S-21, And you thought YOUR highschool was bad.

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I visited Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh with some hesitation.  It is a must see when visiting Cambodia, but you May need to dedicate Day to feeling gloomy.

Originally a high school, it was transformed into prison S 21 when Pol Pot emptied all the cities and banned education.

The incredible amount of barbed wire seemed almost more like an art installation then barricade.  No doubt it was effective keeping prisoners inside.

The long narrow buildings where classrooms had windows on both sides and open air hallways was very similar to the schools I taught in when I lived in Japan.  This made the fact that it was a school made prison/torture chamber very real to me.

20,000 people passed through this center.  Seven survived due to possessing skills that were needed by Pol Pot.  

The first year everyone was murdered on site.  But the volume became too difficult.  From then after being tortured, documented, and interrogated the prisoners were sent to the killing fields.

Click on the image below to view a short clip of me walking past some photos of the deceased.

Video 

it was shocking for me to see this typical looking school transformed into a prison.   Click on the image below for a video of the same.

The main level was made into cells using bricks.

The next level was divided into cells by wood construction.

other classrooms were used as is just filling them up with as many people as could fit.

Click on the image below to view another video of me walking around the school.

Lucky prisoners received a shower once a week by being sprayed from the window.  One survivor said that he received one shower in three months.

A survivor describes how prisoners were moved when they were too weak to walk themselves.

Imagine the shock and confusion of being taken away from your life with your family and being accused of being KGB or CIA agent when you  probably didn’t even know what that was.

Complete insanity ruled.

This structure previously used for high school gymnastics proved useful for torture implementation.

Some descriptions of the torture use

A timeline showing me chronology of Cambodia.

there were testimonies from the survivors and from people who actually worked there.

Click on the image below to play another video of my visit to S 21.  By this time I had read a number of personal accounts and the history was becoming very real to me.   

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Incredible evil of the Khmer rouge

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Click on the image below to join my first full day inPhnem Phom, Cambodia.

My first day was to be be spent locally.  The Royal Palace is walkable from my hotel but it was very hot approaching noon.  That tuk-tuk driver I hired obviously knew the Royal Palace was closed but he took me for a ride anyway.  

Click on the next image to continue the story of my day.

 

From 1975 to 1979 about 20,000 people were executed and murdered at this location by the Khmer Rouge.  This is only one of more than 300 such killing centers.

This memorial place has a audio guide  full of information.  I listened to the horrific stories as I wandered from site to site.

Now a peaceful garden setting,  it’s rather difficult to imagine the extreme evil that took place here for several years.

There are benches throughout to sit and listen to the audio commentary.

A very necessary but somber experience when visiting Cambodia.  It took me back to when I was 23 years old and I visited one of the Nazi extermination camps in Poland.

This was perhaps not my ideal first full day in Cambodia.

Click on the image below to play another video.

 

What was going on in this site was tried to be kept a secret from the nearby locals.  Music was played during the brutal killings to mask the noise.

This monument was directed to house 8000 skulls recovered from mass graves on the site.

Color codes were used to classify how the victim was murdered.  Bullets were considered expensive so very few were killed by gun shot.  Most were beaten to death with a variety of blunt objects available.  Many were simply knocked unconscious and put into the mass grave.  The chemicals used to hide the odor from getting to the locals also served the purpose of killing those who were still alive when buried.

This was a grouping of skulls clearly damaged by hoe.

Looking up at 8000 skulls of people who were beaten to death in very recent history (while I was alive) is an overwhelming experience.

If that wasn’t bad enough here was a mass grave of children.  Evidence was found that children were beaten to death against this tree.  I would later learn when visiting S21, that babies were smashed against this tree. If someone was deemed “guilty” in a family, the entire family was exterminated.  

This made for a sad first full day in Cambodia.  But this was on my list of places to see so I am glad that I got it out of the way.

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My first impressions of Cambodia

I entered Cambodia by bus from Vietnam.  Only six hours from Saigon city to Phnom Penh by bus it was far more relaxing and not too long to avoid the hassle and cost of flying.   The sometimes chaos of South East Asian airports are not always a joy to experience.  The bus was something like $10 versus $200 as well.

A visa for entry was available at the border for which I paid $35US.  I read that they cost $25 but that is what I paid.

The first thing I noticed was muddy waterways along the main road.  I think it must be man-made for irrigation.

Click on the image below to view a video.

Here I will just show you some early views from the drive.  From the border to Phnom pen was about four hours.

Click on the image below to view another short video.

When I go to a country that is not a western country, I try to filter out the western influence .  Of course it is often true that nowadays that businesses such as KFC and McDonald’s and Starbucks and Adidas are part of the fabric of the modern culture of many countries.  But I look for those things that are unique and different from what we find in the west.  So what I meant by Cambodia being like Vietnam but moreso, I meant it seemed to have less western influence and what remained look very similar to that of what I would see in Vietnam.

Click on the video below for a view passing through this small market town.

The other benefit of taking the bus were these four hours of first impressions of Cambodia. Flying I would have arrived directly to Phnom Penh, Making my first impressions being that of in the largest city in the country.

And another video below. See how everything is covered in dust. Same is true for neighbouring Vietnam, at least this time of year anyway.

At least they didn’t lie about what city we were in.

This post contains a few videos.

Saigon is a city of 10 million people in the south of Vietnam.  

I made some local friends at a coffee shop in an obscure district where foreigners were rare.  Online my hotel had lied about what district of the city it was located.  So my hotel was in a nondescript sort of nowhere area of Saigon.

Click on the video below to see me riding on my friend’s motorbike.

My friend took me to the area of the city where I thought I already was.  It was much livelier and more interesting and most things were open.  Almost every business in my neighborhood was closed for the entire week of Chinese new year.

<img
Click on the video below to see some nighttime traffic as we walked along.

src=”https://personaltravelstories.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/img_2608.jpg&#8221; alt=””> It was a very strange experience to discover that the district my hotel told me I was in, was so completely different then the area it was actually in.

My new friend, my, took me to her favorite smoothie shop located in an alley in the foreigners district.

My and I both need to wear masks on the busy streets of Saigon.

She was surprised when I pulled out my mask.  But after becoming very sick from pollution in the Philippines I never leave my hotel without one.  I was sick for nearly 3 weeks.  Relentless coughing.

My offered to teach me how to ride motorcycle in Saigon.  In a future post I will show you the motorcycle traffic of this city.  You will understand why I did not take her up on this offer.

Blending in with the Locals in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, Continued.

Welcome to part two of showing my pictures from the Meking Delta in Vietnam.

This posting contains a number of videos. Click on the title in blue to open the posting in your browser to read the posting uninterrupted. Otherwise when you click on any video image it will open automatically.

As you recall here I am blending in with the locals.

Click on the image below to view a video of going down this tributary.

Is my house”, pointed out our front driver of the narrow boat.  “I have four babies,” she added.

“Will you marry me?” She proposed as I sat at the table having lunch.

No I’m just kidding. She was singing conditional Vietnamese music.  

Click on the video below to see some other music performances we enjoyed location.

This larger boat provided transportation between the main local destinations.  

Click on the image below for a video of the boat.

This refreshments boat was going from boat to boat offering various drinks and snacks.

This was the third time we stopped to pull rubbish off the propeller. Each time, our pilot threw the rubbish back into the water for next time. My laughing was from helplessness, it was frustrating to watch him throw the plastic back in to the water just for someone else to tangle in it again later.

This posting was much longer but it crashed on WordPress after I completed it. I have redone so many postings that have crashed after doing all the work. Sorry, I didn’t have it in me to completely redo this one. Anyway, it was a taste. I hope you enjoyed what did save successfully. Cheers!
Darren

Bus, Boat, Carriage and Bicycle. Exploring the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

I’m going to see if I can do a blog post during the actual day. I spend so much time on transportation and I have installed cellular connections on my tablet and phone, so it may be possible if there are times where the views are not so interesting.  Today I leaving from Saigon going inland to the Mekong Delta.

I am using my voice recognition, creating this posting on my cell phone then editing and adding videos with my tablet.

This posting contains short videos. If you received this by email, click on the title to open in your browser so you can view the videos or click on the first video image when you get to it and it will open in your browser automatically.

I’m not sure if this is my receipt or my bus ticket.

Our guide suggested that Vietnam is 80% Buddhist 15% Catholic and 5% Christian and other.

This is the area we are visiting today. Mostly by boat.

So far today I have ridden a bus, a boat, and a horse drawn carriage. Soon to add to that a bicycle and a different more traditional boat.

Click on the image below for a short video of the horse drawn carriage ride.

I enjoyed cycling to explore another island for almost an hour.

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Click on the image below to view a video of cycling about.

src=”https://personaltravelstories.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/img_2764.jpg&#8221; alt=””>

Some views discovered on my bicycle.

And another video from cycling about, click on the image below.

Floating homes in the Mekong River

Innovative use of plastic sheeting to build this home extension.

A close-up.

Click on the image below for a video clip of where I got my bicycle.

I bought a new hat to blend in with the locals.  I think it was quite effective.

I found a snake.

 

The locals waving to the Tourists is very sweet.

Later I would ride boat like this one

Stay tuned for more photos from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

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