From Angkor Wat to Killing Fields, Cambodia
Thursday, 12 May 2011 06:39
DSC_0472It was still so hot when the tuktuk we got on went on a secondary road after 15 kilometres leaving the city of Phnom Penh. We could communicate with the driver via basic English, he parked the tuktuk and routed us to the wide gate. We passed through the gate and entered in a large field full of large holes, the monument rising above was making us feel restless. We approached to the monuments with slow steps and saw hundreds of skulls places on many shelves in the monument at that time. This monument was erected for the Khmer Rouge, who took in charge of Cambodia in 1975, killed over 1,5 million people in 4 years and caused the most tragedic days of recent history. This monument was erected not to forget what they did and for a lesson for future generations. The field with the huge holes where the monument was erected was inherited to all the world and humanity. This inheritance who hosts 129 graves with more than 20.000 corpses evacuated was named as "Killing Fields"...

After the wet days we spent in Bangkok, we returned to Bangkok, our second home. It was time for new guests from Turkey again. Dilek and Koray brought all the latest news from our close friends as well as their present which made us feel very emotonial. Words are not enough how we who are far away from home for months felt about the present, that's why we will try to tell it via taking photographs with our new camera. Let's take this opportunity to thank everyone who is a part of this.

DSC_0038After spending a nice week with Dilek and Koray, it was time to go east, to Cambodia. We hit on the road recklessly although the tension on Thailand-Cambodian border was high and there were fire exchanges because of a temple that can not be shared. Our train left Bangkok with the first sunlight and arrived at the border town, Aranyaprathet. After completing the border processes in Thailand, we once more crossed the border by walking.(I unmeaningfully enjoy border crossings. I still could not understand why I enjoy crossing the lines on the maps on foot) It makes sense to define the casinos as a solution of the people who wants to gamble in the countries which gambling is forbidden. Stateless casinos on the border lines.

DSC_0069We got on a bus to Siem Reap after completing visa processes on Cambodian side. Our target was to reach Angkor Wat temple which was the main reason we were heading to Cambodia. The views through the bus window were helpful to have some observations about the daily life in Cambodia. Vast rice fields, temples among these fields, houses made of tree branches and half nude little kids playing in front of the houses. Siem Reap, which we arrived in a couple of hours was like a city built for the visitors of Angkor Wat. It must be the same reason why most of the cafes, bars or restaurants have the word "Angkor" in their names. But it was possible meet real Cambodia after leaving the city center and hitting on the alleyways. After 10 minutes walk, paved roads were replaced by orangish earth roads, hotels were replaced by shanties and tourists were replaced by little kids playing around. It was easy to notice poverty, it wasn't hard to understand that people have limited chances. Another point we noticed was the monetary unit. cambodia's official monetary unit was riel but American Dollars were very common everywhere. We would be learning the reasons for these in the following days.

DSC_0176After spending a day resting, we agreed on terms with a tuktuk driver to show us around all the day and hit on the road to Angkor Arkeological Park which was 6 kilometres away from Siem Reap early in the morning. Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu Temple in 12. century but transformed into a Buddhist temple corelated with the cultural change in the following years. It is known as the biggest religious temple on the world currently and is very special for Cambodians. It even resides on cambodian national flag. Actually this park hosts many arkeological structures besides Angkor Wat. The City of Angkor was huge city with 1 million population when it was first built. It became a very interesting city after civilazition ended and wild jungle spreaded out in the city. The city of Angkor Thom, which is covered bu huge walls and can be entered via 4 gates with typical Khmer design faces on top of them, Bayon which is one of the most important parts of Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm in which tree roots are on top of stones and where famous movie Lara Croft was shot. We returned to Siem Reap in the evening after spending all the day wandering around the stone structures in the jungle under 35 degrees. Even I myself didn't know that I was so in to archeology. We could notice how tired we were and how burnt our skins were after we got back, probably neglections ourselves after archeological overdose.

DSC_0496Next day, we were destined to the capital, Phnom Penh. The room we would say was a huge one with 5 beds on the floor. There was a fan next to each bed. What more can we want for a comfortable sleep ? We couldn't like Phnom Penh which was established in an area where 4 rivers meet. The traffic jam caused by tens of motorcycles and tuktuks which are actually pulled by motorcycle made us feel tired. There were no traffic lights in the crossroads and the reason why all the vehicles from all directions can go on their way without crashing into another one was secured by one single rule; big one goes first. The city center is established next to the Tonle Sap river and the street next to the river is just like Kordon. Most luxurious cafes and restaurants exist on this street. It is possible to get into local life in case inner streets are visited, narrow alleyways where food smells mix into each other and motorcycles going through one alleyway to another. The tuktuk drivers that insist the nonlocals to get into their tuktuks are also around.

DSC_0452Phnom Penh was well known all over the world in 1975. After years of civil war, the radical communist movement which is known as Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh and took up the control of the country. This is how everything that resulted as one of the most bloody time period of recent history was started. The main of Khmer Rouge who was leaded by Pol Pot that returned to Cambodia after completing his education in France, was to convert Cambodia into an agricultural country that doesn't need any external support and they never hesitated to use violence for this purpose. Millions of people living in cities are sent to villages. Many of them who believed to be against to the regime are murdered. The first murdered ones were professors, teachers, foreigners and even the ones who can speak a foreign language. In order to destruct the social organization in country, factories, schools, universities, hospitals and even Central Bank are destroyed. The monetary system is annihilated ve the economy based on money is exterminated. Everyone is forced to work in rice fields. The entellectuals and former government officers tha are trying to opposed to revolution are wildy tortured and then killed in S-21 (Security Office 21) which was a high school before the revolution and served as interrogation office. After a while S-21 wasn't enough so a new area in outer city is formed in order to kill people easier, quicker and bury the corpses. People were brought to this area from S-21 by lorries, then killed here and buried into huge graves all together. This area is known as "Killing Fields now", nearly 20.000 corpses are found during the excavations here after Khmer Rouge is destroyed. The total deathes including the famine and epidemic diseases caused by the economical crash and political reasons are believed to be around 1,5 million. That's nearly equal to 20 % of all Cambodian population at that time. The landmines which are spreaded during the regime aren't exactly cleared yet. Many people are still getting physically handicapped because of the landmines.

DSC_0271We spent our last day in Phnom Penh first in S-21 which is a genocide museum now and then Killing Fields. We ourselves observed how a country can easily get into this situation. While wandering around the Killing Fields, there were bone and clothing pieces in the soil and this was an evidence how real and close what happened here was. The most sad part of all story; Khmer Rouge was supported by well-known foreign countries and even after it was destroyed by Vietnamese army in 1979, the leaders were respected as the representers of Cambodia in United Nation for 12 years. In other words, victims represented by the murderers. Actually nothing changed since that time. The ones that are bombing other countries under the guise of bringing freedom were doing what's good for themselves at those years. The leader of Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot died in a mysterious way in 1998 taking away all his secrets with himself. The other high-ranking officals of the regime are still waiting to get into court.

Let's return to our trip, we met a surprise when we got back to the hotel. We applied to consulate in Bangkok, the one in Phnom Penh and finally the travel agencies for Vietnam visa but all of them are rejected. The officers all have the same reply after noticing the moon and the star on the passport and addressed Ankara for the application. As a result we couldn't go to Vietnam although we wanted so much and this resulted on a sudden route change. Next morning we hit on the road and crossed the Thailand Cambodian border just next to Thailand bay and arrived Bangkok. After spending a night, we hit on the road again and after a long bus and ferry journey we arrived to Koh Phi Phi island in southern Thailand. We will spend a few days here and then we will head to Malaysia. We are very close to the Equator, time is coming to cross to the other hemisphere...
 
Özcan