Cambodia travels: the killing fields

063064After the boat ride it is time to get back to the hotel where one of my cousins, Meena, has just arrived to join us. She is tired and needs to eat something so the two of us come down for lunch.( actually a second lunch for me!) We eat this amazing soup, she has a vegetable soup and I have one with shrimp, unbelievable! I feel I can live here just for the food and keep gaining weight as well.

Meena is a shopper and she leaves with the others while I read a book in my room. Some have gone shopping and two have gone for massages.  Apparently, massages are very popular tourist draws here. I come down to see this straight-backed woman playing a lute-like instrument in the lobby. She seems to be playing it in a minor scale and sounds sad . But her face is expressionless and rigid. I think she has been there for several hours, how boring and tiring for her ( and for some of us!)

We have decided to eat out tonight.  We take the tuk tuks which look very different from the three-wheelers called autos in India. Here you have two wooden planks with cushions facing each other, so four people can sit comfortably.  One of my cousins walks slowly since his accident several years ago and he accompanies us in the tuk-tuk. We go to a place called The cantina and have authentic, home-made Mexican food. The tostadas look like they were hand-made and the cheese, though not Mexican, is light The tostada is loaded with lots of cole slaw and a lovely verde and hot sauce. With drinks the bill comes to less than $25! Now my whole family decides they can live in this country.

The next morning Sol says we are going to see the killing fields and the Tuol Sleng museum.  I brace myself for the horrors that started the1975 genocide in Cambodia.  We first go to the museum, which was once a school and was later  converted into a holding place for Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge days. Each room has an iron bed with hooks to hold the prisoners. There is nothing else in each room and Sol talks about how they were treated. Anybody who was educated, or wore glasses were taken in as enemies of the state, tortured and later killed. There are huge poles outside where men were swung around as part of the torture.  We move along silently. There are rooms with pictures of some of the people. It is bizarre to note that the perpetrators of this genocide kept records of all this! There are several pictures of men and women.   Some managed to survive and one of them has written a book which has been translated to English/French. I buy his book.  Nobody talks as we get back to the van to the killing fields. later Sol tells me that some of his family members were killed too.

We are taken to one of the killing fields . ( I remember seeing a 1984 movie called The killing fields that outlines the whole Khmer Rouge killings that started in 1975 and went on for about four years.) We see trees, glass cases filled with old clothes, hollow pits and a certain kind of palm tree. The tourists in this area are mostly adults who just stand and stare or sit in benches and close their eyes. Sol softly states,” These palm tree leaves were used to beat the people senseless and then they were killed. To drown the shouts of the people crying in pain they had loudspeakers piping in music. ”  Now I know why people are meditating, or sitting in silence thinking about all that here. There is a pagoda-like structure that has glass shelves with human skulls . I go in to see skulls of all ages, yes women, children and men were massacred. What makes us humans do these horrific acts of violence?

A sombre mood prevails us as we get back into the bus.

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