Friday 28 December 2012

Phnom Penh and the Killing Zone

We arrived to Phnom Penh after what can only be described as the worst/best bus journey of my life. We got the "express" bus from Siem Reap shaving 3 hrs journey time, although it still took 7.5 hrs in total. During this we had Cambodians even scared with the manic swerving by the driver to avoid water buffalo, a baby vomiting on my foot (the worlds worst feeling), having to clean said foot in the toilet/sauna next to drunk Aussies, going 10 km/hr on gravel roads for 2 hrs during which time the air con decided to die (this was made worse because the baby vomit had not been cleaned up at all - although we had moved seats), and the bus kept overheating/stopping making the overall time longer than the paid for 6 hrs. Something to tell the kids about one day...

Anyway we arrived in Phnom Penh, and straight away ran into haggling difficulties which is what we will predomiantly remember this city for. The tuk tuk drivers are terrible demanding insane prices and then changing their minds. Our first and only stop here was the goal where thousands of people were tortured to death for no real reason during the Khmer Rogue era. The experience in this place was similiar to that of Auschwitz in Poland, although not as peaceful. It was very easy to imagine the horrors that went on here with well documented photos and most of the torture chambers intact, complete with bullet holes puncturing the walls.

We eventually got to where we were staying the night, and settled in for fun with our host. This part was great. We even managed to secure a private taxi for the next day to take us to Kep and stopping along the route to the Killing Fields. Oh so we thought. Next morning they showed up, changed the price by quite a bit. So we sent them packing. After 2 hours of calling around other places we evnetually found a new driver after giving up hope of getting something decently priced. I would not really recommend this option, except that buses south depart early in the morning and there is no other way to get to the Killing Fields (even by tuk tuk, it is at least $18USD return trip from the city) on route.

The Killing Fields were as depressing as expected. Even though we were prepared for seeing the bits of bone and clothing sticking out from the ground, to know that you are walking on the reamins of someone that was horrendously murdered was quite traumatic. For me the worst part was seeing the baby tree. Here mothers were forced to watch as their babies were repeatedly swung onto the tree trunk until dead and thrown in a pit, after which the mothers were usually decapitated. Absolutely horrific.

From the Killing Fields, we headed further south to our next and final destination of Cambodia: Kep.

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