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Phnom Penh - Pol Pot did some bad things

View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

Back in the capital, we picked up my visa and did some walking around.

There are international schools every 2 blocks, it seems, though at some points it gets ridiculous. Here is the very fancy Hello American Kindergarten, in a nicer building than any school I know of in North America (granted, I only know public schools).

Here's a random temple.

An asian cartoon cat from hell, I think Hell Kitty is the next big thing.

We went to the S-21 war museum, at a former school that was turned into a torture building and prison under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. It was a stark reminder of what men can do, and the notion that some must be stopped. Under this particular version of communism, original farmers became landowners and people from the cities (including those that had recently moved from the countryside in search of opportunity) were legally second-class citizens, without the same rights or legal protections. After the world said "never again" after WWII, we let it happen again, and it would likely have been completely unchecked if communism hadn't been the enemy at the time (as fascism might have a generation earlier if Germany hadn't attacked so many of its neighbors, and as it apparently is in Darfur). This is still a step less than what we saw in the war remnants museum in Saigon, but that's another post for another day.

Here is a typical room in the first building, which housed high-ranking officials from the prior government.

There are many, many pictures of prisoners.

Pictures of what was dug up from mass graves

The next building was another residence complex for prisoners of the regimes, but with much smaller cells and barbed wire preventing escape into the courtyard (or suicide by jumping from a 4-th story window)

Drawings of the conditions of the time

Actual skulls from the mass graves.

On to less aggreiving sights, we walked past the independence monument and Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Monument en route to the Royal Residence and Silver Pagoda (which had unfortunately reached capacity for the day, so we couldn't enter).

More temple

Big hot pot dinner, though a bit overpriced at $10 for two.

Posted by chrisvasil 07:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Siam Reap - The temples of Angkor Wat

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Our hotel in Siam Reap was the best ever - $5 a night for a really fancy room in a hotel that offers free laundry just as we were running out of clothes. Victory Guest House. Awesome.

Siam Reap itself is mostly pleasant, a modern city with several old markets but not many sights to be seen. We were a bit tired for a lot of our time in the city because we had tried some 'happy' pizza with traditional Cambodian ingredients that have that effect. Not very happy though, and we won't be having any of that again. Here are a market, Univeristy of South East Asia, and happy Sue.

We used bicycles to go around Angkor Wat and the surrounding area, which is a few kilometers out of town and has dozens of thousand-year old temples. We biked about 30 kilometers, about 5 of which were because the site is very poorly laid out - there is only one ticket issuing booth for the entire complex (which is the size of a city), and that booth is 4km away from Angkor Wat. So after getting to Angkor Wat we had to turn around, go down a different road, and get tickets. I started by myself to get 2 tickets, but after 5 minutes of cycling one of the site officials tracked me down and told me to wait because they need to take our pictures, and another official told Sue to also go to the ticket booth. I saw her coming down the street a few minutes after that, and we went to get the tickets together. As usual my attempt at gallantry failed, but at least I didn't have to go and come back emptyhanded.

Here's us at Angkor Wat. It's a nice temple complex, though more impressive from the outside than the inside.

Off we go to the next stop. This is Angkor Thom, the next temple complex, a few kilometers past Angkor Wat. Within the walls are a half-dozen temples.

Finally we went to Ta Prohm - certainly the coolest of the temples. It was left to jungle while most others were restored, so trees grow improbably on rooftops and have roots straddling walls. This is where Tomb Raider and some other similar movies were shot, and really captures much of what the imagination conjures up when thinking of 'ruins'.

Posted by chrisvasil 07:23 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Phnom Penh - Floating Island Guesthouse sucks sucks sucks

View Around the world ın 8 months on chrisvasil's travel map.

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a big city with some charm but not too much to do. We spent 2 short sejourns in the city, as I had to get my China visa. We were meaning to do 2 days then 2 days, but cut the first stay short short because of a bad experience with the guest house we stayed at. That ended up being for the best, as it allowed it an extra day in Siam Reap (I needed to be back Friday to pick up the passport from the consulate, otherwise we'd have stayed at the fancy hotel even more than 3 days).

Basically it was an ok budget place, but the staff was extremely rude. When we were looking at the place we were told there was wireless internet and hot showers. There was no internet (he told us that night that it's available until 8pm, and the next morning he said it's at a place down the street), and I took a cold shower - Sue only got hot water after asking reception to turn it on. Later on I asked how to get to the China embassy. The guy that runs the place said it's about 5km away. I asked how much transport should cost. He said another guy working there can take me there for $5. I asked if it's available for cheaper, he said no. I then consulted my guide book, as of 2006 it was 50 cents. I asked him about that, he got mad and screamed "you walk then!". One of the guests, a Frenchman, joined in and said there's no way I'll pay less than $5. We left, and after a bit of negociation we paid $1 to someone outside. When we came back, we filled our water bottle at the water cooler, and the same guy says something like "What? You can't afford to buy water??". So we check out after 1 night instead of 2, and go to Siam Reap. Part of the reason this was so upsetting was that people running guest houses are generally extremely friendly (this is our first negative experience in 6 months of budget travel), and this place was recommended by our travel guide. Also this place cost $3.50/night, so the amount he wanted to overcharge on taxi was more than one night's stay.

Anyway, the bus from Laos broke down a couple times (blew a tire), allowing us get out and see the landscape a bit better. The bus was pretty good, a karaoke bus with 20 white people and 2 Lao people. A quarter of the time they were showing a Michael Jackson DVD, and the rest of the time one of the Laos guys was singing along to Lao music.

Posted by chrisvasil 07:21 Archived in Cambodia Tagged lodging Comments (0)

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