16 August 2012

Phnom Penh

OK, not my happiest posting...

Phnom Penh, Cambodia didn’t excite me and the city had sort of a sad feeling to it.  Maybe because it was a whole lot of city that I just don’t vibe with anymore.  Many of the bigger cities lack charm and character architecturally but I have to understand that many cities here in Asia either have recently started growing in the last few decades or have been rebuilt because so much of it was destroyed in a war.  Nonetheless, Phnom Penh has a few big things to see.  Museums and royal residences are the usual, but for me, I wanted to see something that I could truly only see there and for me, that was the Killing Fields where I learned of the horrible tragedies and the grotesque genocide that occurred here only a few decades ago.

Any way, the Killing Fields is one of the saddest places to ever visit, but I felt I had to pay my respects and honor the people that unnecessarily died there.  While at first, it didn't seem like much even with the audio walking tour that describes everything in detail including accounts of people who had family killed or the few that survived that time, I had to envision these atrocities happening in the very places that I was looking at as well as imagine piles of bloody bodies laying in these big holes in the earth.  It wasn’t until I started coming along the paths where clothing and bits of bone were coming up out of the walkways after rainfall had washed soil away that I started to feel an enormously deep sense of sorrow.  And the thing that hit me the hardest (and I’m sure most other people), the killing tree.  As I listened to the audio tape, my heart begins to sink further and further until I’m holding back tears.  To hear of the man who went looking for some food or potatoes in this field that was once the killing fields no knowing this place even existed and ends up finding a small skull, some clothes, and such half buried in the ground.  I'm sure it seemed rather odd to him but he then looks up at this tree near it and sees blood, bones, and brains all over the tree realizing that babies and children were smashed and killed against the tree.  I can only imagine that it was a truly horrifying sight to stumble upon.  I can barely imagine how he felt.  There's now a short bamboo fence around the area the children and women (their mothers) were found and on the fence are hundreds if not thousands of friendship bracelets that guests leave in memoriam.

Clothing coming up out of the soil on the walkway.
Bodies are still buried in the ground.

For years, people were being systematically killed in this one location (and there were so many more around Cambodia) and no one outside of the compound knew what was going on as the Khmer Rouge covered it up by playing really loud music as they bludgeoned people to save bullets and covered up the smell by using a chemical agent.  The whole idea and events that occurred are all just so sickening.  As a memorial, they have a tall stupa there that holds 8,000 skulls along with clothing on 17 different levels.  One sobering moment after another.  After that, I couldn’t stomach doing Tuol Sleng Museum (where they tortured and held many of the people that were killed at the killing fields).  And to imagine that this all happened in the 70’s!  It’s not like this was that long ago!  Gross part is that many of those leaders went on to lead a long life while under house arrest and the Khmer Rouge occupied “the Cambodian seat at the UN General Assembly until 1991, meaning the murderers represented their victims for 12 years.”  Now that’s f’d up.

No wonder I didn’t really like PP.

Now for a few happier pictures from PP...

Thought this was an interesting intersection where you can see two very different lifestyles right next
to each other.  On the left, the way Cambodians live, on the right, the guest houses where tourists stay.


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