Monthly Archives: February 2018

Châu Dõc, Out of Control

Have you ever been on a Merry-go-round and it just keeps going faster and faster until you are just tossed to the side, your senses frayed and your body aching? Welcome to Châu Dôc!

I will back up a day.

After returning from the sensory overload at the Killing Fields we sat, drank and talked. Talked about what we had just witnessed and what the US seems to be doing, erasing history. What does it say about a society that is embarrassed of it’s past so it just erases it, to continue doing the same things over. Take responsibility for what you have done, teach the children your mistakes so they don’t have to make the mistakes over again. We have so much to learn.

Free dinner cruise

Anyway, we decided to take a FREE sunset cruise that night and just chill over dinner and drinks, with a gorgeous sunset and Cambodian music playing in the background. Beautiful night.

Sunset on the Mekong River

This building had a huge waterfall coming down it’s side, just lights, but so real looking.

Melanie chatting with girl from France

The next day we were taking the fast boat down the Mekong River, across the Cambodian/Vietnamese border to the town of Chãu Dõc. We sat on the back of the boat, just the two of us, as we passed more floating villages, fishermen and farmers in fields on the sides of the river. Pumps chugged and smoked, pushing brown water from the Mekong River up the banks and into the small fields they tended.

We passed banks full of children playing in the dirty water, smiling and francticaly waving until they squealed with laughter when we waved back with the same enthusiasm.

Happy children

We passed what looked like water buffalo splashing in the water just meters upstream from the children. It’s amazing they don’t get sick.

Water Buffalo?

Crossing into Vietnam was a simple process involving get off boat in Cambodia and getting the Visas stamped out, cruising a couple hundred meters through no man’s land, then off the boat again and Visa stamped back into Vietnam.

Cambodian border crossing

We docked, sort of, in Châu Dôc and the chaos started. WHAT??!! Carry our backpacks on the back of a scooter? NOPE! Not gonna happen. Ok, this little tin chariot on the back of a bicycle will have to work. The merry-go-round is starting to increase it’s speed.

Melanie’s Tim chariot

Finally we make it to the hostel only having near misses by at least 8 buses, 20 vans or trucks and about 10 gazillion honking scooters all racing to the same invisible goal. The great part, they all waved and smiled at us and each other while cutting everything off. We commented that in Mexico and Central America the road signs were just recommendations. Here the road signs don’t even exist. None. Nadda. Not even a yield! That means no one EVER stops. Everything is always just a yield, even crossing the road on foot. You just enter the road, go slow but never change your predicable speed, and they maneuver around you. Magic, but not for the faint of heart.

Next was finding something for dinner. The merry-go-round is now about to fling us off. Trucks, buses, scooters on sidewalks and down the paths of the market, people all moving and outdoor food stands with little plastic chairs everywhere.

We get swept in with the movement and end up down a market isle with the smells of cut up, day old fish and blood, dried fish and fish parts and buckets of squid everywhere. Melanie is losing it, I see the panic on her face. I need to get her out of there before she vomits. Watch out! A scooter almost collects us down a 1 meter wide walkway. We finally duck into a pizza restaurant, full of confused, crazy eyed foreigners like us, the only restaurant in site with a great menu. We will have the supreme pizza. They don’t have that. Too bad the only thing they have available is tomato and cheese pizza, beer and coke.

We feast like it was filet mignon.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, backpacking, Cambodia, Horizons Unlimited, SE Asia, vietnam | 1 Comment

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

We have visited many areas and monuments in the world dealing with the inhumanity that other humans impose on each other for so many different reasons. This was among the top of the sites that have emotionally drained us. This post is heavy with photos at the end, they tell a story.

The ones I am going to talk about are the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, or the Killing Fields, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum , the S21 secret prison, a former high school.

We rode out of town about 16 kms on back roads to get to the Killing Fields. The ride is interesting as we pass what seems to be a continuous village of smiling and waving people. It’s difficult to believe almost 40 percent of their population were brutally killed just 40 years ago.

As you arrive at the Killing Fields and pay your entry fee you are facing a long flowered and treed walkway leading to a 62 meter tall, glass walled Buddhist stupa, filled with more than 5000 human skulls, all facing out, staring blankly and looking into the souls of all who enter.

This killing field is one of over 300 mass graves that dot the surrounding countryside. It was once an orchard and a Chinese graveyard with proper stones scattered amongst the mass grave mounds.

During the years of 1975 (end of the Vietnam/American/2nd Indochina War)-1979 with Cambodia at it’s weakest from damage done from the Americans, a communist ruler took over. His name was Pol Pot an he promised safety and prosperity to the country. Until 1979, the Khmer Rouge executed those they believed represented the”old society” that included intellectuals, merchants, Buddhist monks, former government officials and former soldiers. In addition, they targeted members of Cambodia’s ethnic minorities. Half of the Chinese living in Cambodia at the time we’re killed, as were about 90,000 Muslims of the Cham culture. Vietnamese residents were either expelled or murdered. He ordered all those people and their entire families, killed because they could seek revenge. First they would be tortured to admit their crimes against the regime, then they would be brutally murdered, because bullets were too expensive.

The small children and babies became sport as they were tossed in the air or their heads brutally smashed into what is now known as the killing tree. They were then tossed into a shallow mass grave nearby.

The mass graves here contain 8,895 bodies. It is believed that during the 4 years of the Khmer Rouge, 2.7 million of a remaining population of 8 million were killed, directly and indirectly. During the Vietnam War many Cambodians fled the countryside where the bombs were dropping. More were dropped in Cambodia than all of WW2. They fled to the cities. When Pol Pot took control of the cities they fled to the country or were placed in work camps and died there.

With knots in our stomachs we then continued to the next must visit, Toul Sleng, the S-21 secret genecide museum. This was the holding area where all prisoners we’re brought to be tortured into false confessions before being brought to the killing fields for their final breaths.
After Cambodia lost the Cambodia-Vietnamese War in 1979, Pol Pot relocated to the jungles of southwest Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge and its government collapsed. From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Pol Pot died under house arrest in 1998.

Nothing more to say.

2WANDRRs

Killing Fields Memorial

Mass grave with memorial in the background

Mass grave site

Mass graves with prayer bracelets

The Killing Tree

The Killing Tree with the genocide memorial in the background

Small bones and teeth that still surface in the rains

Many levels of brutality

Empty stares

Pain and emptiness

Our driver had many family members die here

S21

Torture room that was once a room of learning. Blood still stains the floor.

A photo of what was found here in 1975

Faces of pain

Men, women, children and babies all suffered.

The Killing Fields

Chains and blood still on the floor

Notes from around the world bypassing religions and politics. Hope for the good of humanity.

If you try to erase what happened you will make the same mistakes again.

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, backpacking, Cambodia, killing fields, SE Asia | Leave a comment

Some Reap, Cambodia to Phnom Penh

We spent the next couple days wandering around town and revisiting the Angkor Wat complex of temples. The first time we were there the buses all arrived after sunrise and the complex got so crowded I couldn’t stay to see some of the other temples. It was Chinese New Year this week and the Chinese were here visiting by the bus load.

One of the temples, Ta Prohm, is in pretty much the same condition that it was found. It has been on the UNESCO list since 1992 and is now the most visited temple in the complex. The surge in popularity is in part due to being in the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.

Modern stone carver from India

Tomb Raider

The jungle will always win

You walk toward the temple on a path encompassed in a dense jungle. As you near the temple the dense jungle foliage has been trimmed back, but the large trees that have attempted to swallow the temple are still in place, soaring to hundreds of feet with their bases still rooted in the stone as the European explorers would have found them.

One of the most famous spots in Ta Prohm is the so-called ‘Tomb Raider tree’, where Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft picked a jasmine flower before falling through the earth into…Pinewood Studios.

Falling walls

We ended up changing hostels the next day to the Overflow Guesthouse. There were a group of seven young adults also staying there on the Worldrace.org , on a multi- denominational Christian mission that led them around the world over a nine month period. Have a great time, team Y.
The next afternoon we had to check out a hostel called the Funky FlashPacker. It’s known as a party place and it lived up to it’s reputation.

Melanie and Anna from England

A couple drinks in and we were part of the fun, sorta like fun grandparents. We each had a double shot of a boiling drink (maybe baking powder) followed by a Red bull Jägerbomb.

Even Melanie added to the world score card with one.

World score board.

We finally were ready to move on and booked a fast boat down the Tonlé Sap into Phnom Penh, a 7 hour boat ride. After strapping the luggage to the top of the boat and finding a seat we headed to up to above deck to sit on the roof.

Luggage strapped down, people not.

There were no railings on this boat so your safety was pretty much on you. With the long skinny boat underway and up to speed, about 40 kts, the boat was somewhat stable but would tilt way to the side with any change of course from straight. Amazing enough, no one fell off!

Floating party island

Still on board

Fisher families with nets

In the middle of the enormous lake there was nothing but water in all directions. As we neared the delta the water got so shallow I could have walked.

The sides of the river slowly closed in and with the deeper water we got up to speed again. Passing the floating villages, fisherman in small boats and stilt houses on the water’s edge have you a feel of the humble life the Cambodians lead that live near the water.

Friendly Cambodians everywhere

Hang on Melanie

Stilt homes

Floating villages

City on the river

We finally arrived in Phnom Penh in the late afternoon, found a hostel, and headed downtown on foot.

The palace was an enormous compound with a large park in front leading to the river. This joined up with a boardwalk running along the river.

Monks having fun

Family time in town

Temple by the river

Hundreds of families, couples and monks all shared the space enjoying each other’s company.

Faces were all with smiles with kids and adults waving and saying hello as we strolled the same common areas.

Strawberry Daiquiri

Enjoying the Riverwalk at night

Cambodian/Vietnamese Peace Memorial

It’s always so wonderful to see such happiness, especially knowing that 40 years ago, 3 million Cambodian people of a population of 8 million, were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

But that’s for the next time.

Cheers

2WANDRRs

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Siem Reap, Cambodia

Oh, the lines! The Chinese New Year has everybody flying somewhere. We finally made it to Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia with short lines, incredible efficiency and smiling people greeting us as we obtained our visas.

Our first day here we walked the town and enjoyed making new friends and talking to everyone. Finding a street side seat to watch the show was reminiscent of a Mardi Gras/Key West scene. We had a blast, this is a fun city.

Local temple

Story of Buddha

Cobra

Dried squid

Gold Buddha

Lying Buddha

The market

Any body hungry? I just became a vegetarian.

On the flight from HCMC to Siem Reap we met a well traveled couple from Toronto visiting the area. We decided to get together downtown with Sandy and Pravn for drinks, food enjoying each other’s company. Every once in a while it happens and we all hit it off becoming fast friends. Such an enjoyable evening.

Greg, Melanie, Sandy and Pravin

The next morning the alarm went off at 4 AM for our sunrise tour of the main temple, Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is a temple complex and is the largest religious monument in the world. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. Angkor Wat is also a protected UNESCO World Heritage site.

The streets were alive even at that time of the morning with the street vendors heating their cooking coals for the day, TukTuk’s waiting for passengers and vehicles of every shape and size, all heading for the temples.

We arrived at Angkor Wat 30 minutes before sunrise and gathered with hundreds of people in front of the reflection pond awaiting what was to be a beautiful sunrise. We all stood and watched in awe as the night faded and the incoming day tuned the pinks to a beautiful sunrise with cameras clicking away. The sounds of drums beating softly in the distance competed with the vendors selling their beautiful wares while the smell of fresh brewed coffee filled out senses.

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

We briefly toured the Wat and continued on to see the other temples before the afternoon heat and heading back to the hotel and an afternoon at the pool.

The library

Stone carvings. Look for the seam in the joined stones. Amazing craftsmanship!

Monkeys monkeying around.

The four faces.

That afternoon at the pool we meet two couples from Queensland, Australia and, after talking for a couple hours, invited them out for drinks (US$0.50 drafts beer and $1.00 mixed drinks) with us and our Canadian friends. What a fun evening we had, walking the streets drinking and eating Pizza.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Cambodia, Horizons Unlimited, siem reap | Leave a comment

HCMC, Day One

Waking in the morning on our first day in HCMC and getting out on the street led to a fullness of the senses.

The sounds of hundreds of little motorbikes, the honk-honk of horns from every size of vehicle in a “here I am” manner rather than “get out of my way”.

Actually, with a full day of walking we never heard or saw one instance of road rage. Driving here you almost never stop, intersections or side roads, you just merge and watch out. Scooters with enormous loads and scooters with entire families, they are always everywhere.

Then there are the smells. They hit you like a hammer. Sweet flowers and fruit, the pungent spices, charcoal burning to start cooking for the day, and the nasty all mix confusing your overloaded brain.

The sights of organized chaos on the streets in such a manner that it works. People everywhere going about their business with always a ready smile. Chickens getting plucked and hung by their necks for sale along with live seafood and red meat animals being segmented with the occasional snout on display.

The feel of Vietnam hangs in the air as we say to each other that Robin Williams inspired phrase, “Good Morning, Vietnam”.

Melanie steps into a hair salon as I retreat across the street in a cafe for a Vietnamese favorite, iced coffee (tastes like amaretto coffee) and green tea, for about VND$18,000, or about US$0.80. Later a beer stop for a beer so fresh it had been made within the past two days, VDN$12,000. Might break the bank on that one.

On the way back to the hotel we passed a massage studio, two 70 minute massages with oil and hot rocks for only US$22. We decided to go for it and 10 minutes later I had a little Vietnamese woman sitting, crawling and walking all over me. Then she tied up my legs in a figure 8 wrestling move and dug her knees into the exposed muscle. It hurt so bad I couldn’t even signal to stop. I have to admit I did feel better after it was over but Melanie has know joined me in ongoing back spasms.

Tomorrow we are off to Cambodia.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

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