Phnom Penh •
Visit Tuol Sleng Prison Museum & Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
After breakfast, we visit the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek—both grim reminders of Cambodia's bloody past under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. It is almost inconceivable to confront the nature of true evil here in this gentle land, but the Buddhist memorial at Choeung Ek commemorates the 1.7 million victims of the 1975-79 Pol Pot genocide. This execution site is one of many throughout Cambodia. After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll witness a dance performance by some children at the Apsara Arts Association, an organization that preserves Khmer culture.
You can then choose to explore Psar Tuol Tom Poung, also known as "the Russian Market" because most of its goods used to be imported from Russia—one of the only countries to lend aid to Cambodia in the 1970s. In those days, the market's narrow aisles were the place to buy weapons and drugs, but today, the only contraband we'll spot is likely to be knock-off American clothes and counterfeit DVDs. It's an ideal place to sample tropical fruits, bargain for handmade silver jewelry, and browse local handcrafts. We return to our hotel for some free time, and dinner is on your own this evening.
Breakfast,Lunch2 of 2 nights TOWN VIEW HOTEL
Somehow this was a strange day ... emotional. I don't know how to report on it.
Wake up call at 6:30 am. Meeting at rooftop at 8 am.
I came to realize that I am quite naive and uninformed.
The Killing Fields in Cambodia didn't really mean much to me. Well, I got educated today. 1 1/2 to 3 million people where killed in the most brutal way.
First we met one of only 7 survivors of this genocide. Chum Mey is over 80+ years old. He was a prisoner in S-21. His story was so moving. At one point he had to hold his tears back ... and so did I. He was tortured but then, as one of very few, put on a work assignment at the prison because he was a mechanic and could "fix anything".
Then the bus drove us into the country side to this Killing Field Memorial. I could not really make myself to take pictures. I can't repeat all the things we learned. There is lots out there on the Internet about Pol Pot or Khmer Rouge. All I can say is that the Cambodia government tried to make this side into a reminder what happened and that we should learn from it. It is supposed to give dignity to the remains of the victims. And that is that.
At the bottom is the name of the survivor we met this morning.
Then the bus took us back into the city to the prison S-21 from which the prisoners had been taken to the Killing Field we had just visited. It used to be a high school. When Pol Pot took power he did away with education and religion and the school was turned into the prison. All is just too gruesome. And after I had learned about the bombings of Laos which hadn't even be at war two days ago or so it all was a bit much especially if you start thinking of what is going on in the world right now....
After that it was time for lunch.
It was supposed to be really a happy day. March 1st is the day James and I met for the first time ... forty years ago. 40 blessed years. Since we were not going to be together for dinner today James had planned to buy a drink for everybody in our group for lunch to have a little celebration with us in our happiness. After this morning we didn't find it appropriate though. Bad timing.
The restaurant was classy and the meal was excellent. I had wheels going around in my head what I could try at home.
Sautéed baby bananas in a pineapple sauce with coconut cream.
This afternoon we visited the palace which had been on the official itinerary for yesterday. I can't remember why Ole changed that but it doesn't matter anyway.
The grounds were beautiful and several buildings spread out.
This is the waiting hall when the king would ride on the elephant. On the right is the platform where he can step out and onto the elephant. Just the right height. Ole says that these days the king has a Mercedes.
This is where the king lives these days. He is in residence because the blue flag is flying.
The silver temple! The floor tiles were all made from silver. We could go in but no pictures allowed and carpets were over most of the floor anyway ... very understandably. There were many many Buddhas (about 2,000 we were told) and some quite unusual.
Just before leaving the grounds this tree. The flowers are so unusual and lovely.
A good long hot shower and some time spend in the room to digest today. Then we feel we need to wash things down with some beer and go up to the rooftop where we already find another couple from our group. When the beer was brought James mentioned that it is the anniversary of us meeting for the first time. Kathy gets all excited because that is exactly their day having met 5 years ago.
Sonyeon came along too. He thinks 15 floors is a bit high and he doesn't want to go to close to the edge.
Others arrive one by one (or couple by couple). Big excitement when Ole arrives.
Was it Ole or Leng who talked about the restaurant across the street where we could find excellent snack. Ole promised to bring fried tarantula to the rooftop at 6 pm and he held his word. Neither James nor me were eager to try this dish.
Ole even provided me with a link in case I needed the "receipe".
James and I share a Bella Donna pizza. Quite enough for dinner.
We should pack because we are leaving tomorrow for Siem Reap and Angkor Wat but by now it doesn't take us long. It has to wait till tomorrow morning.