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Brian Thom’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 02 Jun 2007

Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

MapAlright, this one could be longer. I'm going by memory because I didn't check, but I believe last time I posted we were in Ho Chi Minh gearing up to leave. We hopped on the bus and they drove us to the border. Being a Canadian (or really anyone I guess) makes it quite easy to enter Cambodia. I'm not even sure they checked the picture in the passport, they just took it- stamped it- and badda boom badda bing support our economy please!

The bus ride wasnt too bad because it was a mere 6 hours. Felt like nothing. We often drove on dirt rodes and past some villages that are far poorer and far more desolute than anything we've seen yet. This country is by far poorer than Thailand or Vietnam... and while I'm not completely sure why yet I assume it could have to do with having a much smaller population and perhaps a lack of oil and gas industry... anyone want to correct me here? While we drove by, kids would approach the bus with hands out like they were lookin for money. Andrew began his nervous "what the hell are we doing" laugh again and we asked each other if there was the option of staying on the damn bus and asking them to continue straight on to Thailand. We had heard from some other Aussie travellers that when you get off the bus, you are virtually raided, so you'll just have to put up with it if you go to Cambodia. Indeed, before we got off the bus, a Cambodian man with good English started prepping us about it a bit. He told us to stick with him and he'll take us to the hotel, and when we are asked to go off with some guy, tell him we already have a driver. Needless to say, as everyone got off the bus in Phnom Penh, Andrew, me and a German guy were the only white guys (walking money to them) and the second they saw Andrew walk down the steps- started going berserk and frantically running over to us. It was quite the scene, but we followed our guide and got in the van safely and with no goods stolen.

I probably made that sound more dramatic than it is, but if you don't like people grabbing you- I'd stay away from Cambodia. We made it to the hotel and prepared for.. today! Today, as my brother Brad will be pleased, we started with a tour at the shooting range! Alright! Let's go shoot stuff. We ended up getting driven outside the city a bit to what seemed like an army training grounds. They led us to a range and offered us a selection of about 3 rifles, a shotgun, 4 handguns, 3 machine guns and- you guessed it- a rocket launcher. The range was surrounded by farmland, and cows, and in one pen nearby they held chickens. I asked about the prices and it ended up being quite expensive if you wanted to get messy. Andrew and I weren't planning on it anyway, we just wanted to shoot a handgun or something because neither of us had before. The rocket launcher was $200 to use and if you wanted to aim it at a cow... well... I'm sure at least another $200 on top. We were lower on money than we thought, and since it was more expensive than we were expecting, we went with the Ak-47 and shared the 30 bullets (for a mere $30). Not sure if this is news: but those things are loud. Very. The kickback wasn't too bad, controllable. Also all of these weapons were older, some from World War 2. We shot at some targets and a giant dirt hill. Not too much to report but I am an amazing shot, as you could imagine. I'm pretty much like GI-Joe.

Next we went to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. If your not familiar with Cambodia circa 1975-79, I can brief you a bit. Basically, a man named Pol Pot managed to get power. How, I'm not sure, but he was a bad person. He decided he wanted Cambodia to be a nation back in the stone age, a peasant nation, and began purging the country of its intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, teachers... anyone who knew anything. He rounded them up and sent them to prisons, tortured them to get information. Then, he sent them to some fields outside the cities and began liquidation. Cambodia lost about 2 million of its own people, and at the time their total population was around 8. It is a pretty terrible story, none of it I was even aware of (apparently I'm out of it). I would write more about it, but it was just a disturbing experience, and I can't do it anywhere near any justice by writing about it...and this is probably good enough for an internet blog that's not supposed to be depressing (hopefully).

We came back to the hotel and this is where we are now. The good news is that we found a cheaper flight to Laos... so we will fly instead of taking the bus in a couple days.