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New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, Antarctica, Patagonia and Paraguay.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Final Post

     So - Annie finally gave up posting anything else on this site since she's spending all her time planning our 2014 trip. Thus, it's left to me to finish up by saying we had an incredible journey. Truly a once in a lifetime experience that we're planning on having every year!!!

     Here are a few photos from our last days in Cambodia. Thanks for visiting our blog - we hope you enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of our adventures - our new one can be accessed at: 

Annie in front of our hotel in Kampot, Cambodia and on
our river cruise in the evening.

And finally our last night in Cambodia - drinks at the FCC overlooking the Mekong River

                                    And dinner at a favorite restaurant

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way home

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

10/19: Phnom Penh's Central Market - top 10 sights in Phnom Penh

After visiting some of Phnom Penh's most harrowing sights, S-21 aka Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields, the previous couple of days, it was a pleasant change indeed to visit one of the city's landmark buildings, the art deco Psar Thmel or Central Market.  

According to one of the travel books I read, the huge domed hall resembles a Babylonian ziggurat.  I just googled :ziggurat" and discovered it meant massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau having theform of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels. My/our new word for the day!!  Some even claim the Central Market's dome as one of the biggest in the world.  In any event, we thought it was beautiful and loved wandering around the array of stalls selling jewelry, clothing and curios.

We walked to the market from our hotel because they were both pretty close to each other.  In hindsight certainly, that was a pretty scary walk as there we were pedestrians in a capital city trying to navigate our way across major roads and intersections with NO traffic lights or police officers to say when it even MIGHT be safe to cross.  Don't forget too that there were motorcycles and tuk tuks all going both directions in the SAME lanes on every street.  We just had to wait until there were cars trying to cross where we wanted to go because cars coming from another direction would certainly never stop for pedestrians!

We ended up going to the Market twice that day as we obviously wanted a little more excitement in our lives or, just possibly, because I wanted to buy more of the ultra thin cotton pants I had seen the first time!  Glad we had taken out travel insurance before we left.

There was also a huge fish market at the Central Market as you can see above and below.

Beauty above and beast below!

Saw this sign, Nina, and thought of you!

Our best meals the whole trip were at The Aroma Restaurant just down the street from our Silver River Hotel.  I had the  chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese and the most scrumptious mashed potatoes and veggies on the side.  Hadn't had mashed potatoes the whole trip so my standards may have been a little low but even so, these were positively mouth watering.  What I'd give right about now to go back to Phnom Penh if only for another stuffed chicken meal from this restaurant!

Steven loved his chicken, veggie and rice dish but even he said after trying my chicken that he'd have that the next time.  Only cost us $9.75 for both meals including beer for Steven.  We ended up going back twice more to The Aroma when we returned from a few days in Kampot  just so we could both have "my" chicken meal again as it was that good.

Friday, January 10, 2014

10/18: The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh

I know it's been too long since my last post but I've been busy with the hubub of Christmas, planning our next three month adventure in Central and Eastern Europe, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.  In addition, it was unsettling for me writing the last post on the Genocide Museum AND knowing that the subject of this post would be tough slogging as well.  Seeing the pictures again of The Killing Fields brings back distressing memories of visiting the site, the horrors of Cambodia's civil war and man's seemingly never ending inhumanity toward our fellow man.  Having said that though, I know both Steven and I are and were glad we visited Choueng Ek, aka The Killing Fields, so we could understand, if only slightly, what went on in that period of Cambodia's history.

John, our wonderful tuk tuk driver/guide our whole time in Phnom Penh, stopped to buy us surgical face masks on our out to Choueng Ek, aka The Killing Fields, located 15kms SW of the capital.

John told us, while driving on Preah Monivang Blvd., the busiest street in Phnom Penh, to make sure we held onto our backpacks in the tuk tuk and not leave them on the floor as we normally did because they could be grabbed by someone passing by on one of the very present bikes or motorcycles

It was the first time we had needed them in Phnom Penh but it soon became apparent that John had made a good decision as you'll see from the very dusty road below!

Still amazing to me to see what a motorcycle could carry!

Not sure how comfortable these people were in the back of the trucks!

Choueng Ek was chosen as a Killing Field by Pol Pot's regime because it had been used as a graveyard by the Chinese and was away from the capital.  You can see part of the longan orchard that had been on this ground.  Some of Pol Pots's slogans: "Better to kill an innocent by mistake than to spare an enemy by mistake."  "To kill you is no gain; to lose you is no loss."

Between 1975 and 1978 about 20,000 men, women, children and infants who had been detained and tortured at S-21 were transported to the extermination camp of Choueng Ek.  There were more than 200 other killing fields throughout Cambodia.  Many of them are not accessible because they are deep in the jungle and/or surrounded still by landmines.

Beauty in the middle of such horror.

The sign on the Memorial Stupa below.

More than 8000 skulls, arranged by sex and age, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the 17 level high Memorial Stupa, which was erected in 1988 by the Cambodian government. The first 10 levels were used for skulls alone and levels 11-17 were used for the larger bones: arms, jaws and legs.

The numbers above and below in many of the pictures refer to the audio guides we used.

The edges of the palm leaves above were so sharp they were used to cut prisoners' throats.  The prisoners were beaten and hacked to death with whatever was readily available: machetes, axes, car axels, hoes, etc but not bullets because they were too expensive.  There are few of the tools still visible because the locals needed them and the wood from the physical structures after the war for their own homes.

After heavy flooding, fragments of bones, teeth and articles of clothing still to this day come up to the surface.


The Killing Tree:  Babies' legs were held and their bodies were swung against this tree; their blood and brain matter were found on the bark.

The last sounds prisoners heard were those of the generators, political songs and political slogans.

A final view of the Memorial Stupa with the national flag.  One of the last signs we saw reminded us that "tragically it can happen again so remember your past as you look to the future."

Back in Phnom Penh: common to see stray dogs everywhere throughout the country but this was the first time we'd seen dalmatians.

Dinner in what came to be our favorite restaurant in Phnom Penh.

The lobby of the Silver River Hotel where we stayed in Phnom Penh: a decided step up from our normal hostel stay!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

10/17: Touring Phnom Penh: the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

A not so pretty view outside our hotel room window day after day- we made sure to keep the blinds closed.  No idea what the men were using the wood for they collected beginning early every morning.

Walked over to the Royal Palace again in the morning so we could tour both it and the Silver Pagoda for $6.25 for each of us.

On our way to the Palace we saw this sign.  HUH?
Inside the grounds at the Royal Palace.

We luckily knew in advance that our upper arms and legs would have to be covered before touring both the Palace and Pagoda. 

Thank goodness I still have my travel info I had cut and pasted before leaving home and lugged around the world as I had forgotten that this was the Equestrian Statue of King Norodom, the 1st king of Cambodia!

Lots and lots of flower photos from the Palace and Silver Pagoda - sorry, Alexander, as I know you're not a big fan of these type of photos but Dad and I loved the different array of flowers!

Wall upon wall of murals depicted how Cambodians lived centuries ago.

With a name like this, we figured we had to visit it while at the Palace and Pagoda complex!

Turned out to be the room contained many of the conveyances used for transporting the kings and his entourages to significant events.

The White Elephant itself - not sure I'd want to sit astride this!

The entire complex was incredibly beautiful and very ornate, even many of the doors and gates.

We had to leave earlier than we'd planned because of some event taking place shortly- thus the red carpet!
Guards for the arriving dignitaries.

Then walked along the riverfront we'd seen from the FCC the night before on our way back to the hotel.

See Canada's flag!  No idea why but there is NO Canadian embassy in Cambodia - the closest is in Bangkok.

The FCC -  last night we sat on the second floor overlooking the river but we were looking forward to going back our last night in town and enjoying the view from the top floor.
After changing out of long pants worn to the Palace and Pagoda, we were picked up from the hotel at 11:45 by John, the same tuk tuk driver who had taken us from the bus station to the hotel the previous day, so we could tour parts of the city away from the center.  Our first stop with John was at Wat Phnom, the city's highest point, at just 27kms though!  Interesting to note that ALL distances in the country are calculated from this point.

Lucky us - yet more steps to climb!

No idea what this is but interesting I thought!

Inside Wat Phnom.

The smell of incense was very strong due to these and other similar sized candles.
The wat is highly revered among locals who flock here to pray for good luck including Chinese who come at their New Year.

The wat is located in a big park we walked around for a bit.  The massive serpent above and below is made of bamboo.

Just across the park is the statue of Ping, a famous Cambodian nun.

Our next stop was at the Tied Gun Monument built in 2005 to protest violence and promote peace.

4 bridges across Phnom Penh's rivers - this was the Chroy Changrar.

From the beauty and immense wealth of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in the morning, it was an abrupt change to tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  Originally the Tuol Svay High School, "it became the notorious Khmer Rouge prison known as S-21 through whose gates more than 13, 000 people (up to 20,000 according to some estimates) passed to their deaths.  S-21 was an interrogation center designed for the educated and elite. But the regime was indiscriminate in its choice of victims: even babies and children were among those detained and subsequently slaughtered."

Many former classrooms contained iron bedsteads and the shackles used to chain the prisoners to the beds.  Prisoners were killed with knives because they would suffer more rather than bullets which were too expensive.  After the prisoners were killed in their cells, their bodies were mutilated by having their noses and eyes all bashed in so no ID was possible.

Rules for the prisoners.

Photo of the gallows below.

Our private English and French speaking tour guide, Keo Lundi, who has been giving tours at Tuol Sleng for 30 years, was only 15 when Pol Pot came to power on 4/17/75.  Mr. Lundi explained that he still gives private tours so he can pass on to a new younger generation the horrors of what happened at Tuol Sleng.

He is standing by a painting he asked his friend Van Nat, a famous Cambodian artist, to paint to depict some of the atrocities that occurred at S-21.  It was the last painting Nat completed.

Map indicating the first expulsion of the population from urban centers and cities throughout Cambodia on 4/17/75.  Within just THREE days the "Liberation" of the capital city of Cambodia was complete and the city of 2.2 million people was empty.  Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea's regime was in power for 3 years, 8 months and 20 days.  4 senior leaders of his regime are still alive today.

Prisoners were shackled in this room with their legs crossed at their ankles and arms behind their backs just inches from each other.

Another view of S-21 aka Tuol Sleng.  Our guide said it was called S-21 because the "S" referred to Security and the high number "21" indicated the prisoners at Tuol Sleng were generally the higher ranking intelligentsia. S-21 became the code used to refer to Tuol Sleng by the Khmer Rouge when talking on heir walkie talkie radios.  Barbed wire was put up on the third floor after one prisoner escaped and jumped to his death below.

We saw hundreds of individual photos of the prisoners; each one was taken by a NINE year old boy.  In the photo above, you'll notice that Pol Pot did not order just his own people to be executed but also those from the US, NZ, France, Pakistan, Thailand, etc who were thought to be affiliated with the CIA.

Notice the different tags around the prisoners' heads in above photos: the square shaped ones meant they were arrested in'75, th elong horizontal ones in '78.

Chum Mey, one of only a few survivors at Tuol Sleng.  We bought his memoir.  

One cell in a former classroom.  We measured it - it was 9 1/2 shoe lengths long by only 3 1/4 wide.

There were 16 cells to a classroom, 8 to each side.
After spending several harrowing hours at Tuol Sleng, John, our tuk tuk driver, drove us to the King Sihanouk Monument; the first anniversary of his death had been just 2 days earlier, so there were still many wreaths and people visiting the site.

Then on to the Cambodian Vietnamese Friendship Monument above and below.  Cambodians we spoke to did not consider the Vietnamese as friends now.  During the Civil War, the Vietnamese were considered to be the "brother" of Cambodia when they and Lao (what we in the West would call the country of Laos) helped Cambodians to defeat Pol Pot.  Now the Vietnamese are thought of as the "Big Brother."

It was a very welcome relief after the emotional heaviness of the day to see locals exercising and dancing en masse in a park on our way back to the hotel.  It brought back happy memories of similar scenes we had seen earlier in the trip in Beijing, Kunming and elsewhere.

FYI - John charged us just $10 for driving us around Phnom Penh from 11:45 til we got back to the hotel at 5:45.  We of course paid for his lunch and tipped him too.