Craig’s Travel Diary

Friday, 01 Jun 2007

Location: Can Tho, Vietnam

MapHello again!

Itís been a busy week or so. I arrived in Vietnam yesterday after a very mixed week in Cambodia.

I arrived in Cambodia last Thursday which was a 15 hour trip and considering my all-nighter the previous night I was not in the best of shape at the end! I met 2 lads from Manchester on my way over who where on the same route as me in Cambodia so I traveled with them for the week. Cambodia is a country with 2 very different sides. On one hand it has a lively yet unexpected nightlife in the cities, and on the other it has an incredibly sad past not that youíd realise that from the people.

Our first few days where spent in Siem Reap which is where the Angkor Wat temples lie. The first day we sailed on the Mekong River seeing the floating village and how people live on the water with schools, football pitches, hospitals and pretty much everything else a village would have. Moving house is pretty simple, just hook onto a boat and move! The second day we went to see the Angkor temples and ruins. These temples (15 in all) are really out of the ordinary, all built between the 9th and 13th century and all with very different features. Again as with the Taj, itís hard to imagine how these amazing structures were built so long ago. Probably the most striking temple was ĎThe Bayoní which has 219 gargantuan faces watching as you wander around. Another cool temple was the Jungle temple which has trees growing on top of the temple and right through, no wonder this one looks like itís on its last legs! The main temple Angkor Wat was a little disappointing, donít get me wrong itís a vast structure and still impressive but the other 2 mentioned had far more character and a real feel of history to them. Siem Reap is also a good place at night and with 3 northern monkeys let loose we took full advantage and donít think the place will ever be the same again - our favourite bar being ĎAngkor What?í Wonder how long it took them to think of that one!

We then moved onto the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh which has been heavily westernised and like most big cities in Asia. This is the city where some of the worst atrocities in Cambodian history happened in the Pol Pot era between 1975 and 1978. We first went to visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where about 17,000 men, women and children were transported to this extermination camp for execution. At the centre of these fields a memorial stupa has been built and the excavated skulls have been placed. This is not only so these people are remembered but also the way in which they are arranged lets the spirits leave the body. The skulls are arranged by sex and age starting at females from 11 to 25 Ė very very disturbing. We then took a walk around the fields and saw the excavation sites which are now mud pits with signs saying how many people were found. There was a tree for beating children and another to hand a loud speaker so victims couldnít be heard. Most people where bludgeoned to death rather than shot to save on bullets and even as we walked around, bits of clothing and teeth lie near these mass graves. The next stop was a prison camp set up by pol potís security forces called Security prison 21 or S-21 which was Tuol Svay High School in 1975. There are 4 different building, all with 3 floors and all used for different reasons. They had rooms just for torturing prisoners, rooms with brick and wood cells for holding prisoners and many others. A lot of these rooms house pictures of the victims faces as they arrived and shows the fear in their eyes which pulls on the heart strings. Itís bad enough seeing lads my own age but young children and even babies were taken here. No reason for detaining them but after enough torture they would sign a confession to something unbelievable and then sent to the killing fields for execution. I also saw pictures of how victims were found after torture and its unimaginable people can do these things. Unfortunately these actions are still going on in places in Africa which is sickening to know. I donít think there was a dry eye in the place after seeing this appalling part of Cambodian history. Itís amazing that Cambodians seem happy people and generally donít seem to let this affect them. Iíve included some pictures I took, it wasnít out of being morbid or distasteful but I think itís good for people who havenít had the chance to see this first hand to see how bad this really was for Cambodia.

Yesterday I made my way into Vietnam. I arranged a trip around the Mekong Delta and a home stay with a Vietnamese family which is what Iím doing today. Itís a bit strange really, I thought there would be a few of us but thereís only me and I came a few hours ago, had lunch which was rice soup and duck Ė but not as you know it. The duck was in a mixed salad with only the bits we donít eat like feet, head, blood, tail and neck. I couldnít bring myself to try the head or feet but had the others Ė disgusting! The father here, hung, has just had the internet installed so Iíve spent the afternoon teaching him how to use email and set him up with an account. He just keeps laughing when I talk but I think heís getting the hang of it!

Well thatís me for the time being, I plan to be moving North through Vietnam over the next couple of weeks so will update as I go!

Bye for now Ė quack!