Phnom Penh & Year Zero

A busy and very complex day today. We started with a morning visit to the Royal Palace. Not only is this a beautiful building but it’s also immaculately maintained.

Inside the palace the French erected a statue of Napoleon the third mounted on a horse. When French rule ended and Cambodia became independent Kampuchea they sawed Napoleon’s head off…
…And replaced it with the head of their beloveds Kings Sihanouk. He sits there quite happily although looks a little strange given that he is still clutching Napoleons bicorn hat

Next it was off to the National Museum, a beautiful building with a nice line in elephant hedges.

Exhausted by all of this, we treated ourselves to a nice GRJ lunch and cold beer. The darker side of recent Cambodian history was waiting for us in the afternoon. We visited Tuol Sleng, the Centre for imprisonment interrogation and torture of those opposed to the Khmer Rouge regime, now the Museum of genocide. I will spare you the details. They are distressing and profoundly sad. Our guide Mr Lim lived through this dark time and he bought it all to life effectively.

After that, we had an optional excursion, for those willing, out to one of the many sites of the famous killing fields.

There is an empty feelings when you finished viewing all of this. It’s difficult to talk about because words cannot convey the awfulness of the experience and of that terrible time.

I needed to lighten the mood and so after returning to the hotel we went out for dinner, seated in the open air, under ceiling fans and overlooking the river. There was traditional dancing and for one of our group, a birthday. Go Hugh!

Finally I couldn’t finish without mentioning our coach, which is a rather jolly affair with curtains coloured lights and a full disco system. We have a long drive tomorrow to Siem Reap for Angkor Wat and we’ve all agreed that at some point we’re going to stop, in the middle of nowhere, and play one song with the full flashing lights ensemble. Maybe we’ll do that after the tarantulas and scorpions but before the stonecutters village. I’ll see how the mood takes us . I just can’t help but feel that National Express would be so much more fun if we had this kind of bus? good night. 2 1/2 more days of this store, and it just keeps getting better!

Good Night

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