Life is a Beach

Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
1
8
19
Trip End Dec 22, 2009


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Where I stayed
Queen Hill Resort

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, February 19, 2009

We arrived in Phnom Penh a little exhausted and ready to relax on the quiet southern beaches but there were a few things we had to experience before we headed south. Our first impressions of Cambodia have been very positive! We noticed right away, however, that the poverty and homelessness is way more significant here. There are many people living on the streets and many children begging instead of attending school. We really didn't see this in Vietnam. We have also seen so many people here with missing limbs. We read that this happens here because there are many unexploded bombs and land mines left from the Vietnam War and still people are maimed by them. There are people, including many children, who collect the bombs, attempt to diffuse them, and then sell them for scrap metal. It's very sad to see so many disabled people, unable to work, and living on the streets. Still, we are amazed at how positive the people can be here and are inspired by their strength and beautiful smiles.   

After we checked into our hotel we took a walk around to get a feel for the city and find a place to eat.  We found a nice spot along the river and sat down for a quick bite.   After finishing a wonderful Khmer meal  and chatting about what we wanted to do in the city we looked up to see a huge Asian Elephant slowly strolling down the street.  It was a shock for us because this is one of the busiest streets in Phnom Penh and we weren't expecting to see an elephant sharing the road with lots of cars, buses and motorbikes.   If that wasn't strange enough, the elephant was wearing shoes!  We got our camera out just in time to snap a quick photo before he was down the street and  lost in traffic.   Sitting in the same spot we also witnessed a scary scooter accident.  3 people were on a scooter when they drove into a cement barrier and sent a girl flying. She was laying in the street when a guy came up, rolled her over, and just started to do chest compressions on her.  I kept asking the staff there if they could call the ambulance but they looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently that is not the protocol here. We both were in shock, thinking that we just witnessed a fatal accident right before our eyes, when finally the girl got up and was helped off the street.  The image of that accident lasted in our minds for several days.  Needless to say, we always wear a helmet here!

The next day we headed to the "Killing Fields" and to the "Toul Sleng Genocide Museum".  From 1975-1979 Pol Pot and his regime;  "The Khmer Rouge", tried to force a political agenda, what they called "Communism", but was actually anti-Marxist, onto it's people.  An estimated 1-3 million people, 1/5th of the total Cambodian population, were interrogated, tortured, and killed.  They killed anybody who was considered or suspected to be "involved in free-market activities. Suspected capitalists encompassed professionals and almost everyone with an education, many urban dwellers, and people with connections to foreign governments."   The "Killing Field" that we visited was one of the many killing sites in Cambodia where an estimated 17,000 men, women and children were executed.  It was very emotional and eerie to walk through this site.  We visited a memorial building that displayed over 800 skulls excavated from the mass graves there.  Visitors were asked to take off their shoes and hats, to be silent, and to pay their respects when visiting this building.  Everyone, including ourselves,  wondered around silently numb. The question "how could this happen?...how could people do this to others? " kept repeating in our thoughts. We then headed to the Toul Sleng museum.  This originally was a high school in Phnom Penh that was turned into a prison by the Khmer Rouge after the city was evacuated.   Many of the persons executed at the Killing Fields were first interrogated and tortured at the Prison.  This museum displayed hundreds of photos of the people who were admitted into the prison, many of whom were women, children, and even babies (with their mothers).  This gave more of a history of the Genocide and of Pol Pots' ideologies and "plans".  If you are interested in learning more about it go to this site:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_Rouge OR check out the book "First They Killed my Father".  An amazing memoir of a girl who barely survived this 4 year hell.  

We left later that day to go to Sihanoukville on the southern coast of Cambodia.  We ended up staying there for a week...soaking up the sun, being beach bums, eating fresh seafood and fruit everyday, relaxing!  doesn't sound too bad huh?  We jumped around to different hotels/bungalows throughout our stay.  One day we rented a scooter for the day and visited various beaches along the coast.  We stopped at one point to watch a pack of monkeys along the roadside.  We watched them play, jump and swing from the fence to the trees and bounce on the street light as if it were a trampoline.  So cool!  On Valentines day we spent a night in our own bungalow off a quiet, beautiful beach.  We had our own private deck with a spectacular view of the ocean (see photo).  We sat on our deck for hours just watching and listening to the ocean in front of us.  Everything was going great here until Clint spotted a very large rat inside our bungalow.  There were large rat paw prints and turds in our bathroom sink after we returned from the beach. Yuck! We thought we had scared it away until we turned the lights off to go to sleep and heard it scratching and chewing very close to where we were sleeping.  It freaked us out so much that we actually slept with the lights on all night!   The mosquitoes were also horrible so we slept under a mosquito net that blew in our faces all night long because of the position of the fan.  As you can imagine, we did not sleep well that night and still woke to find more Rat poop in our bathroom and a hole in our brand new daypack where the rat tried to get at our peanut butter.  The lights on didn't work. We also woke to find an entire colony of ants moving from our next door neighbor's bungalow into ours.  There must have been millions of ants all carrying their eggs and food over to our spot...looked like they were planning to stay for a while so we decided to get out of there.  Even with all the critters, the deck and view made this stay worthwhile, believe it or not.

Another day we went on a boat ride to a secluded island from 12pm to 9pm.  It was a wonderful getaway!  The beach was amazing and we met lots of other travelers.  We played Frisbee in the ocean, watched the sun set from the beach, enjoyed a large bon fire...and I even won a Limbo contest.  My prize was a shot of very cheap liquor that I regretted later that night and the next morning.  Blah!  We ate like royalty in Sihanoukville!  The food in Cambodia is so good and so cheap.  They have BBQs every night for only $3.00 and this includes fresh seafood!  Barracuda is delicious!     

We are now in Kampot, Cambodia just about 2 hours from Sihanoukville. It is a very quiet chill town with not much to do but relax on the riverfront and enjoy the palm tree and mountain scenery.  The weather is wonderful...it can get quite hot during the day but today is overcast so we may rent bicycles and take a ride around town. After that  I plan to enjoy a $4/hour massage from blind masseurs here right on the Riverfront.  Can't wait!   We leave Kampot tomorrow to head back to Phnom Penh tomorrow to get our Laos Visas and then on to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.   
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Comments

meshach
meshach on

Anther amazing chapter
Sounds like Cambodia is a lively place. I'm so jealous of your beach bumming! Sounds fantastic! I need a little of that right now!!! Glad the rat did not gnaw at your toes!

I heard it was 1,700,000 that were killed. Did you hear that the chief jailer is at the Hague right now? He is the first of Pol Pot's close men to go to court. It's a big move in Cambodian justice.

Can't wait for your next post! I wish you a safe and wonderful week!

emilyanleu
emilyanleu on

R&R
Hey guys,
It sounds like Cambodia has been good to you. Even the critters welcomed you. How nice of the ants to bring the whole family to your room, in case you guys got lonely.

Also very interesting history. Thank you for the history lesson. The bombs exploding on people is sad & scary.

Well, hope your next city is as much fun as the last.

Emily

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