Back in Siem reap and back at the Temples of Angkor. Our first day was spent visiting the immense and breathtaking Temples. The collection of over a thousand temples built over a thousand years ago. They retained the same jaw dropping beauty as they did when we visited a couple of months ago. Due to the fact I covered them quite well on our previous visit I will simply say that they were just as good as the last time we visited them and yet again we had a memorable day.
Day 2 was spent walking. Siem Reap is so small that it can easily be walked, along our way we found a butterfly garden which the kids loved and was free, we also found a kids play area where they played in the play area for fifty cents whilst I played on some classic arcade games like Outrun 2000 Charlie decided that a doll Abi had would look much better with one leg and so pulled one off. I had to get Abi something else and so she bought herself a lion which she named Fuzzy. Those who know Abi will know why 😉
The following day was rained off and so we just relaxed and mooched about a bit. But that night Charlie ordered Snake with Fried Ginger and ate every bit!
Day 3 and we visited the War museum. There have been many books written about Cambodia and its horrific and brutal history. One such Book which I’m half way through is called ‘The Killing Fields’ another popular book is called ‘First they killed my father’
A quick modern history is that Cambodia gained independence in 1953 from France. During the Vietnam war the US decided that the Khmer Rouge along with the Viet Cong had links in Cambodia and so in true American style they felt a few bombs should be thrown Cambodia’s way for good measure. Over 4 years (1969 – 1973) they obliterated Cambodia and when the US finally gave up the fight Cambodia was left in pieces. Then in 1975 the Khmer Rouge took power with Pol Pot at the helm. Cambodia was renamed ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ As if the war hadn’t effected the local Cambodians enough already, Pol Pot decided to evacuate every city and return the people to the rural areas. Everything resembling anything Western was destroyed and society was modelled on an 11th century social plan. At the time there were 8 million Cambodians and estimates say that between 2 and 3 million people died or were executed during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. We’re not talking a quick bullet to the head, good night. We’re talking about, ‘here is a shovel, go dig your grave and then get in whilst I bury you alive if you are lucky’ Others were gassed, battered to death and mutilated. Tarantino couldn’t kill someone in a more brutal fashion than Pol Pot did.
In 1978 the Vietnamese decided Pol Pot was a dick and had to go. However the USA and the UK disagreed and decided that Pot was the man and so provided his regime with arms and funding. Whilst we all sat back in the UK watching Rainbow Brite and Button Moon, Cambodian kids were being raped and murdered and supported by our government.
Wars and impoverishment continued until 1991 when finally peace was brought to the battered nation.
Of course my mini history is a near insult to the reality and if you are interested then read up on what is a sickening and horrific history of Cambodia.
The war museum attempted to portray the horrors of recent times and did so, very well actually.
After the Museum we visited Wat Tmei.
Whilst the temple was being built many bodies were discovered, all had been murdered. Some of the skulls were put inside an enclosure to remind people of the horror of what happened. Look in the photo I took and you will see skulls which are much smaller than the rest, a stark reminder that no one was left untouched by the Khmer Regime. You hope that when these poor children were murdered it was quickly for their sake, but history tells us this was often not the case.
So why did I take my kids to see this? War looks fascinating to children, but the realities are very different. Just like when I took them to the war museum in Saigon and the realities of war sank in then, so they did now. Children often need telling things a million times, but when you show them just what mankind is capable of to one another it is amazing how they just know. A stark reality check of just how lucky they are.
The next day we spent at the pool, all day – A stark contrast to the previous day.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) and our final day in Siem Reap and Cambodia and we are going to visit an orphanage.
This trip was always about seeing the world around us and at times it has knocked us backwards. We have visited some of the best beaches and most magnificent countries on earth and I could easily have turned this trip into a resort style holiday completely ignoring the country we were in. Instead we have lived with locals, eaten with locals and have tried our best to get involved with locals.
I have not mentioned this before but after visiting the school in India I was so touched by what I saw I enquired as to what an education costs for a child per year. The amount was £48. I decided to sponsor a child, the little girl (I won’t name her) is 5 years old and lives with her mother – her father died. I have made a commitment to provide her education for the next 12 years, we are talking the cost of a single meal out in the UK. We will stay in touch with this girl throughout her childhood and will visit her, as she gets an opportunity which we in the UK take for granted.
Visiting the orphanage tomorrow will hopefully teach the kids just how lucky they are and will help to instil in them a lifelong compassion for those less fortunate. I have heard the saying “you don’t know you’re born” many times when I was growing up, the reality is in the UK, few people do.