13.03.2016 - 14.03.2016 33 °C
Day 27 - 13 March 2016
The real capital, Phnom Penh
Just after 9am, a mini bus picked us up at our hotel to bring us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, and our third capital city on this trip.
The trip was a bit of a disaster from start to finish. Here is what happened. The bus filled up with passengers and drove onto Phnom Penh, with the driver driving as fast and as crazy as he wanted to. After our first stop, he managed to pick up another family of 4 who were trying to get to the hospital as one of the kids was very sick and kept throwing up on the bus. Nearly an hour later, the bus gave up the ghost and the engine cut out. We all piled out of the van as some local guys checked the engine, presumably for oil or to see if there was a smell of burn. With that, a few of them started pushing the van to kick-start the engine, and after three attempts, the bus was up and running and we all got back in. The drama was far from over at this stage.
Just as we were taking off, the kid got sick on top of a bag of something that the driver was delivering, and they got off at that spot. All was fine with the remainder of the journey, except for the crazy driving, for the next two hours until we pulled in for fuel and the van wouldn't start again. After attempting to kick-start it again, the driver decided to switch vans altogether and we moved our bags into the new van and drove onto PP.
We arrived about an hour and half later than was scheduled which was ok with us but Tom had rang his friend to collect us from the bus station and bring us on a tour around the city and he had been waiting for us all that time. Alls well that ends well and at least we got a story to tell at the end of it.
Mr Von battled through the bustling city traffic to drop off our bags at our hotel downtown before bringing us to the killing fields, 15km outside the city, where thousands of people were beheaded and killed in the late 70s, as part of the killings that wiped out generations of families (over 1 million people in just over 3 years) under the Pol Pot regime. The tour at el choeng was very emotional and really gave you a sense of what it must have been like for the poor families who were torn apart and destroyed by Pol Pots regime and the Khmer Rouge army.
Just like the killing caves, there were boxes of bones and clothing fragments around the site with lots of shallow graves and tiny fragments of bone. Inside the remembrance building, there was a floor to ceiling glass case of skulls, all colour coded by age group, sex and how they were killed. When visiting a place like this, one feels anger and sadness but also a sense of hope and peace knowing that the people behind all of these senseless killings are behind bars and that good always outdoes evil.
On returning to the tuk tuk, mr von told us his own personal story of these horrendous times. He had an uncle, cousins, and friends killed by the Khmer Rouge and some of his siblings were killed by napalm when the US bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam war.
He then took us on a mini tour around the city as dusk was approaching and we saw some of the sights by night. We stopped at a restaurant on the riverside for some dinner as we had only snacks during the day and Mr Won showed us pictures of his kids and various family weddings he had recently attended.
Exhausted from all the days goings, we headed back to the V hotel to catch our breath. It was dark when i went for a swim in the rooftop pool but we had an amazing view of the city skyline.
The room was pretty savage aswell as they had upgraded us to a suite, which is always welcome and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful.