Okay, here’s the last of the photos from our December trip to Cambodia. These are from Phnom Penh and environs.
Be forewarned: some of these are of the Tuol Sleng S-21 Genocide Museum and the Cheong Ek Killing Fields. Only one photo actually depicts anything graphic—and it’s a photo of a photo—but the most horrific acts one can imagine occurred here.
Phnom Penh: a downtown street.
Just a routine occurrence: people pushing carts of what appear to be piles of salted shellfish.
We were told that there are traffic laws in Phnom Penh. I think there’s actually only one, though: do what you have to. Seriously, most intersections have no traffic lights, so light anarchy is the status quo.
Q: Who has the right of way here? A: Whoever asserts it most forcefully.
There’s much to admire in this photo. The SUV parked nonchalantly into the street, the disappearance of the sidewalk beneath a shoe “display,” etc. Walking around Phnom Penh is a bit of a challenge.
Just a fine street scene.
The view from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, where foreign journalists gathered in the early months of the Khmer Rouge to try to figure out what was going on.
Our hotel. Now that’s a Christmas tree.
The National Museum.
Central Market’s most fantastic Art Deco dome.
The Russian Market, at the other end of town. It is basically thousands of small stalls within a corrugated metal structure that lacks air conditioning. As our guidebook puckishly put it, “Shop till you drop (of heat exhaustion).” Hilarious!
Seriously, you can buy almost anything here, like fabrics and souvenirs…
Or shoes… (I was afraid to touch for fear of Jenga-ing the whole thing on top of me)
Or, ummm, motorbike parts… (pretty sure this stall was run by Jawas)
Or housewares. (Aside: this photo is completely untouched, and is of the 1500+ photos I took perhaps my most favorite).
I got this for a song. You know what it is? It’s my (wait for it…) Phnom pen.
Tuol Sleng, or S-21, is a former high school that was converted by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 to Security Prison 21. It is estimated that, from 1975-9, 20,000 people were imprisoned, tortured, and executed here. “Tuol Sleng” means “Strychnine Hill” in Khmer.
Tuol Sleng, Building B. One of the things that makes this place so stomach-turning is the juxtaposition of the horror of what occurred with the beauty of the place itself—it’s in a quiet, almost suburban, neighborhood, and has this beautiful courtyard.
The site has been left almost completely untouched. The barbed wire was put in place to keep prisoners from throwing themselves off the balconies.
The fact that S-21 was formerly a school is especially perverse. Here’s a surviving chalkboard, on which someone appears to have written rules for student conduct in French. (“Il est absolument interdit de faire du bruit.”)
This sign has a translation of the S-21 rules that were posted there.
The institutional floor pattern typical of a 1960s era high school. Yes, we’re pretty sure those dark stains in the center of the room are blood stains.
Each of these interrogation rooms was outfitted like this.
Each room’s wall has a photo of how it was discovered by the liberating Vietnamese army. As they approached, the Khmer Rouge quickly killed the remaining prisoners before fleeing.
The graves of the last 14 people killed at S-21.
Each large classroom (like the one behind this wire) was converted into many smaller cells.
The numbered cells.
More cells, these in brick. You can see how quickly and sloppily they were constructed.
Many of the rooms of cells had these numbers on the walls, equal to the number of cells in the room. I’m not sure what they were for.
The Khmer Rouge took photos of every prisoner, but they got separated from their information folders and so the identities of many of these remain unknown.
Two Buddhist monks contemplating waterboarding equipment. That is a watering can on top.
The memorial stupa at the Cheong Ek Killing Fields contains the remains of thousands of the bodies discovered there. Most of the victims came from S-21.
There are piles and piles of skulls (more than 5,000), representing only a fraction of the total number of bodies estimated to be buried there.
This is one of many marked mass graves.
These are untouched mass graves—the depressions in the ground are the shallow graves that shift and sink. You can see bits of fabric, bone, and teeth, which appear after heavy rains.
On another topic: seen from the entrance to the Royal Palace.
A giant footprint of Buddha.
An amazing collection of objects awaits inside the SIlver Pagoda (so named because the floor is literally covered with silver). Can’t take photos inside, alas.
A spirit house near the Silver Pagoda.
Amazing murals of the Ramayana. Unfortunately, they’re in just terrible shape.
That’s just an awesome photo.
Phnom Penh sites at the confluence of three rivers: Tonlé Sap (which starts up near Siem Reap), Mekong and Bassac.
It was surprising to see a Christian symbol after so many weeks of Buddhist and Hindu art.
This is the Cambodia Navy detail assigned to protect the royal palace (which sits near the water across the river). It’s a bit of an ad hoc affair.
You would think more posh digs would be in order here.
Sunset over Phnom Penh.
Sunset over Phnom Penh
Filed under photos, travel
So here, finally, are some photos of temples and other excellent stuff that we saw during our six days in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is about a 5- to 6-hour bus ride north of Phnom Penh or, if you’re really fancy like us, a short 40-minute flight on Angkor Air (Cambodia’s flag carrier!). Would you like to see a map? I will show you a map.
Angkor Wat—the most famous of the temples in the area, and for good reason—is but one of 200+ temples, so there’s lots of exploring to do. While most of the famous and most worthwhile temples are quite close together, they’re too far to walk to, so we did all of our exploring and traveling via tuk-tuk. Here’s a map of the major temple sites, in French as a nod to their still-visible colonial influence.
And… we’re back!
Been quite a while, I know. Doin’ some traveling, seeing some of Southeast Asia, you know how it is.
But seriously, it’s taken me quite some time to go through our thousands (not a joke) of photos taken over the past month or so, trying to pare them down to a manageable number. I couldn’t do that, though, so I figured I’d post them all. Har!
Photos of the more typical sights/sites will come soon—tomorrow, perhaps—but as a little amuse œil, please enjoy this selection of photos, all of which were taken from the back of a moving tuk-tuk. What is a tuk-tuk, you ask? It is one of these:
We did all of our motorized travel in Cambodia in a tuk-tuk, because (1) they are great fun, even when it seems all but certain you are about to perish; and (2) they are cheap. The lack of separation between passenger and world is really fantastic, even though it means you have a substantial layer of dust, diesel fumes, and who-knows-what-else coating you at the end of the day.
But it permits some great photos of “real” Cambodia, or at least rural, roadside Cambodia. All of these were taken in and around Siem Reap, the town closest to Angkor Wat and hundreds of other temples. They were really taken from a moving vehicle often on bumpy roads, so please forgive the occasional lack of focus or composition.
You see these “convenience stores” everywhere.
Those bottles in the front are filled with gasoline.
One nice legacy of French colonialism: fresh baguettes.
They’re not going much faster than we are, really.
Filed under photos, travel