnamese out after war.
- Big Chinese influence but close with them now.
- Democracy but very corrupt. They have to vote and there is only one party. Communist.
- Can buy petrol by the bottle as its cheaper. Ok to sell even though it’s illegal as long as you don’t do it too often!
I observe the city is more western than Saigon. But still crazy roads. Rickshaws are here too and it struck me that it was strange we saw none in Vietnam.
- They have pavements here!
- Petroleum 90 cents a litre. Black market 60 cents!
- 24 provinces. 15m people.
- Both men and women Kehmer wear sarongs.
- Mainly see young people here as only 8m survived the war.
- Our guide has 12 siblings and many country folk have many children but town people only have 2 or 3. Country families need a big family to help in fields etc.
- USA rejected rice crop this year as they found chemicals in it.
- Use a lot of plastic here and they have a big rubbish problem.
- Every thing here is very new. Rebuilt after war. Money from foreign government and families sending it back from abroad.
- He lost 2 family members under pol pot due to eating without permission. They Had to eat in group not in private.
- Many divorced after war as were forced to marry. If married or made love without permission both were killed.
- They were not allowed to speak in groups of more than 3.
- Many landmines after the war. Still being cleared. Much suffering.
- A lot of government factories but all exported. Can’t by anything here.
These are my thoughts after visiting The Killing Fields:-
I am confused by my feelings from our visit. It seems to have only focused on 20,000 tortured and killed from the S21 prison nearby. Horrific, terrible disgusting but somehow feels like a hollow memorial. Nothing much about the other 1.7m that died in the countryside and all over the rest of the country. The leaflet we were given said it is the most well known of over 300 similar Killing Fields across Cambodia. Possibly we had a really bad guide.He couldn’t speak much English and didn’t explain very well at all. (e.g. I was asking him about the 300 other Killing Fields and how the numbers stacked up).
I can’t but help make comparison in my mind with the holocaust and when I visited Auchwitz and that shouldn’t be so because what happened here was horrific too. The museum here was very old and clearly in need of attention. If it is so important and so may millions visit each year why don’t they make more of it? The film was full of propaganda and very old. I don’t like authority telling me what I should do if I don’t want to do it and I really didn’t like being fed a load of propaganda and not really addressing the main point or being properly factual. However saying that, it made me feel somewhat guilty and confused and wondered if I was missing the point. But why didn’t the film and memorial make more of the others killed or at least put things into context, there was no proper mention of the total killed and all the problems all over the country? I just don’t get it! Is it the government still not allowing the full story out and are they controlling what we were told?
So I leave the iconic area of repression, torture and death with a sense of sorrow, guilt and confusion – it is a horrific reminder of what man does against man since time began: for religious purposes, to control people, to conquer land, for power for whatever reason. We pray there will be no more such atrocities in the future and an end to the equivalent that is still going on in the world.
It is a shame the day has run away from us. We have been delayed since we got here. Due to there being the Dragon Boat Festival, the traffic prevented us from cycling to the Killing Fields (however, I am pleased we didn’t cycle re: the traffic) and are also just a bit too late to get back to see the S21 jail which closes soon. The traffic, by the way, is similar to Saigon but with many more cars thrown in for good measure.
Now back in the hotel after a nice meal, an early night is the order of the day as the blog is done. It was easier to do today as I’ve been working at it during the day.
Tomorrow we have a 45 mile ride plus a 125 mile transfer so we won’t be back early.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of this country and working out what more about the life and people here.
(*) Excerpt from Alan
At the Killing Fields we were passed over to a man incapable of pronouncing a consonant at the end of any word and only one or two at the start.
Basically he said “eeouooiaaauuu auo uoiu”………. and there you have it. The Killing Fields explained. There were audio sets with a perfectly recorded explanation in English but apparently
“eeouooiaaauuu auo uoiu” was far easier to understand. Fortunately we saw a brief film explaining the horrors that took place here. “Eeouooiaaauuu auo uoiu” carried on and between us we figured out most of what he meant. Suffice to say it was awf