Sunday, January 28, 2018

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh 

After three nights in Siem Reap including two full days of temple hopping, I awoke on the third day and, after a leisurely breakfast, met my car that would take me to the bus depot. Instead of hassling with another short flight, I booked instead a bus ticket to Phnom Penh. 

The Giant Ibis bus transport is much like our Greyhound system at home. You prebook a seat - I chose a window so I could admire (or ignore) the passing view, and you ride in relative comfort for about six hours. There's air conditioning, free wifi, snacks and water. Plus, we stopped twice for toilet breaks and once for thirty minutes for lunch. The place we stopped at for lunch was clearly set up for the bus crowd. The menu was varied and they served you quickly and efficiently. 

Of course I had my usual - noodles and vegetables and BEER. I saw fries on the menu but decided to hold out for the hotel. Lucky thing because the hotel had fries and they were soooo good. 

Anyway, the time passed quickly and shortly after 3:00 we arrived in Phnom Penh. It was pandemonium getting off the bus. They unloaded luggage surrounded by passengers and tuk tuk drivers all squawking for rides. You had to show your luggage ticket though, in order to walk off with your luggage, so I really appreciated that. 

I made a deal with a tuk tuk driver to take me to my hotel. Easy peasy. The ride took about 30 minutes and before you can say hey, I was checked in and escorted to my room. 

I decided to stay in the hotel complex for the rest of the afternoon, what was left of it. I settled in, then went downstairs to the pool area and had a margarita and, yes, confession time, an order of fries. How could I not? Snort approved. 

Later in the evening, I watched the only English news available, CNN, and caught up on worldwide events. Fun times. Then I watched a few episodes of a show I'd downloaded from Netflix on my iPad and that was it. Nighty night time. 

Today, after an early morning deluge of rain, I spent the morning visiting the genocide museum known as S-21, a horrific prison run by Pol Pot's regime, and the Killing Fields, an execution and burial site with mass graves. On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was perhaps quite fitting that I found myself visiting the places and learning the full extent of the absolute horror that was Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. 

Over a 4 year period - 1975-1979 - he systematically removed people from their lands, and imprisoned, tortured and executed 1 in 4 Cambodians. Over 3 million. And the world didn't know. No one came to help the people. 

I took pictures and some are difficult to see. I'm warning you now in case you don't want to see all of them. I looked at them and took pictures of what I saw because I think we need to see what humans are capable of doing to one another. I saw the Killing tree where soldiers swung babies and children against the tree trunk until they died. Bullets were not used because shots fired make noise. They liked to murder in quiet. Men, women and children were all executed by being bludgeoned to death and then kicked into a mass grave hole. Then their necks were slit to make sure they were really dead. I can't go on. 

This wasn't the first genocide in our history and I'm sad to think that it will not be the last. In fact it isn't the last. 

After the morning's (maybe it's better stated as a mourning visit) I returned to the hotel to rest and reflect and have some lunch. 

Later on I went out again, this time to visit the Cambodia National Museum. I was particularly interested because they have many relics and artifacts from the Angkor Wat temple complexes. It was very interesting to see some of these beautifully preserved and protected relics. When I closed my eyes I could envision these statues and busts of Hindu gods and Buddha images inside these temples. Most inspiring. And a gentle finish to an otherwise emotional day. 

Besides the museum I've also included some pictures of about town. The independence statue, the riverside promenade, scooters scooters and more scooters, and the outskirts of town where it's not so clean and neat. Phnom Penh is a big and bustling city that is edgy and cosmopolitan but literally quite rough around the edges still. 

I love the people. Everyone is kind and welcoming and they love to practice their English. I have no idea what they are saying sometimes but they are just so happy speaking that I just smile and nod to let them know I care what they're saying. 

Tomorrow I have a quiet morning and then an afternoon flight to Bangkok where I'll transfer to my nearly 12 hour flight to Auckland. 

I'll spend 3 days in Auckland before the ship arrives on February 2nd, where I'll board the Amsterdam and join the 2018 world cruise already in progress. I'll be on her for 35 days, disembarking on March 9 in Hong Kong. I'll fly home from there. 

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