11.08.2009 - 14.08.2009 30 °C
Arrival in Cambodia was unproblematic. Finally a country that doesn't insist on having a flight ticket out of the country. Phnom Penh is a very easy city, there are four main boulevards and most of the rest of the roads are parallel to these. They don't have names but numbers, odd numbers going north to south, even numbers east to west. The numbering of the roads, however, seems to have been rather erratic.
The city is mostly on the west side of the Mekong at the place where two other rivers join it. Here's a view of one of them, the Tonlé Sap River.
While I was there the water was actually flowing upstream, because the Mekong carries so much water that it's water flows up it's affluents and fills up a big lake to the East. Quite a special situation.
Everywhere in the city you can see people play badminton on the street. Seems to be the local national sport (with kick boxing of course).
This is the Independence Monument. Cambodia used to be a French Colony. You can still buy baguettes everywhere.
I went to a Guest House in the backpacker area in a place called Lakeside. There's a lake in the middle of the city, there's a really good atmosphere there. There's also a slum right next door.
The government has sold the lake to a company (which is actually a front for one of the ministers) and they are filling up the lake with silt from the Mekong to build an office complex. It goes without saying that all the people living along the lake are being expropriated and the slum dwellers will be relocated somewhere far far away.
Cambodia has been the biggest reconstruction project of the UN in Asia. The Cambodian government, however, is one of the most corrupt in the world. Even I have trouble believing the amount of money people told me have disappeared. At this scale it becomes absurd. But the prime minister seems to be a master politician. I heard he is also one of the Khmer Rouge, but he's too powerful to accuse.
Speaking of the Khmer Rouge, I went to the old S21 prison. This place used to be a college, but the Khmer Rouge converted it to a prison where they tortured people before they took them to the killing fields to be executed. It is a museum now. Here are some pictures:
View from one of the buildings. They put barbwire on the side so the prisoners can't jump to death and deliverance.
One of the VIP cells. The prisoner was attached to the bed. Plenty of room for people to stand around, ask questions and watch.
In this room they built cells made of bricks. It's quite shabby work.
Here's another view of the brick cells. They was not much space...
On another level they used wooden cells.
The wooden cells were not larger than the brick cells...
The last 14 people to have been killed here were discovered by the Vietnamese Army when they toppled the Pol-Pot regime and buried here.
After a couple days in Pnomh Penh I decided I couldn't come to Cambodia and not see the Angkor Wat. So I left for Siem Reap.