We picked up our scooter as soon as the shop opened, hoping to get an early start and to beat the heat as much as possible. The scooter for this round was not nearly as glamorous as our Vietnam rentals had been- we were assigned an old 50cc with Popeye floor mats. We figured out the controls without too much hassle, and were off down the busy streets of Phnom Pehn.
The traffic in Hanoi was crazy and chaotic, but there were very few large vehicles. Not so in the capital city of Cambodia. With a similar feel, large cars and trucks made the streets feel significantly more dangerous, and when you add the fact that the Khmer New Year was in full swing, traffic was sketchy.
I carefully steered us through the streets with Bree navigating from the back , stopping at a petrol cart to fuel up before our ride out into the Cambodian countryside. The woman gave us an old 2-liter Pepsi bottle’s worth of green who-knows-what, after which she tried to tell us how much to pay. Communication totally broke down – and she didn’t have the correct bills on hand to explain (typically when we have this problem, the vendor will hold up the appropriate bills that we should hand over – all we have to do is match bills). Eventually a passerby came over, wrote the amount on his hand, and showed it to us. Easy as that!
Before long we were cruising through the hot, dusty countryside. The Killing Fields to which we were headed were located 16 km out of the center, and they proved fairly easy to find. We bought our tickets, retrieved our included audio tour headset, and spent the next 3 hours being horrified by what had happened there.
Feel free to look it up, but the killing fields that we visited was one of many sites which the Khmer Rouge used to massacre it’s people. Using basic farm equipment such as hoes, clubs, and hatchets, the government began “cleansing” it’s population (bullets were too expensive). We passed many mass graves, where fragments of cloth, bones, and teeth still wash up during the raining season.
The tour ended at the monument which has been erected in order to honor those who died at the killing fields. Within the monument are piles of skulls, many of which have holes or breaks from the weapons used to destroy them. The entire experience left us feeling completely depressed about humanity and their capacity for cruelty. It is important to know such things, though.
Before our plans to visit Cambodia, I was not even familiar with the Khmer Rouge. I have seen sites from the World Wars in Europe, the Civil War in America, and even the Vietnam War. These were all before my time, though. The Khmer Rouge, however, was not that long ago. This happened in OUR lifetime. Most of the people we met had survived the war and the genocide – yet they were still working and living their lives. These people are truly a testament of resiliency.