Incredible evil of the Khmer rouge

This posting contains videos.  If you received it by email please click on the title and blue to open the posting in your browser.  

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.

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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.

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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My Vietnam Adventure Begins in Saigon

This is my first blog posting that I’m attempting from my mobile phone. I’ve been having issues with my hands lately so I am using voice recognition, which is very cool. Unfortunately it’s different than writing, but it’s fine for the purposes of my blog.

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Sometimes it’s nice to not have to figure out how to get to your hotel on arrival.

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If I had forgotten Vietnam was a communist country I would’ve been reminded as I wandered down the streets by my hotel. This would’ve been hard to forget though, seeing as the arrival procedure with the visa process took more than 90 minutes and was quite far from streamlined.


The image above is a short clip of a New Years festival I stumbled upon my first day in Saigon. Click on the image to view the video.

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Most of the shops, restaurants, and services in my neighbourhood were closed for the week for New Years. (Vietnam New Near same as Chinese New Year.) I was happy to find this little shop to get my mobile phone operating!


Click on the video above to witness, as I did, all the closed businesses in the district as I explored on this Saturday, my first day in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh.

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This little street-side cafe I passed. In fact, the next day I ended-up eating there, it was all I could find open on Sunday and it was actually fine.

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The BBQ for the food stall was more than 10m away from the actual stall.

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Some pics in a lovely flower-themed park celebrating New Year.

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Along with many locals, I do need to use a mask here and there when wandering around this large city congested with heavy traffic. But, armed with my masks I will stay well!

(I finished this posting on my ipad, my phone app died and never came back, and it doesn’t post videos. Better luck to me next time!)

Stay tuned for more in Ho Chi Minh city, and lots of missing postings from the Philippines in upcoming weeks.

Cheers!

Darren

Wandering around Manila, Philippines

Hi everyone,

The Philippines is a beautiful collection of 7000 islands of varied landscapes. I started in the main city, Manila, then took to the mountains of the north, and finally made my way south, where I am today.

My experience here has been coloured by my unfortunate reaction to pollution (mostly the vehicle emissions), but that is not to say that this is not a fantastic destination. The people are friendly, the destinations are so numerous it likely would take a year to fully explore them, and apparently they have some of the best beaches and diving in the world. If I had scheduled beaches for the beginning of my itinerary rather than at the end, I would have seen more. I ran out of time for the south being slowed down by illness. (After an x-ray ruled-out pneumonia, a doctor in Sagada told me I am, “allergic to the pollution which is causing bronchitis.” Prescribing allergy meds plus wearing filter masks made all the difference, so she was right.

Beaches are never my main interest, especially when travelling solo. If you are unable to make any friends, beaches can be quite lonely. This was the case at the beach I accidentally chose for a week in Goa where I found myself surrounded by Russians who did not feel like speaking English (except when ordering), and who could blame them. My attempts to start conversation (usually made after hearing someone speak English to a local) were always met with cold stares, like, why are you talking to me? But I had planned to visit some of the Philippines most beautiful regions which are centred around pristine beaches had my time not disappeared. (I allotted 4 weeks for the Philippines, and one is granted a 30-day tourist visa on entry.)

I had one occasion of pollution overload that pushed me over the edge here, if I hadn’t had that specific experience in Quezon city I might have been fine my entire trip. (I got caught in a fog of exhaust that had migrated off the highway onto a lane I was exploring and I couldn’t get out of it fast enough. It burned my throat and chest and the following days I was ill.) In fact, I think that is highly likely that I would have been fine with the higher emissions everywhere had I not had that specific unfortunate event. As it was, I was wasn’t fine for most of my trip. I often found myself tormented by a coughing fit after being doused by exhaust trying to wander down a road. This first happened in Quezon city as I said, then happened in Laoag, in Vigan, in Sagada, and especially in Baguio, and now here in Cebu. What can I tell you but the experiences I have had. Now I have taken to wearing a mask over my face most of the time I am walking street-side. I don’t love that, but it is necessary for me. I simply have not had time to fully recover so I relapse easily.

I arrived in Manila on January 21, 2015 and now it’s nearly a month later. This has been a travel-intensive trip, more so than any travels I have taken before. For this I spent a lot of time in buses where I could neither read nor write, but I had a lot of local experiences on those buses.

I spent my first week in Manila acclimatising to the weather (25-30C everyday, wonderful), and to the time change (13 hours different than Toronto), to the food (which is just different as one would hope, I can’t get my usual salads or grains), and to the culture. All the excitement of travel. These photos I share today are from that first week.

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There is lots of life on the streets in Manila.

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Crossing the road is often an exciting adventure.

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Lots of modern buildings too, this view near the waterfront.

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I think you might call this a budget dining option, closed for afternoon siesta at the moment.

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I spot a kitty at another budget dining option occupying a wheelchair space.

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I find these kind of organic scenes actually quite enchanting.

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It’s Pinipig. It’s crunchy and it’s munchy. Of course.

I had to try it because from it’s name I was still uncertain what to expect.
It was basically a cheese-flavoured ice-cream popsicle covered in rice crispies.
I liked it.

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I found there was a nice feeling of community in the quieter streets.

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I think the owner is suggesting that one should not park there.

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It would seem this is a strip where many tricycle drivers live.

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This shows the style of gas station that does not have pumps in the way (I’ve seen this in a number of countries) as well as the armoured vehicles one sees around the cities. It looks like the driver has to stand-up peering out the limited vision window. Never mind theft, limited visibility trying to navigate Manila traffic, I guess others get out of the way.

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I enjoy grafitti everywhere I go.

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I enjoyed this lounge at the Wanderers Guest House.

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Green Mango.

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What this scene needs is a touch of colour.

I hope you’ll join me for part two of photos from Manila. Mainly from Intramuros and Quezon.