Adventures of a Wocket

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Another year in a pocket sized country…

on 02/25/2014

Well it’s been a while since I last wrote. The lack of writing came about when I changed my job due to instability and then ended up working in a place that put me in a not so good place mentally. Currently still unemployed and waiting for a visa approval. Fingers crossed that it comes through soon or that’ll be potentially the end of my adventures in this pocket sized country. 

Since Christmas I have traveled to a different country which shows the stark differences between a third world and a first world country. Singapore is classed as first world. Fifty years ago, it was a third world country. There’s a lot to be proud of in this small island, you can’t take that away from them. They have done well and compared to the majority of countries that are on the equator it probably has the best and most stable way of life. It has its faults, that goes without saying but their successes are definitely ones they should celebrate. Unfortunately, many Singaporeans don’t realise how good they have it here and often end up complaining about the state of affairs as they are. Problems are certainly all relative though, so everyone is entitled to a good whinge. 

This post will be about my trip to Cambodia. I have to warn you that it could be quite upsetting visually and mentally. On my visit over there, I couldn’t decide whether to throw up or cry at the history the country has, recent history too. Cambodia has suffered greatly in the last 40 years and I want to share my experiences to open eyes a little about how, not bad, most of us currently have it but how very wrong things could go so very quickly.

The visit to Cambodia wasn’t a long one, just long enough to escape the frivolities of Chinese New Year in Singapore. The first day was quite relaxed at our quaint little hotel. The drive to the hotel was an instant eye opener to the state of living there. Away from the city centre of Phnom Penh the roads are just dirt tracks and there are no rules, no signs and it seemed to me that it was every man woman and child for themselves. With, surprisingly, little to no accidents. In my head it was just chaos. To the Cambodians this was normal. 

The people seemed friendly on arrival and were very welcoming. Going out to find food later was also a pleasant evening and the food was delicious. A nice start to what was to be a relaxing holiday.

Our hotel, we were right on the top floor overlooking the pool.

The next day it was decided that we were to travel via Tuk Tuk. Basically a trailer pulled by a motorcycle. It is the cheapest way to travel through Cambodia and you do get to see more. A mask is recommended though as those roads are extremely dusty, we got covered. 

This was on our Tuktuk traveling through the centre, note tarmac on the roads and vague order. 

A distinct lack of tarmac, plus dust. 

This was on our way to the place called; ‘The Killing Fields’. I can assure you this name is meant literally. 

For those of you who aren’t sure of Cambodia’s history, please click on the link to Wikipedia for a brush up. I am sorry to say that I honestly didn’t know much. I had heard vaguely of political goings on but this place, seeing it this way, really drove home what had happened in this country. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_Fields

The Killing Fields now is a monument to the people who suffered and died there. It was originally a camp. People, men, women and children were sent here to be executed. There were so many that usually they couldn’t kill them all in one day and so they had to wait. The sight that greeted us was deceptively innocuous, which I suppose is the intention. I will post some pictures of what I saw there with explanations as my words simply don’t do them justice.

 

The entrance. The monument is typically Buddhist and was built by the Cambodians to honour and remember those that perished according to their traditions. 

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This was the start of the guided tour. You could choose to have a guide or the Audio guide and make your own way around. I chose the latter, seemed more personal. These signs are all that remains of the buildings that stood here and what they represented. 

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The mounds aren’t very clear in these pictures but these fields were mass graves of the executed. 

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In the first picture, the remains of the dead buried here have been left in peace due to the flooding. In the second picture the fields of graves fall on either side of this pathway and the final picture is the view many would have seen outside the camp. 

This was the largest mass grave and a fence has been erected around it to remember the victims. 

The sign speaks for itself.

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Surreal reminder of where we were.

The tree beside this mass grave where the children were thrown against to kill them before throwing them into the pit. When the Khmer Rouge fell and this place was discovered, it was reported that blood and brain matter was still visible on the bark of the tree.

At the end of the tour, we return to the monument. 

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This is what is inside. 

The majority of the victims were sent to this camp from the notorious S-21 prison which lies in the centre of Phnom Penh. This camp is a few kilometers out of the city. We went there next.

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Just out of the perimeter.

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People of intellect were targeted by the Khmer Rouge as they were the ones most feared by the leaders to rebel and stand against them. They had to pretend to know nothing if they wanted to survive and even that didn’t save them. Many were driven out of the city and forced to work in the fields with little food and under the harsh sun and even harsher hand of the Khmer Rouge, many of whom were brain washed children. 

Let me remind you that the Khmer Rouge was made up of Cambodians. Either through fear or loyalty these acts were carried out against Cambodians by their fellow Cambodians. 

I also recommend watching the film; The Killing Fields made in 1984, it is a stark account of what happened, dramatised for film but still hard hitting and based on the experiences of an actual survivor of the genocide. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields_(film)

The Cambodians memorialized these places so that future generations could remember and that they would learn from their mistakes and try not to let such atrocities happen again. There were a number of prisons and camps like these dotted all around Cambodia and some that are still inaccessible due to mine fields. 

This visit left me feeling quite numb, as seeing that many bones of the dead is want to do. There is an estimated 8000 remains in that memorial. This was just our first day.

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Now I’m not going to bombard you with more images of horror and the dead. In fact this will be a stark contrast. The second day we visited a temple and the royal palace. The differences and beauty of the architecture were all the more poignant for what we’d seen sitting on their doorsteps. 

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This was the Buddhist temple and given that it was Chinese New Year there were a lot of people here. 

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The palace and the palace gardens was astonishingly beautiful.

Cambodia itself has a lot of beauty. The Cambodians have done well to rebuild and pick themselves up from what happened. Most of them will still remember the events, a lot of them will have lived it. 

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These two pictures were a short walk away from our hotel and are a good example of the beauty that exists here. I think it’s amazing that these people went through so much and are still so friendly and welcoming. It is, I suppose a testament to the human spirit.

Cambodia touched me in a way I never thought another country would. I will remember these places and the thoughts of those people because I feel it my duty as a human being to remember. Society can so easily fall into chaos. Events like these are more common place than we like to admit. Look at the current tensions in Syria, Thailand, Ukraine and Russia. It is happening right on our very doorsteps. Will we learn from what happen here? Some might, most won’t. 

Surely we can at least do them the honour of remembering. Remembering all those who die in conflicts, soldiers and civilians alike. 

Maybe one day the human race will learn to stop killing itself over politics, land, religion and wealth. I am but a dreamer though. 

Here is a picture of a cat lounging in the sun of Cambodia on our last day, right outside our room. 

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Because everything always feels better when there’s a cat. Right?

 

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