WINTER BREAK 2007-2008

Trip Start Jul 27, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, December 22, 2007

surprise surprise- brianne is off again!  this winter i maxed out my nenkyu (holiday leave) and hit up Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos (CVL.)  It was the longest trip I've taken thus far... and got to be a bit exhausting midway through (but that could have been more the country that I was in, than the time I had been traveling...)  Read on to hear about my experiences in the above countries with fabulous travel partner, Melanie Law. 

We flew into Phnom Penh and decided after a whole 2 hours that we didn't need more than a day in that city.  The next morning we got up and visited the Killing Fields, Toul Sleng Museum, the Russian Market, Royal Palace, National Museum, and Wat Phnom. 

The Killing Fields and Genocide Museum (Toul Sleng, Former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison) were really interesting.  During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) all intellectuals (regardless of race, age, or sex) were taken from their homes, held in prisons, forced into labor, tortured, and killed.  Many records have been destroyed so numbers are a bit uncertain but it's believed that anywhere from 1-3 million people were killed, and millions more tortured and injured.  It's considered one of the most lethal regimes in the 20th century- but very few people have ever heard of it.  It was chilling to walk around the killing fields where bones still lay and huts had been made to mark the areas where bodies had been piled up to die and rot.  The S-21 prison was in the heart of the city and actually located inside of a school (this entire scheme was all a secret from the public) where they sectioned out classrooms to use as cells.  After questioning and torturing victims there, they drove them out in vans to the killing fields where they gassed them or burned them or buried them alive. 

I think the hardest part in seeing this all was the manner in which it existed.  I have never been to the Holocaust museum but from what I have heard, it's quite cleaned up and modernized.  There aren't bones still lying around, and towers of skulls that you can touch or walk off with.  Cambodia is still a very poor country and they don't have the funds to protect the artifacts or establish a modern museum so things haven't changed much since the incident happened.  I had to fight to keep from throwing up the entire time. 
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