We left early and visited the royal Palace seeing the Silver pagoda. This was amazing it sparkled with Silver diamonds and even an Emerald Budda. The King died in October so we could not visit his palace, but we saw plenty of the gardens and the Stupa, where they store the ashes of the deceased. Hazel was very sick today and left us and headed back to the hotel via a Tuk Tuk. Bb was not well but soldiered on. We think that it must be a stomach bug as it is wandering fromperson to person. The kids have accepted it as part of life and there is no fuss. There was time when I asked some on how they were feeling and were told (much better now I had a good chuck a few minutes ago).
Next was the national museum where we saw artefacts that dated form pre Anchor days. This was followed by a visit to a
Buddhist temple built on a hill that had been built by a very rich woman. On the way up the temple we came across a lady asking $2 to release two birds from a gage needless to say the cage was soon emptied and the lady went away with a smile on her face. The temple itself was quite beautiful with lots of Buddha’s in all sorts of poses. And some very graphic and beautiful paintings. Then off to yet another lovely meal.
I was surprised that the Khmer Rouge did not cause a lot of destruction to these places but I guess since they had emptied the city of people there was very few around to destroy things.
Next stop was The Killing Fields.
On the way Kim shared her story.
She was 15, for some reason the day the Kymer Rouge emptied the city she was separated from her parents. She was sent to the Vietnam side of the city. She told us that they had to just leave their homes and take nothing. Anyone who tried to close the door of their house was shot.
They evacuated in fear. She walked for seven months through rice fields and jungle eating whatever she could find. Snakes snails frogs crickets spiders plants toads, you name it she ate it Rats were the tastiest although they were bad for the skin and toads the worst. She arrived in the refugee camps and ended up in one near the Chu Chi tunnels. They were only give rice and oil for food and supplemented it with anything they could find.
She met her husband there and like her he could not find any of his family. They ended up having four children. When they eventually closed the Refugee camp by luck she was able to reconnect with her mother and brothers and sisters. Most of who had married local Vietnamese. Her father and a brother were killed by the Kymer Rouge. Her husband was located by one of his sister in laws so they both ended up with some family. Only two of her children have jobs as they are so hard to find. Her eldest is 32. Unemployment is at 35%so she supports many people. She came back to her home town but was too late to reclaim her house so has had to start right from the bottom learning English from the radio until she was good enough to become a tour guide.
The Killing fields were out in the country side at the site of an old Chinese cemetery. They found over 100 massed graves there. Graves filled with baby’s old people young people and even headless bodies in Khmer Rouge uniforms. (Probably the heads were taken some where as an example. We saw the tree where the bashed the babies to death. And in the pits you could see bits of bone and cloth that had risen to the surface. Ryan asked Kim how she felt the first time she visited the Killing Fields and she broke down. In fact many of us cried at the pointless loss of life. However the sound of children’s voices from the school next door and the dance o the butterflies amongst the graves gave us hope that in Cambodia at least this would not be allowed to happen again.
They have placed the remains of the victims in a stupa stories high. A sobering sight.
We left in silence and for some it was too much and they chose to go to the Russian markets which specialise in Silver jewellery whilst 11 of us went on to the prison that the victims of the Killing field had come from.
This was a school in the suburbs of Phnom Penh. It looked pretty much like any three story school built in the sixties with
three wings. The class rooms had been divided into about 10 to 12 tiny badly built brick cells. The prisoners were manacled as there were no doors. If you talked to someone else you were tortured, not killed as that was too easy. Many of the cells still had blood stains in them. They have chosen to leave it exactly as it was as a lesson to humanity. The prison had taken photos of everyone who had come through, including one Australian whose body was found at the Killing fields. The photos were stark you could see the fear in their eyes and hopelessness.
There was a photo of the deserted Phnom Penn it was derelict.
I cannot do justice to the way both of the places affected us all. It was a history lesson that should not have had to be made. Only seven people survived this prison and we had our photo taken with one of them. He was a mechanic and they needed someone to fix stuff so he survived.
On the way to pick up the others the conversations were wide ranging about what we had seen and how it affected us.
A buffet dinner was next on the list and we enjoyed the ability to choose what we ate.
An amazing day. It felt as if we had squashed a week into one day.