Tet Unoffensive

Trip Start Nov 03, 2009
1
19
40
Trip End Jul 15, 2010


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, February 13, 2010

So we left Siem Reap (i'm still editing and sorting photos so haven't uploaded that entry yet in-case you are wondering, sorry!) after spending a good week there, probably a tad too much time in hindsight but we got to see many temple complexes close by and out of town, so all good.

We foolishly decided to get the 'local' bus as opposed to a taxi and it was carnage from start to finish quite frankly with crazy Khmer TV comedy being blasted out from the front of the bus and screaming kids, I settled down to a few Plex mixes from the last party and tried to forget the raging hangover I had from the previous nights revelry...

Bus breaks down..Engine blown..Going nowhere..

I'm not the most patient of fellows granted so trying to keep cool in the blazing heat in the middle of the Cambodian countryside was the task I took on for an hour with relative success until I ingeniously flagged down a passing mini-bus and negotiated a fair rate for the 5 of us to hop in and take us to the capital. $4 per person, result! Or sort of..

It was quite a hair raising journey I can assure, with our driver a Khmer equivalent of Michael Schumacher deciding to dice with death with on-coming traffic with an alarming rate of regularity. Which i guess brings me crashing into the next thing we all saw en route to Phnom Penh, which was the sight of a clearly dead Cambodian male lying face down in the dirt at the side of the road with half of his right leg severed off and looking properly messed up. We guessed it was a motorcycle accident of some kind, but how he lost his entire leg below the knee was anyone's guess. Just another day in crazy Cambodia I suppose.

After around 4 hours we finally made it and headed to our pre booked hotel. As it was Tet everywhere was banged out so we got lucky and we'd be here for New Years Eve and Day before heading to Shianokville. Not a great deal of time granted but enough to have a small break in the capital city, see the sights and relax by having a drink or two looking over Mekong & Boeng Kak river. 

The next day we headed to the extremely sad and very bleak Security Prison 21 (S21), otherwise known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It wasn't the easiest nor fun touristy thing we have undertaken on our trip thus far, but necessary nonetheless in gaining a better understanding at what actually occurred in this place during Pol Pot's regime of terror.
It was very eerie and the fact its located in such a normal looking street (it was formerly a high school before being taken over as a place of imprisonment and execution) with people going about their daily business as per normal made it even weirder for us. Please take the time to have a look at some of the photos I took there, all shot in monochrome for reasons obvious.
We spent a good few hours at S21 watching documentaries and wandering around the 4 buildings trying to understand why a man would be so hell-bent on destroying his country and it's people - I still can't quite work out why this lunatic was allowed by so many to carry out this genocide and staring into the faces of all those that suffered at his hands will be something I will remember for a long time.

As it was New Years day the streets were filled with Chinese Dragons and people celebrating during the day which was a nice thing to witness after 3 hours of relative sadness experienced at S21. Headed to the National Museum after which houses most of Cambodia's ancient treasures, sadly I was unable to take any pictures inside the museum itself so you'll have to make do with a few courtyard shots I got. We also were supposed to go to the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace but it wasn't open until mid-afternoon so we gave it a miss in the end.

One thing that did strike me was just how reserved celebrations of New Year or Tet as it is known here is, if this was London or any other UK city for that matter it would be sheer madness, not so in Phnom Penh it seems which was a pity but when you're out travelling for nearly 10 months I guess you can't be out and about everywhere all the time so maybe we missed the kicking raves going off in the City over the weekend. Simon and Don did go to 'Heart Of Darkness' on the Saturday night which sounded like a hellish pick-up joint but quite popular with Khmers and tourists alike supposedly. 

Oh yeah forgot to add, I had my first Sunday roast for 4 months, it was lush. New Zealand Lamb with all the trimmings including Bisto gravy with Banoffee Pie for desert. Well decent. 
 
That's pretty much it for the capital and we got a taxi on the Monday morning straight to Shianokville. Our driver looked a bit like the fonze from Happy Days albeit a Cambodian version. Thankfully no breakdowns, no road deaths, no delays. Time to hit the beach again I think. 



   
  
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