Onwards we moved as a trio through to Cambodia and Phnom Phen to be precise. Cambodia being well known as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, we feared the worst but obviously we were going to do it anyway!
We made it through the border and headed to our hotel on a Main Street in the city – as soon as we walked in the door and spotted a free pool table, we were sold.
Cambodia was really a place we decided to go based upon the events that happened here only 30/40 years ago which many people don’t even realise even happened. A mass genocide took a place at the hands of the communist leader of the country at the time as well as a horrendous amount of bombings by US Air Force caused over 2 million people to die… Only ended at the end of the 70s! So elderly people we would see walking the streets had gone through and survived this terrible experience in there country and are probably still suffering from the catastrophic affects that it had on everyone through the losses of loved ones.
Warning – the next paragraph is really quite graphic and possibly distressing!!
A big day was planned. One of the key parts of our visits was the reviews and horror surrounding certain places in this city. Off we went in Tuk Tuks and turned up to what is simply called ‘The Killing Fields’ – a scene of devastation where thousands and thousands of people had died at the hands of execution by the communist leader Pol Pot’s orders. Not any ordinary execution though, more brutal than a gunshot, this was conducted through uses of blunt objects, I won’t elaborate. I would like to say that stood in front of us was a remarkable amount of graves remembering the deceased.. Far from it. The scene of the crime was just how it had happened and kept intact.. Simply when executed, hundreds of people were thrown into pits and piled on top of each other. As much as 400 in a pit at a time and still in the soil, bones come to the surface over time as parts of the bodies still remain as only the skulls were excavated and put into the museum later on down the line… A truly shocking scene which reduced a few to tears whilst walking around, unimaginable and disgraceful to think it happened only 30/40 years ago behind the rest of the worlds back. The most heart wrenching however was at the scene of a tree. Next to it was a pit, where hundreds of women and children had died, but the method of death for the children would be via being hit against the tree causing severe consequences and then simply tossed into the pit only a metre away or so without any disregard. The trip around the killing fields ended with a trip into the small museum, home to thousands of skulls which had been collected from the surrounding fields and labelled with method of death etc and placed to rest amongst others.
Next stop was to an old high school, also known as S-21. An old school it was until the communist uprising decided to quickly turn this into a prison to torture Cambodian people accused of spying or going against the uprising and regime. Although a shocking scene, it was not quite as hard hitting as it was clear restoration work had taken place which took a slight edge off it however we did sit in to a discussion with a survivor of this time period and he went on to describe how his mother had left him for dead in the road as they were on the run from soldiers but she was unable to carry him any further, he got lucky however many didn’t!
Another day we decided to take a wonder around the Grand Palace in Cambodia where many pagoda’s and temple were inside the grounds to relate with the Buddhist religion they all follow. Some incredible architecture and designs and also a great opportunity to take some photographs.
Phnom Penh was the capital city and had lots of markets which we took full advantage of. Bartering ofcourse took place and we grabbed a few more bargains as per usual! The street food again on point, we occasionally treated ourselves to a western meal such as a pizza as we had got bored of noodles and rice!
Onwards we moved, a bus journey up to Siem Reap, arguably the most well known place in Cambodia due to its host to one of the supposed seven modern wonders of the world- Angkor Wat (which I will go into).
When driving along on the bus I would look out the window and it was still crazy to see how people were living in all parts of Cambodia and Asia. Some would have big houses with gates and then next door would be a wooden shack home to a family of 8, however a very happy family. Everybody seems to be content with what they have here and lead very happy lives whereas us westerners may feel that we never have enough to be satisfied and strive for more.
Our hotel in Siem Reap offered a fantastic pool to chill by in the sun which was a welcome break and also a great market life only a small Tuk Tuk ride away.
The main reason we were there for was Angkor Wat ofcourse. Angkor Wat is a huge temple built in the 12th century and is still in fantastic condition and must easily be the countries biggest resource to the economy as thousands and thousands visit daily. For this day however we rented our own Tuk Tuk driver who would drive us to Angkor Wat but there were also 5/6 other temples within a 15km radius and we would visit them all and do a lot of walking but all very much worth it.
Words probably wouldn’t really do it justice because to us it wasn’t a religious trip like it was for many, it was more just to see what the fuss was all about but it definitely didn’t disappoint and one I can atleast say ‘been there’ and thought it was great. I’d rather just add pictures and just take in how amazing it is and also the small temples where people go and pray. We even got a trip to the set of ‘Tomb raider’ film, not that I’m an avid fan!
For most of the time of Siem Reap we would just chill and take in our last few days on our travels. It was all suddenly coming to a very fast end but the fun never stopped. My whole Asia experience was summed up to a tee on the final night. Just outside our hotel was an Astro turf football pitch which was constantly busy all day every day and me and Alex constantly said we must go down there later and check it out. It took us to the last night to do so.. We went down and to our surprise there was a bunch of western people playing a game. They weren’t interested in us or outgoing enough to let us get involved… As soon as they finished we decided to just walk onto the pitch and have a kick about. All of a sudden we had 7/8 young Cambodian kids chasing us around playing football with us and having lots of fun. That’s more like it and it’s not surprising at all that the local people are the friendlier, happier people and we must of had a kick about with them for a good hour before the floodlights went off and we were sweating buckets in the humid night heat. A fantastic way to send us off and a dream of mine. We would always grow up seeing those comic relief videos where a westerner would go to a country and get involved with lots of kids and play football or speak to them and it looked really cool – and there was me doing the exact same and having a blast!
Cambodia was a fantastic experience, not as much to do as the rest of Asia but in a sense, we weren’t massively optimistic to do a huge amount and with a nice pool at the hotel it was good to chill and try catch a last minute tan but I’d definitely recommend the country as a place to visit. Such a cheap price (I got a full Cambodia kit for only $5 haha) and very welcoming and friendly people who are genuinely grateful for any business that you give them and I can imagine that it will go a long way for them and there families.
Gutted to now be in England and this terrible weather, dropping from 35C and humid down to 10C at best.
I’ll write one last blog to wrap everything up soon and do my highlights of the last 6 months!!