22nd of February 2016:
Today we slept in till 9am, after yesterday I needed the extra sleep. We walked out of our hostel to try and find somewhere for breakfast. We walked through a local market that reminded me of back home. It was very crowded and full of meat lying around and fish everywhere, some were dead whilst some were waiting their fate in a little bucket with water. We found a little cafe on the corner of the street. As we walked out the same Tuk Tuk driver from in front of our hostel was outside our cafe. So we jumped in and he drove us to the killing fields. It was surprisingly a lot further than you may imagine as it took us 30 minutes. As we arrived he directed us to the door and said he would wait for us. It was $6 U.S. For a private audible tour with headphones. There would be no better option than a private tour, because what you hear through the headphones is just disastrous and sometimes it was better to walk the tour at your own pace. Also it meant that no one was talking so it felt more respectful to the 3 million people who were killed all together.
The tour starts by describing how they were transported to the killing fields. A officer at that time would explain what had happened when they arrived. The man speaking said he was only 17 years old at the time, no more than a teenager enforcing unspeakable things to fellow Cambodians. They would tell the people as they got on the truck from the prisons that they would be seeing their family. They were giving them hope, however they were being transported to be killed in a pile of 100’s of other innocent victims before them. The tour then described the types of tools they would use to kill other Cambodians. These tools are general tools you would find in a shed, as Pol Pots theory was they should not waste bullets on them. As the tour continued you walked around a pond where more corpses lay, however they have been kept there to rest. Stories from survivors were astonishing from a mother who witnessed her 8 month old die due to her working in the rice fields for 12 hours with only a bowl of rice a day and only able to fed him at night. Due to the hard labour she could not produce enough milk so sadly the infant died of malnutrition. In addition a story from a girl who once she returned to her village shunned herself away as she could not face her family from due to being continuously rapped and left naked in the fields while she was taken.
Although all these stories are absolutely horrifying and I hope that no one has to be apart of this ever again or be a witness the point that tugged on my strings the most was when they would throw baby’s against a tree (called the killing tree) and then throw them in the pile with all the other children as their mothers watched seconds before they were killed. Pol Pot the man behind this “Revolution” as he would call it was clearly a horrible bone chilling man however prior to 1975 he went to France on a scholarship and then became a history and geography teacher in Cambodia. Cambodians were called traitors, if they were educated, bilingual, wore glasses or had soft hands (as a reflection of professional work). He was bilingual and a well educated man that wanted power. He used a mixture of power and fear which as history has unfolded numerous times before can turn into a bloodbath. He had other likeminded professional people along side him but after only two years they had turned on each other. He had become paranoid. Paranoid about other Cambodians, paranoid about his fellow leaders and paranoid of the officers in charge in the killing fields and prisons. Power and fear is powerful but once doubt becomes entwined there’s only so much time before it all becomes crashing down just as fast as it had been built. Unfortunately due to his paranoia 1000’s more victims were killed to the point where they couldn’t keep up as numbers from 300 a month to 300 or more a day would be turning up in the dark blindfolded to the killing fields for their lives to end. Pol Pot had another saying;”to kill the grass take the roots and all”,by this he meant kill every person in the family babies and all so there will be no one to come back for revenge.
I was astonished by the events and stories that had come out of the tour but I wanted to know more. I wanted to educate myself on what the poor Cambodians had to endure only 30 years ago. So we asked our Tuk Tuk driver to take us to the prison as well. When we got there Nick didn’t want the audio tour he was happy just walking around, but I knew I wanted to know more. Sometimes its nice to be able to stay in your own little bubble, and what I heard I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend that a person had to endure that sort of torture once to three times a day. The Prison S-21 was originally a school. However, as Pol Pot stopped education they turned it into a bone chilling torture chamber called a prison.
People were handcuffed to beds and electrocuted until they would confess. When I say confess what they meant was until they wrote what the interrogator was satisfied with and then they would kill them. The people who came from the fields did not make it through the torture quite as long, as they were already weak and depleted. If a prisoner died before they were giving authority to do so the interrogator would either get punished or they would become the prisoner themselves.
In building B they had barb wire all along the balcony as someone had committed suicide by jumping off. One other person stabbed himself in the neck with a pen whilst writing the confession and another person poured boiling flammable liquid on their head. Throughout the rooms you see photos of actual dead bodies. Only 7 people survived the prison, these people worked in the trades prior and become handy to the officers so stayed in a different room. One man was a painter and was told to paint what was going on, including the tortures, these pictures are now hanging in the prison. One other person was a kid who hid in the clothes when they were quickly evacuating.
After this horrifying day there wasn’t much to say, and I think we just sat speechless for a few minutes.
23rd of February 2016:
We organised a bus for 9am to take us to sihanoukville down by the coast. We were told that it would take 4 hours. Oh if only once could it actually take the amount of time they say. We met this English couple on our tuk tuk to the bus station. The bus ride started off fine, however once the sun was in the middle of the sky the bus became so hot. I wish I looked attractive but that would be me trying to be nice. I looked like I just ran a marathon in the pouring rain I was sweating so much. On top of this I’m pretty sure they let in 3000 mosquitos into the bus before we got on because it became a game who could catch them. One would come every minute. The bus had no air conditioning or Windows you could let down. The bus was also completely full as some locals were sitting on plastic chairs in the aisles. I really didn’t think we were ever going to get there, however after a blistering 6 hours we finally arrived. We worked out our accommodation was 1.5km away so we walked with the English couple. They were so nice, Charlotte and Graham. They told us they were moving to Australia which I’m pretty sure all of England is. We got to the top of the hill and asked an information centre where our hostel was, she said down. We walked all the way down and never saw it after the third person we asked he finally said up there next to Nice restaurant. Our hostel was directly opposite the information centre. If only we looked sideways instead of walking down and up that hill. We went into a 12 bed dorm and literally threw our stuff down and went to walk along the beach. I don’t know why but once your at the beach everything just feels easier, it’s like we’re back home again. We grabbed some dinner on the beach. A young girl came up to us asking if we wanted bracelets normally I instantly say no, but she reminded me of my niece Charlie. Her English was amazing and I asked her where she learnt it. Thankfully at school and she was in the same year level as my niece. Unfortunately that’s where the similarities ended. Charlie would never have to walk along the beach by herself at 10pm selling bracelets. Her friend came up to ask her what the word in English that he was selling. FIREWORKS, yes that is what a 12 year old boy was selling. She played a game if Nick beat her three times in a row of rock, paper, scissors she would give the bracelets for free if not it was $6 for two. Lucky for her she won! When she left I told Nick how smart she was and how I know she’s going to go somewhere in life.
24th of February 2016:
Today we decided after getting up at 10am, to relax by the beach all day. So once we got breakfast (bacon and eggs) we settled off down the hill to the beach. If I could tell myself back then to put more sunscreen on I would have. Unfortunately after being in the sun all day my back got roasted. I wish I could say I’m one of those people who tan the next day but no I just turn into a lobster and stay that way for days or weeks to come. The top half of my back wasn’t bad but the bottom half just looked ridiculous. Thankfully alcohol always numbs the pain. We met up with the English couple and their friend at Monkey republic and was drinking to make it to the jungle party. They told us it starts at 10am but no one gets there till 1am, it supposedly lasts until 10am the next morning. Two days earlier Nick showed me this famous travel Instagram person, I really didn’t take much interest, however next minute he was at the bar with us. Now his Instagram name is called “do you travel” so I walked up to him and that was my opening line, “do you travel”. Given the circumstance we were in, in Cambodia next to their islands about 99% of the people there were travelling. Thankfully it actually was him. He had been travelling for 4 years, I don’t know how you could possibly do that! At 12pm we tried to get a Tuk Tuk for 7 of us to the jungle party. When we think back to this, this would have been the most dangerous position we put ourselves in this trip. We got on a Tuk Tuk with an unknown driver, to go to the jungle (didn’t know where) and were drunk. It took 30 minutes to get there on dirt roads with no street lights or anything the only lights were our Tuk Tuks. Thankfully nothing bad happened. We got off paid him the money then 2 minutes later he came chasing us down saying it wasn’t enough even though we recounted it again an English guy gave him $1 just so he didn’t start anything. We hear that Cambodian men try and start conflict with drunks so they retaliate. The jungle party was probably what you would expect, you had to change your U.S. Money to funny money so you could get drinks and ride the Ferris wheel.
The Ferris wheel was something you would imagine at a run down amusement park. It was just a big green rusty wheel operated by a 13 year old boy with a motor bike engine. Non the less the Canadian, Norwegian and myself jumped on. Normal Ferris wheels go quite slow so you can see everything, this one thought it was the superman ride trying to see if it could get some G-force. Honestly I thought we were just going to spin out and our little rusty cage being the only thing stopping us. We survived though, thankfully!!! It was one of those moments where you just had to laugh it off because it’s otherwise too terrifying! When we arrived it began pouring with rain and hadn’t stopped until we got out of the Ferris wheel. So the ground became a big mud pile. We only stayed for one hour as the music was only enjoyable if you were on drugs and we were standing in mud.