Saturday, 6 February 2010
Saturday 6th February
Explored Phnom Penh - hired ourselves a tuktuk driver for the day for 25USD. So much fun weaving through the narrow streets; so many crazy sights; bullock carts laden with pots, ladies in PJs (Susan would love it here), elephants walking along the roads causing traffic jams. It was great!
First macabre stop was the killing fields of Choeung Ek. There was a stupa (memorial tower) containing 8000 skulls just some of those executed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975-8 and buried in mass graves here. Interestingly Cambodia is only now pursuing justice for these murders. With members of the KR still in current political parties, public notices firmly direct blame towards key leaders (Pol Pot etc.) most of whom are conveniently now dead.
As a slightly bizarre follow-on our driver stops at the back door of the military barracks where we are invited to select from the "menu". All the well known names were on the list; Colt 45, AK47, M16, and even a rocket launcher if you had 350USD to spare. Olly opted for a modest Colt 45 and even managed to hit the target with a few shots... Caroline declined to fund the regimental beer kitty.
To complete our slightly disturbing morning - tourist attractions really does mean something different here - we stopped at Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, a notorious prison during the KR era. Haunting photos of 17,000 inmates most of whom were executed. Also a fascinating narrative of the coup and following Vietnamese occupation; between the spin and whitewash it was practically unintelligible.
For a more pleasant afternoon we visited the Russian market, a warren of dimly lit stalls and alleys selling EVERYTHING. The motorbike spare parts stalls were great!
Royal Place next. Due to the long sleeve rule for women (!) Caroline sweated her way through this one. Amazing pagodas and temples. The royal family had a habit of moving palace every 50 years (economic stimulus package anyone?) and the latest was a concrete 1920s effort but for all that considerably better than Cripps' gifts to Cambridge.
Leisurely stroll along Tonle Sap river to end the day. The four poster bed in the hotel proved useful to dry the washing.