Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We have arrived safe and sound in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon for all you older people reading this..) The bus from Phnom penh took about 8hrs but a border crossing broke it up a bit so it didn't seem too long, 2 American idiots didn't have the correct papers/info at the border and the bus had to leave them there and carry on without them, So that cheered me up for a while.... We arrived into HCMC about 9pm last night and the bus stopped in the centre of the city. We were dreading having to search for the place that we had already booked the day before. We asked a person who was working for the bus company how to get there and she just turned around and said, "That's it behind you" In a city with a population of 7 million, and that sprawls for miles, I call that very lucky...
Anyway, we were pretty sad to leave Cambodia. We loved every minute of it there, it's a very cool place. The city's are crazy, the country side is beautiful, the history is both awe-inspiring and horrific, the people can seem unusual on first impression, they are a bit more stand-offish than the thai's, but are probably a bit more genuine when they do eventually speak to you.

This is the view from the balcony of the hotel (we were 4 stories up and no elevator - Charlie counted: 72 steps!!) In case your wondering that's the Tonle Sap river meeting the Mekong river.

It was a really nice place to relax and do a bit of "people watching" which is a great past time and you get to see some crazy ass things.

In the afternoon the riverfront comes to life and all the locals go down there and just hang out, eating and seeing friends, it's very social and gets pretty busy especially at the weekend.

There aren't really alot of what you would call "shops" around phnom penh. Most people just buy stuff from street vendors, who in turn come up with ingenious ideas for getting the goods from one place to another, they build things like this moped with a cooker attached. It's pretty impressive really, they either use gas canisters or quite simply just light a fire in a bucket lined with concrete. What is annoying is when they drive off and you're stuck behind them on your own moped, the red hot ashes from the fire fly off and land on your moped. I kid you not. I can't imagine health and safety in Ireland letting that on the streets.....

I walked into a gun shop and asked to see his biggest gun............

Try explaining your way out of that at airport security......

In every major town or city in Cambodia there is an "Independence monument" that celebrates Cambodia getting its Independence from France in 1953.

That's Phnom Penh's in the distance.

It's a great looking thing and is very handy to use as a landmark while whizzing around the city on a moped.

This poor dude was using it as a shelter from the midday sun.

Speaking of whizzing around on a moped, we got another one in Phnom Penh too. It's a pretty crazy place to drive around but was great fun and saved us a fortune on tuk tuk drivers:

It was brand new and was the nicest one we have rented so far. It's pretty funny as it's really just a crappy moped, but I kept getting told by people at traffic lights it was amazing and getting asked what was it like to drive....... weird. I was very temped to get a proper 250cc Scrambler but I don't think Charlie's feet could touch the ground.... When I get back to Ireland, I may have to start up a motorcycle gang, Who would be up for it?

Here are a few random photos taken while just wondering around the city:

That yellow building is the Central Market. It's where all the locals and some tourists buy all their stuff.

It's pretty cool looking inside and the building part is alot cleaner than the market I went to in Sihanouk ville.

Charlie was going nuts at all the materials and colours in the materials section. It's really cool to have a look around but if you even motion towards a piece of material, the seller has it out and in your hand before you can say "we are only looking". It's just the way they do it over here.

This is the main entrance into the market.

A Monkey running up and down the power lines...

Me feeding a "wild" monkey at a temple in the city (I don't think the words wild and city really go together when describing an animal)

A couple of monks. It's really funny when you see them whip out a mobile phone on the streets.

This big sucker walks down the street everyday at around 5pm after spending the day carring tourists around a temple. It was such a friendly Elephant.

Either she got smaller or I got taller.

The Infamous Pontoon bar. It's a really nice place, we spent NYE here. Great Cocktails.

Some of the old buildings are really nice looking, the French influence is very obvious.

Kids playing on the river front on a Sunday afternoon......

Too leave you on a more sombre note, we went to a place called S21 which was a school until the Khmer Rouge turned it into a prison and torture building during the Cambodia Genocide (Read this if your intrested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Kampuchea ) It's pretty grim stuff, but its something that any vistor to cambodia must understand because its effects are pretty obvious when walking around the cities. 2 million people were killed (the population at the time was 7 million) in a 4 year period by the Khmer Rouge under leadership of POL POT. (Quick history lesson comming up:) He overthrew the previous leader in 1975 with mad ideas of making the whole country into a single farming nation that would export rice to the rest of the world, with nobody living in cities or working there way up in status to challenge his power. As things started to fall apart (crops failed etc) he became very paranoid about the previous leader taking back leadership (with the help of the CIA) and started rounding up anyone who looked smart (wore glasses/could read) and systimatcally started torturing them and then killing them. He used this school as the largest torture station in the country, 20,000 people were held here and then brought to the killing fields to be killed. Out of the 20,ooo, 7 people survived. Seven.

Walking around here was really numbing. It was very creepy that it used to be a school.

Pol Pot.

The rooms where the prisoners were kept before their torture and then finally killed at the aptly named killing fields....

Each of these rooms were found like this when the Vietnamese entered the city in 1979 to clear out the Khmer rouge. What they found were the dead bodies of the last people they tortured to death, on the wall just out of shot is a very graffic picture of each of the bodies. You cant even imagine the things that were shown in the photos. I felt quite sick after looking at a couple of them.

Each person who was killed during the genocide was photographed and charged with betraying the Khmer rouge.

Charlie behind bars.

The amount of photos was just horrible, each face just showed this horrible expression.

Another torture room. The room has not been touched since the first cleaning in 1979, the blood stains are still on the floor.

More Photos. Before and after they were killed.

This is the monument out in the killing fields which were about 18km outside of Phnom Penh. After S21 we went out there and had a wander round. Some of the mass graves have been dug up and these are the 8000 skulls on display. Loads of other graves are still left untouched there and you can see bones sticking out of the ground all over the place.

Most of the skulls have fairly obvious damage on them where the person was whacked from behind with an axe handle. Bullets are expensive.

It was a pretty grim day and took us a while to get over what we had seen.
Cambodia is still recovering from this and it's a huge part of their history, so it gave us an insight into what the Cambodian people have been through.

Not wanting to leave you on a total downer, Woolly and Stripy wanted to show off their new Vietnamese hats.

Hope your all keeping well and missing us loads!! Its always cool going into a new country and if vietnam is half as good as Cambodia we will have a blast, We plan 3 weeks here and then 4 in Laos and then maybe a week in Bangkok to sort ourselves out before going down under. We also got a mobile number here in Vietnam +84937238315, Its in Charlies phone so if anyone wants to send us texts please do!! We also have a skype account called "seanandcharlie" if anyone spots us online?

Keep the emails coming and let us know how everyone is getting on back home!

Lots of love
Sean & Charlie

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