English version: Cambodia
Dear Family and Friends,
It's been a while since our latest update and we thought it was time to write you what we've been up to these last weeks. After Luang Prabang in Laos we flew to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, which so far has been the most disappointing.. the city is just strange and there's not a whole lot to do, however we managed to find the nicest hostel in town which served free vodka from 20:00 till 23:00 so you can all imagine that was kind of a relief;)
After Vientiane we flew to Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia, we honestly did not know what to expect from Cambodia, we just knew there were two things we desperately wanted to see, Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields, more on that later in this blog. We arrive at Phnom Penh and check in at the Mad Monkey hostel chain, I say chain because the have around 15 in all of SEA, great concept, we venture into their own bar at the top floor and everyone is having loads of fun, at around 23:45 we all walk to one of the biggest clubs (also partly owned by the Mad Monkey group, smart lot) and have a great time dancing the night away. We book a tour to go the the Killing Fields and the S21 prison, for the next day, unfortunately they forgot to pick us up.... kind of a bad thing. The next of our days. In Phnom Penh are spend on walking the amazing city some really good food and getting massages.
After several days we book a bus to Siem Reap another big city in Cambodia, the bus tour operating this 6 hour drive is stellar, free water super comfortable bus, and enough stops, we arrive a bit early and check in at the Mad Monkey in Siem Reap whilst we walk in they're in the middle of their weekly Pool Party, a well known party in the area..this is going to be fun! The next couple of days we venture into the city and their amazing pub street and night market, it's very touristy but has an amazing vibe, we're falling head over heels with Cambodia and have not seen any of their massive highlights yet, very promising! The next day I try to surprise Nadine and I book some tickets to what is called the Cambodian Circus, it's an actual circus but ran by people whom all have been very less privileged in life, the kids performing were all living on the streets before this, now they have the opportunity to travel the world performing. Cambodia is slowly stealing our hearts, after a great show it's time to go back because tomorrow is highlight day;)
Finally the day is here we rented a tuktuk plus driver for the day to go and visit the biggest temple complex in the world,Angkor! As we arrive the place just feels magical, we arrive at the gate of Angkor Wat snapping pictures, only to realize the actual Angkor Wat temple is a bit further, and what a sight! It's stunning check out the pictures if you don't believe me. As the whole complex is around 300km2 way to much to see in 1 day we let our driver show us all his highlights, for us the 2nd temple Banyun is the absolute best! It's known for all it's massive faces in all the pillars, again truly stunning and over 800 years old! What a lot of blogs/internet searches fail to mention about Angkor is the beautiful nature whilst driving, it has everything massive trees, plants, monkeys, elephants, truly epic! Oh yeah and don't forget the famous "Tomb Raider" temple where the famous movie scene has been shot. After a long and extremely hot day it's time to head back, gaze at the pictures we took in air conditioning and go to sleep knowing we've just seen something great.
Whilst in Siem Reap we try to book the same and apparently the only tour for the Killing Fields again as we're going back to Phnom Penh to eventually fly to Malaysia, they apologize and give us a discount to book the tour again, after confirming a couple of times we head back with the same bus to Phnom Penh getting ready for the Killing Fields the day after. It's a warm welcome by the Mad Monkey staff shouting how much they've missed us and it's hugs all around.
----Disclaimer the following story is quite disturbing and not for the faint hearted-----
A little bit of history on Cambodia, at the end of the 70's Cambodia has been in turmoil, with the US-Vietnam war going on, and the country having a different ruler every couple of years. In the shadows there was a man operating called Pol Pot, he was basically striving for a Utopian state for Cambodia, and his Communistic Utopia would be the way Cambodia was 750 years ago in the time Angkor was built. As strange as this may sound to all of us westerners, keep in mind the country was in a weird place. As Pol Pot built his army the Khmer Rouge in the shadows, waiting for his time to overthrow the current monarchy. His time came and he made a pact with the king at that time of Cambodia (who did not want to really, but was to scared of the Khmer Rouge) and Pol Pot arose form the shadows and started building his Utopia, which basically meant, let's all go back to the Stone Age. In the 4 year rain of Pol Pot he killed over 25% of the entire population of Cambodia, everyone that had studied, glasses, and soft hands(not labored) were killed, but not only them, but there complete families, with the philosophy if we kill them all there will be no-one left to seek revenge. Until this day one of the biggest Genocides ever recorded in history and less then 40 years ago.
Finally the day is here, it's time for the Killing Fields and the S21 prison. The driver is 30 min early and in a massive urge to pick us up since last time it all went wrong, we get on the bus and after about 15 min it drops us off at the S21 Genocide Museum, we pick up the audio tour and start wandering. To paint the picture, S21 used to be a high school in the middle of Phnom Penh, but in the time of the Khmer Rouge it turned into a secretive prison where over 20.000 people were murdered, and much much more tortured. As you walk the eery grounds, we can't help but feel semi-depressed the tension even after 40 years is just astonishing. In a nutshell S21 was a prison the tortured people in the time of the Khmer Rouge to get confessions out of everyday people, so that when they confessed the had a "legal" reason to be shipped off to the Killing Fields to be murdered. Their confessions mostly existed of, you have worked for the CIA or you are a double agent for the Russian KGB, everyone who was tortured had never heard of these organizations, but after being tortured long enough you'll confess to anything. As you walk the cells you see all the torturing devices, endless pictures of the people held captive, and the horror that took place here. As we reflect outside a daunting feeling comes over us...we're now going to the place where every died.
After about a 30 min drive we arrive at the Killing Fields, well 1 of the killing fields, there were over 900 in Cambodia alone.... It's nothing like we expected, at first glance it looks like a nice park you'd find anywhere in the world, as we enter this feeling disappears. We start walking again with the audio tour, and as we come up to our first mass grave things start to sink in, 146 people were found here the place states, the grave is surrounded with Backpacker bracelets. Then comes by far the most horrific moment I've experienced so far in life, another mass grave, next to a beautiful tree, the place on the grave reads a mass grave with only women and children... the tree, fucking god the tree, it's filled with bracelets... the audio tour tells us the sick story that because it was to expense to use bullets and knives get dull, the tree was used to bash babies and children after that they were thrown in the mass grave. We stand there, our eyes well up, the audio tour informs us the tree still has pieces of brain in rubbed in the bark.. we stand there in complete silence for 10 min...
Another sick note can be read on the following plack, whilst all this killing was going on, roughly 300 people per day...per day! They played a communistic song on a loop, so the other people in the camp and who lived nearby would not be able to hear the screams and the crying. As we walk to the small temple in the middle where several skulls are kept to show more horror, it's time to leave, we get on the bus and drive back. This has been one of the most impressive days of our life, the weirdest thing is, we got back to the hostel and all of our new found friends asked "where have you been today?" And once you utter the words, S21 and Killing Fields, "if they've been" look at you with the same face, a face that says, truly fucked up right. And they're not lying.
On a more happy note, Cambodia is absolutely AMAZING, the best country so far, the people, the food, the beauty of it all, as I'm writing this in our new country Malaysia I look back at Cambodia and think, hope we get to go there again.
As said above, we've left Cambodia and traded it in for Malaysia, flying from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur, to Langkawi a small island in the north of Malaysia, we'll have 5 weeks to get from here to Singapore.
I hope everyone is enjoying the summer, I know we are;) Nadine & Bas out, time to go to the beach!