Angie and Me in SE Asia travel blog

Just a few of the 3,000 skulls at the killing fields

The Killing Tree

Bones sticking up through the ground on a path

Interrogation room at S-21

Outside the cells at S-21

A cell at S-21, about the same size as a public toilet...

Indepedance Monument

Royal Palace, as close as you get.

Silver Pagoda

Elephant in the street

Had a later start this morning the tuk tuk man turned up to pick us up at 9am. Manship tours was taking a rest and we were letting the professionals do it. We had booked a tour of the city from the guesthouse. First we had to travel 10 miles out of the city to Cheung Ek, the site of the killing fields. Where the Khmer Rouge executed thousands of Cambodians in the 1970s. There was a monument erected to those that lost their lives there. At its height they were executing 300 people a day. The monument contained thousands of skulls and other bones, plus clothing of the dead. There were mass graves that had been excevated, plus many mass graves that hadn't and you found yourselves walking along the paths, looking down and realising you were walking on human bones. There was also a tree there, where they took babies or small children, held them by their ankles and swung them at the tree, smashing their skulls in the process. From there we headed back into the city and continued the theme with a visit to Tuol Sleng or S-21, this is now a museum, it was originally a school, but the Khmer Rouge turned it into an interrogation centre, designed to purge anti Khymer Rouge elements from the new society Pol Pot was creating. All the classrooms had been converted into tiny prison cells or interrogation rooms. The interrogation rooms were horrific as they just contained the bed and a few instruments of torture plus a picture on the wall of the state of someone after they had been tortured there. There were pictures up in other rooms of all the people that had died there. There were so many and many were so young it truely was a harrowing place to visit and one we will never forget.

The horrific sights of the morning were still fresh in our minds when we headed for the Russian Market, which got its name because of the hundreds of Russians who shopped there in the 1980s. This market was positively laid back in comparison with the one in Saigon, although there were still people willing to haggle, as we bought a few souvenirs. As we didnt want lunch and all the other things on our agenda were shut till this afternoon our tuk tuk driver took us to the riverside where we chilled out in the sunshine for a while.

Then in the afternoon we headed off for the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, which are in the same grounds and have a joint entry fee. This turned out to be $12.50 for the two of us, which is by far the most we have paid to visit any attraction on this trip. Not only was it expensive to get in but they also refused Angie admission because she was inappropriately dressed, She had here arms showing and they wouldnt accept a shawl as adequate cover. What a surprise right opposite the ticket booth was a stall selling t shirts. We had to purchase the cheapest t shirt they had at $2 so Angie could wear that (meaning she was now wearing 3 layers in a temperature of well over 90 degrees, they say ladies perspire, well she was perspiring like a fat kid in a cake shop. The Royal Palace was extremely disappointing as you werent allowed in to look around and at least 75% of the grounds were out of bounds too. The only building you were allowed in was one containg a few royal pieces of ceremonial regalia, making the entrance fee even more of a con.

The Silver Pagoda on the other hand was available to view and although in itself didnt make the entrance fee worthwhile did go to justify it in some way. Around the outer wall of the Pagoda ran a mural, telling the story of the Ramayana. The mural however is not in the best condition, but did go on for an impressive 642 metres. The reason the Pagoda is named the Silver Pagoda is because the floor is covered in over 5,000 silver tiles, although most of them are covered in carpet and rugs with only a small area near the entrance exposed. The area around the Pagoda is well manicured and a pleasant place to wander around, there were also a few monkeys playing around in the grounds too. Close to the exit to the Pagoda there is, what used to be the elephant stables, which now contains a lifestyle model of the white elephant that was owned by the king and lots of the ceremonial chairs that went on its back. The original elephant was starved to death by the khmer Rouge, they really werent nice people. However, we didnt miss out on seeing an elephant as we passed one in the street on the way to the National Museum. This musuem was not the most interesting we have visited and would only recommend it if you like looking at old statues, large and small, mainly from the 8th to 13th century.

The last stop on the tour was Wat Phnom, a temple high up on a hill which amongst other things gave a wonderful view on Phnom Penh, there were steps up to it which took you to various levels till you reached the temple at the top level. The temple contained many candles and Buddha statues. People had left gifts for the Buddhas with money stuffed into their hands arms and anywhere else it would fit, someone had also left a gift of a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste because even Buddhas need that ring of confidence.

The tuk tuk driver then returned us to our hotel, where we showered and changed before heading out for our final night in Phnom Penh. Tonight we went to the Romdeng Restaurant, where they train former street youth as waiters and chefs and is run by a charity. The staff were superb, they lined up to greet you as you entered the restaurant, bowing with their hands together. When they waited on you at your table the smile never left their face, they were effecient and eager to please, Angie wanted to round them up and take them back to School House. Not only was the service first class but the food was exceptional. I had stir fried red tree ants with beef chilli and garlic and can honestly say it is the nicest dish I have had so far in Asia. Also just to add, the surroundings were lovely and peaceful, making it a super end to our time in Phnom Penh.Shame we couldnt get any photos but Angie had left the camera at the hotel. Our tuk tuk driver from the hotel arrived to pick us up some 25 minutes late, just as we had decided to walk back, but even that couldnt spoil a wonderful evening.

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