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Cambodia

Last days in Cambodia...

Kratie town (pronounced "Krautcheh") and Stung Treng

sunny 31 °C

We moved on from Phnom Penh to a small town called Kratie, located in between Phnom Penh and the Laos border.It's quite small, but I may just have to move there one day.
Indeed, women there (as in many parts of Cambodia, but it seemed more prevalent in Kratie) wear pyjamas OUT ON THE STREET!!! to run arrands, and stuff!!! Ideal world or what!!!
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This is only 1 pic, but they are EVERYWHERE!!! hehehe!

The main attarction is Kratie is to see the Irrawwady dolphins, a rare specie of fresh water dolphins who remain only in very few numbers in certain part of the region. They are under pressure due to the "same old" pollution and destruction of their habitat, but their population took a significant dive when the Khmer Rouge shot them as practice targets for many years (champion!!).
There are no pictures of the many we were lucky to see, as they don't exactly pose and wait for a pic, and they don't jump or anything either. In any case, it was a very pleasurable moment.

We stayed in Kratie for a couple fo days as it is a nice quiet, "real" town and everyone was extremely friendly (having at us and saying hello ALL THE TIME). In any case, we didn't learnt he word for hello in Khmer, as everyone greeted us with the english version (contrary to Thailand or even here in Laos where they actually only use their language (and currency!!)

Let's end this Kratie entry with a sunset from our hotel (yes yes, a hotel, for $3US/night, we got a actual hotel, where many members of the UNESCO, UN and OXFAM regularly stay!! It was nice after the super noisy dormitory in Phnom Penh!) and it was right on the magnificient and 1km wide - in dry season) Mekong river

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We left Kratie for the town of Stung Treng, the closest town to the Laos border.
Here is a pic of the bus terminal fo Stung Treng.
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(hehehe, yes it's an empty field!)
We arrived there after a few hour bus (local bus -we were the only white people) ride.
Funny interlude:We have so far noticed over and over again that "kids are kids are kids" (ie. seeing them play around and interact, and..just be), but we got a proof that "men are men are men" on that bus. It kinda broke down a little on the way. The driver and another man came off the bus to see and fix the problem, well, within about 2 minutes, almsot every man on the bus had also stepped outside and were standing around, looking as if to assess the problem, but not doing anything. The bus driver fixed it (under the watchful eye of about 10 othe rmen) and everyone cam back ont eh bus and we took off! hehehe! Unfortunately, only women don't seem to be equal or same same everywhere...

So anyway, we didn't stay long in Stung Treng as it is an official hole small town, with nothing but garbage everywhere (this can be extended to all of Cambodia, but at least there's normally other stuff to see as well). They at least have a nice sunset, as you can see...
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We got screwed pretty bad here by the travel agent guy (actually, it was totally our own fault). We got a price from him and walked around to get other prices - as one must ALWAYS do-. His was $12, and the only other person we were able to get a price from quoted us $9....it sounded like the itineary was the same (boat to bus to border, bus to boat to island). Being Westeners, we were worried about such a big difference (which is rarely more than $1-2, even if you visit 10 places). We saw our man againa nd asked him, He sais we must not have got the last boat (to the island - our destination)...we believed him and bought our $12tickets (asking him got him to throw-in breakfast, which technically reduced the cost to $11).
(Imp detail: he repeatdly said that he took us himself across the border, and he had a group of people who had just come from Laos with him staying at the hotel. We talked with them and they seemed happy with him...)

Well, we get on the boat, and we're the only white people again. As the boat begins to leave (it's a small small small ferry boat, 10 min crossing the Mekong) Aliya says: "At least our man is still on the boat", at which exact moment he starts walking and GETS OFF the boat!!!!
We're like....hmmm....
We get off ont eh other side, walk up the dirt road to the road, wondering how long we should wait before turning around to go beat him up.. when someone waves at us. We get to the minibus, only to find THE OTHER MAN!! who had quoted us the CHEAPER tickets!!!! He asked us how much we paid and looked actually pretty pained..so were we! He ended up dirivng us to the border, and we ended up all fine on our journey, but we paid way too much!

Finishing this entry with the "super high tech/high security" Cambodia border:
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Cheers!

Posted by Mistrale 05:21 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Killing fields

Also very difficult entry, you might want to steer clear

sunny 31 °C

Following our visit to the S-21 Museum, we headed to the killing fields.

Other than the actual fields themselves, the site has a memorial building, which holds the skulls, sorted by age and gender, of everyone found on these fields.
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Killing_fi..emorial.jpg

The fields themselves are not extremely impressive, but the information associated with it is "out of this world".
Killing_fields.jpg

Pieces of clothing and bones can be seen piercing through the ground as we walk around. Signs explain what was done in certain areas (i.e "this tree was used to hang a PA sistem that played music to cover the moans of the people as they were beaten to death", or "this tree was used to kill children, they were attached and beat against the trunk").

Indeed, bullets were scarced and expensive, so most people where beaten with a hammer to they death, or close enough, before being covered by other bodies and DDT (to cover the smell!).

Overall, this day was quite the thing. Upon walking out, our Tuk Tuk driver asked uf we wanted to go to the orphanage. We decided we had seen enough human suffering and decided to safely head back to the hostel......

Posted by Mistrale 06:51 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

The Khmer Rouge regime

sunny 33 °C

Written on May 6 for the day of April 27....

  • *** There are some graphic pics here, buyer beware*****

First, let's begin with a bit of history. The Khmer Rouge were a communist party which took power in 1975, until defeated by the Vietnamese in 1979. The country of Cambodia has been in (violent) turmoil from the early 1970 until 1998, thus explaining in great part, the current level of poverty. It is generally stated that the people don't want any war anymore, they want peace and they see, amongst other things, tourism as a great way to develop and enrich their country.

The vision of the Khmer Rouge was apparently to bring the Khmer people (real name, to this day, for Cambodia people) back up to the glory of the Angkor period. To do so, they emptied (literally completely evacuated) Phnom Penh and relocated the people to the country side to grow rice. I read an authobiography called "First they killed my father" of a young girl who was 5yrs old and living in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took over. She survived, along with 4 of her 6 siblings. Her mother and father died.

There is now a museum on the premises of the Tuol Sleng (also called S-21) prison, where approx 20,000 people where detained, interrogated, tortured and eventually killed. Only 7 people survived, and even during the last minutes, 14 people perished.

Anyone could be arrested and interrogated. Anyone who had worked for the previous government was immediately killed if that was found out. Being different was sufficient to be killed (ex. skin too white, handicapped, educated, etc)
Although officially, everyone was equal, there was apprently 3 categories. People high/middle ranked in the Khmer Rouge regime, the "base people" (people who had always lived in the country side and were therefore not corrupted like city people) and city people. Although they worked hard too, base people apparently had it easier than city people (more food rations, less arbitrary killing). Overall, it is extimated that between 800 000 and 3 000 000people died during the Khmer Rouge regime (suicide, starvation, mass murdering, diseases, the "sources" of death are numerous)

The following is an explanation board at the entrance of the site:
S-21_Intro_board.jpg

The site is composed of 4, 4 storey buildings, which were originally an elementary and high school. The Khmer Rouge surrounded the property with thick layers of electrified barbwire to prevent anyone from escaping.

These are the rules that were posted throughout the site on the black boards. We can still see the writing in some of the rooms, but it's clearer here. Note: It was written in Khmer and French.
S-21_Rules..lations.jpg

The following 4 pics are to represent the rooms after rooms filled with people's pictures. The Khmer Rouge where quite thorough in their inventory of people with the result that most prisonniers' pic was taken, along with their age and a little biography.
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The following pictures are quite "hard core", so you may want to skip. They definitely brought the point across, that's why I chose to put a couple on here. On that note, I was originally not going to take pics of this site at all, but changed my mind, as a picture is worth a thousand word, and it the best reminder possible.

These are mounted in the 14 "interrogation rooms", and is how these people were found at the site.
There are several more graphic paintings (made by a survivor) of the torture methods which I didn't take pics of, as it was just to sick. Think of horrible torture methods and you might be almost there.

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S-21_Pic_o..rured_2.jpg

Posted by Mistrale 05:42 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Angkor Thom - part 3

other temples

sunny 30 °C

After lunch, we moved on to another temple, the Baphuon. This one had started to get renovated by a French team, who had meticuously removed and documented each stone, when the Khmer Rouge took over.
When they came back after the war, the rocks had been moved seemingly without any order and they were therefore left with a bunch of rocks spreat out everywhere. The area surrounding the Baphuon is now a graveyard of stones and no one knows where they go. The French are still, to this day, working on restoring it, and they are no where near done as you can see by these 2 pics. What's not shown is that there are rocks spread around the entire building, almost as far as the eye can see.
Bonne chance mes amis!

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This pic was taken from the actual building, looking at the courtyard.
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Quick note to mention that there are several countries working in team with the Cambodia gov to restore different temples. No CA or US, but German, Japanese, French, Australia, etc.

Leaving Angkor Thom, we went to another temple called Ta Phrom:
This temple had not been restored at all, and as a result, the jungle is slowly taking over. It's gorgeous and was built by the King for his mother. It is said to have needed 80,000 people to maintain it.
I think that the movie Tomb Raider was partially shot here.
Angkor_Tho..uilding.jpg

Well, that's almost it for the temple pics (there are more of course, but really, it's pretty pathetic how badly they fail to properly portrait the places), so let's finish with a few random pics.

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Angkor_Tho..g_apart.jpg

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These kids were literally at every temple, agressively selling their stuff. This is an example with only 2 kids at once. They are very very very very pushy!!!

Last note on the topic:
The Khmer society of Angkor seemed to be quite advanced in engineering principles as these temples (and the harvesting and transporting of the stones required to build them) show.
The origins of this people had been traced back to the Indians and Chinese traders who were stuck in Cambodia for 6 months of the year, while waiting for the winds to shift and carry them back to their home country. This explains many of the religious rituals and figures, as well as the appearance of the Khmer people to this day (darker skin than chinese, but clearly asian)

Angkor Wat and most surrounding temples are built around the "high tide" mark of the flodded Tonle Sap lake. Each year, during the wet season (summer in the Himalayas/Nepal), an enormous flow of water reaches the shallow sand of the Mekong river, actually stopping the "down to the sea" flow of the water and reversing it back up the Tonle Sap lake. During that period, it more than doubles in size, and completely changes the topography of this region of Cambodia.

Posted by Mistrale 05:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Angkor Thom - part 2

sunny 31 °C

famous faces...
Angkor_Tho.._-_face.jpg
You might notice a dumbass sitting on the right of the pic. Joe blow decided that it was a good idea to climb on these statues to get a good pic. I find that sooo stupid considering the effort that the Gov is putting in maintaining (nevermind restoring) these priceless pieces of history!

The Angkor Wat and surrounding temples were built between the 9th and 11th century and were the capital of Cambodia until it got moved to Phnom Penh (I'm not sure if this was before or after Thailand invaded Cambodia). They were left and forgotten until the French took over and started to restore (and/or some to steal) these magnificient pieces of architecture and engineering.

Coming back to the faces:
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I really like the contrast of the monk's orange robe to the environment of this next pic:
Angkor_Tho.._-_monk.jpg
They were 2 monks visiting together and I asked them to take a pic of them. They said yes, but it didn't turn out too good, so I won't post it. They then asked me to pose with them while they took a pic with me!!! I totally didn't expect this, but said yes of course. There are quite strict rules that a woman is not to touch monks, so I had a really hard time being close enough for a pic, while making sure no to touch them! hehehe
Aliya was all shocked to see monks with a cell phone/camera! hehehe, technology is everywhere I guess!

The details and carvings where almost as elaborate here as in Angkor Wat.
Angkor_Tho.._relief1.jpg

Posted by Mistrale 05:02 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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