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Brad’s Travel Diary

Monday, 20 Feb 2006

Location: Trat, Thailand

MapFinally, after 10 months (today) of travelling I'm finally on my way to a perfect beach for some major chillout time.

I spent one more day around the Angkor temples after the last post, hiring a motorbike (and driver) to take me to some of the more remote temples. The first was Bantea Serai, a small temple but with amazingly ornate baroque carvings that almost seemed to move as you looked at them. Following that, we headed out to a Kbal Spean, a riverbed that has had thousands of linga (holy phalluses, basically) carved into it. Hmmm...

The coolest temple of the day was Beng Mealea, a huge ruined temple has has been left basically undisturbed in the jungle. Due to its remoteness, it get very few visitors, also a big plus after the crowds at Angkor. There's not really any paths, to you can climb all over the piles of rubble and onto the roof of the temples. I even met a young urchin who appeared from behind a tree who showed me a few secret nooks and crannies, including a a big partially buried hallway that was still standing. We had to run for it when an offical guide game along though, or else she'd get in trouble!

The only other place I really had time to visit in Cambodia was the capital, Phnom Penh. A fairly quite city set on the Mekong river, the atrocities the country suffered are still pretty clear when you talk to people. You don't see too many people around older than about thirty, and in the age group from twenty to thirty there are so many orphans. As well as visiting some of the cities more beautiful sights (the Royal Palace and National Museum) I went to what was the central prison and interrogation office during the Khmer Rouge - S-21. In what was once a school, nearly twenty thousand people were interrogated and tortured - six people survived. Like the Nazi death camps, the Khmer rouge documented each case very carefully and left hndreds of thousands of documents and thousands of black and white pictures of the prisoners. The included the most heart-wrenching picture I've ever seen - a woman with an identification number around her neck, holding a young child. Her face is a mixture of sadness, despair and hopelesness, and tears are running down her cheeks. I can't even begin to describe what going to a place like that is like, you just have to see it for yourself.

Despite all of these terrible events, Cambodians are wonderful people, full of warmth and friendliness - today, when travelling back to Thailand a total stranger (travelling in the same car as me) bought me lunch, despite being far less well off than myself.

Well, this is going to be one of the last entries on this page, as after my beach + cocktails stint, I'll be heading back to Bangkok briefly, then back to that land I still (surprisingly enough) call home.