Well the first bit's ok! We left Saigon for a tour of the Mekong Delta, culminating the following day in a slow boat trip up the Mekong, into Cambodia & all the way to the capital, Phnom penh.
The Mekong Delta is interesting seeing how the locals went about their business, even if the tour was a bit of a shambles, lots of waiting around in places you were expected to buy souvenirs, excruciatingly long & uncomfortable bus rides on what was supposed to be a river trip & free meals which were a mystery to the guide, even though we had the itinery from the travel agent which clearly stipulated them, resulting in us going on at the tour guide until he just plain wouldn't speak to us anymore!!
The highlight was putting a big snake around my shoulders ready for my next Facebook profile picture, but that dozy middle aged Dutch woman wanted to be in my photo too! I wanted to say: "excuse me, please could you step out of my photo?" but got tongue tied & instead went "shooo!" Even when she did step out from under the snake, she still stood there playing with it as I willed it with all my mental strength to bite her- unfortunately it didn't!
She clearly didn't fancy Rob tho!
Ok, the gruesome bit...
We arrived in Phnom Penh & a group of us from the tour all checked into the same guest house. Tired from the shambles the day before, we all randomly gathered on the terrace overlooking the lake
& got drunk in preperation for what we had been warned wasn't going to be a pleasent day! How right they were!
Some background.... A chap who changed his name to Pol Pot, who had studied in Russia where he became a fanatic of communism, rose through the ranks of the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communist party) where he eventually became 'Brother no. 1', with a dream of turning Cambodia into a completely totalitarium state (where everyone is equal). They came to power based on popular support due to the after effects of the American war in Vietnam spilling over into Cambodia & set about implementing their plan, which was based solely on rice cultivation. The calculation was made that 'x' amount needed to be sewn a year: 'y' amount to feed the people & 'z' amount for export to support infrastructure. However, when 'x' wasn't reached, due to bad crops & unrealistic targets, their answer was to reduce rations & population. This in itself reduced productivity & you have an ever decreasing circle. The grim bit is that their policy to reduce the population was to round up anyone with skills (teachers, lawyers, doctors etc) as they were paranoid that these types didn't support the revolution, plus anyone who was mildly suspected not to support it, plus anyone else who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time & take them to one of two kinds of place. We visited both: the first is known as 'The Killing Fields' where people were sent to be killed & buried in mass graves. Also, the policy was not to shoot them dead as it was deemed a waste of bullets. There actually isn't anything really to see here except a monument filled with the skeletons of the people they dug up & big holes in the ground where the mass graves were.
The second place is known as S21, a primary school turned prison/ torture camp. In here was just walls of profile pictures of all the prisoners as they were admitted & it was just horrid. Other buidings of the school contained the history, the aftermath etc, but the one which was most interesting was a gallery by a pro-communist Swedish media team who were invited to tour the state. They were hands up saying they believed & hoped that Cambodia would the perfect example of a totalitarium state & next to each photo of their tour were quotes from them stating what they were told & believed at the time, then what they obviously know now. It was a stark contrast!
This happened only thirty years ago & the after effects are still very prominent in the whole country which made it seem so real. All in all the day was very sombre & grim, so we went back to the guesthouse, booked a bus ticket for the morning, sat on the terrace & got battered again!
The only slightly amusing thing of the day was seeing this car with thirteen people in it: 3 perching out of the boot; one lying across their laps in the boot (you can just see an arm poking out if you enlarge it); 5 across the back seat; 3 in the passenger seat & the driver!