Friday, 23 March 2007

Off the rails in Phnom Penh

Drugged Pizzas

You haven't been to Cambodia until you've had a Happy Pizza. In Siem Reap I ordered one at Happy Herb Pizza. The happiness of the pizza is directly proportional to the amount of marijuana applied. Cautiously, I requested a not-too-happy-pepperoni.

A few Angkor beers later my world fell apart. I never smoke dope and have no tolerance to it. I was overwhelmed by paranoia and reduced to a state of stoned helplessness. I was mapped - for hours. If that's a not-too-happy-pizza, what's a regular-happy-pizza like? Never again was the only lesson learnt there.


Lakes

Budgetary constraints prohibited a boat trip down the Tonle Sap (SEA's largest fresh water lake) to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The Tonle Sap lake flows into the mighty Mekong via the Tonle Sap River during the dry season. The flow reverses direction during wet season, thus expanding and shrinking the lake dramatically throughout the year.

We took a six hour bus instead and checked into a hostel with great views over Boeng Kak lake, a haven of peace in this otherwise chaotic city. Boeng Kak's a convenient place to secure Vietnamese and Laos visas.

Genocide 

Attractions include the Killing Fields and the S21 prison. Both potent reminders of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge's barbaric rule over this country from 1975 to 1979.

The S21 prison, situated in central Phnom Penh, was converted from a school. Political prisoners were detained, interrogated and tortured before transportation to the Killing Fields for execution and burial in a mass grave. The conditions in the prison were horrific. The gruesome images of torture left folk visibly shocked. Truly terrifying.



The Choeung Ek Killing Fields are 17km south of the city. A shrine containing more than 5000 skulls leaves a bleak impression. There are open pits from which bodies have been exhumed and human bones still litter the site. The place is eerily quiet allowing your mind to dwell on the horrors that transpired here. Some estimates suggest up to three million were killed. I felt sick to my stomach. The most horrific thing I've seen since Hiroshima.


Chilling

I spent two weeks watching movies, reading and avoiding buses. I strolled around the French boulevards, visited the art-deco Central Market, prayed at Wat Phnom and saw the Royal Palace. Evening strolls along Sisowath Quay are enjoyable if you get bored of lake sunsets.

My girlfriend FenXiao ran out of leave and had to go back to her job in Newcastle last week. We've been together every hour since KL and there's a big hole where she used to be.

Next stop Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City for Commies).

Ket Loi? (Khmer for How much?)

1 comment:

  1. If there's another chance, I would like to try the "happy pizza" with you. We should have done it together, so that I can feel how you felt. I hate going back to work, I wish I could stay with you until the end of your trip. I am looking forward to seeing your girlfriend's name on your bolg again. I hope my next trip with you won't be long.
    Be a good boy, don't break my heart again! Wo hen xiang ni, Wo ai ni. Be happy and healthy. SMILE

    ReplyDelete

Please be nice.