Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Lost Blog. Choeung Ek.

This was written after a visit to the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh in November. I lost my enthusiasm for a while.

Please heed the warning below if you are easily shocked.

Kep, on the coast of Cambodia, is surely something of an oasis. Most people seem to visit to just sleep whether it be in one of the hotels, guest houses, bungalows, or just swing in a hammock all day in one of the many, many thatched shacks that line the shore and beaches. The little town fills up over the weekend with visitors from Phnom Penh but for the rest of the week it is almost deserted. So much has happened, and not happened, since I arrived there that I might miss an important point or two. Right now I am in a local bus making my way down the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam to Can Tho, so yes, I’ve got some stories to tell since leaving Angkor and Siem Reap.

I shirked the twelve hour bus ride south to the coast and took a plane. Only a forty five minute flight, quite inexpensive, and a lot less boring than the long bus ride. From Sihanoukville I got a ride along the coast to Kep and a happy return to the Lodge. Not too much has changed, lots of dogs, monkeys, geckos, bats, amazing views and a feeling of isolation from the world at large. The Swiss owner is still there but seems to have a spouse problem, caused perhaps by having too many! They put me up in one of their newer rooms, a complimentary upgrade for a returning customer, it featured a balcony with a hammock, a mozzie net around the bed, hot water in the shower and the best view over the tree tops to the sea below. I had some fun with the webcam over the tiny pool adopting poses for the folk back home to see. I ate regular meals, took a tuk tuk into the town, lay on the new beach (they have imported the sand), made friends with some  girls who owned a barbecue stall who fed me fish, and generally took a time out from the world for a whole week. It was quite blissful.

And then, and then, and then……..

I went back to Phnom Penh from Kep, got my visa for Viet Nam, saw a few sites and headed off down the Mekong. Hmm, that’s a whole lot in one brief sentence. Actually I went to Cheoung Ek and have yet to recover. Well, this was my third visit to P.P. and I got a kick in the pants from my sister in law (Vicky) so I went. In a tuk tuk, of course. They were doing something to the road, driver stopped and bought me one of face masks everyone wears around here. I felt very local. Relieved also in the clouds of dust. It was very hot. We got there. I bought a ticket and was given headphones for the audio tour. The following two hours or so were some of my worst. I have been trying to find the words for the last two weeks, they won’t come. Horrifying, horrible, heartbreaking. Maybe you have seen a movie, the Killing Fields. I have not. On the way back to town I was texting my distress back home and the wife, Jules, said comforting things and soothing words, as always. But it’s still there and I went.

Then off down the Mekong to Viet Nam. I was dropped of in a kind of a one horse town in the Delta, Chao Doc. No hotel, no nothing that I could see. There was a guy with a bicycle that had a little trailer on the back on top of which was what looked like a large tea tray with a hole in the middle. I sat on it, feet through the hole, clutching bags, and off he peddled. Well, this is a riot thinks I. Finally we came to what might be called downtown. There was a hotel, kind of. But it was only for one night so who cares. There didn’t appear to be any food around so I did what the locals all seemed to be doing, sitting on plastic lawn chairs in the dust, drinking beer and watching the traffic. One way to spend an evening I suppose.

Following are some very gruesome, graphic and upsetting photos. Please, if you are easily distressed or easily disturbed,

DO NOT GO FURTHER. I AM NOT KIDDING.

Many mass graves.

Many mass graves.

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Time Passed. Quickly.

Sorry about that, the long interval I mean. I have been busy and so much has happened I can’t even think where or when to start. My creative juices, such as they are, dried up after a trip to Cheoung Ek, aka The Killing Fields, outside Phnom Penh which was such a shattering blow to my psyche that I completely dried up. I still cannot find the right words but from what I hear the movie of the same name conveys the emotions quite well. I cannot recommend it as I have not seen it but it might be on TV and there is always Netflix.

I will attach my last blog to the end of this one. It may be confusing as it will be a sort of flash back, but you might be interested.

Onward then with the journey, which I might add is continuing. I am currently at 40,000 feet over Dushanbe and Samarkand (hello again).

To Can Tho I went, an interesting little town deep in the Mekong Delta. I thought I would be bored but no, it was great. Exotic springs to mind and I was so slowed down by then that I sat, quite happily, watching the river traffic, dodging monsoon storms and drinking tea for hours and hours. There were of course tourist attractions, the dawn floating market, the enormous bridge, and the Christmas carols. Yes Christmas carols. Seems the whole country goes crazy for the Holiday, carols blast out from bars and restaurants, Santas ride around on scooters, there are trees (plastic), decorations everywhere, Christmas cards are sold on the street from impromptu stalls, it was all a bit baffling in what I thought was a Buddhist Country.

A boat then to the island of Phu Quok which turned out to be the best place for my final week. Extremely relaxed, no hassle anywhere, great food, lovely people and a beach with warm water. I met a couple from Linz, Austria on the boat ride over and we all stayed at the same eco hotel. Tim and Danielle (from Koh Samet) turned up coincidently and many an evening was spent at the beach bar.

Too soon it was time to go back to Saigon, do my Christmas shopping and make my way to Seattle for Christmas with the family. They kind of insisted that I should attend so I did. They are family after all so they have rights. I had been dreading my last night in the East for weeks, kind of a chapter closing, but my friends Ursi and Robert, from Austria, were also in town and they invited me for dinner. It was their seventh ‘Toothbrush Day’ so celebrations were in order. Toothbrush Day? I was perplexed. It marked the day seven years before that Ursi had put her toothbrush in Robert’s tooth mug. How charming is that! What a lovely couple, it was so sad to say goodbye the next day, but we are in touch on the Facebook and somehow I will get myself to Linz one day, maybe on another Toothbrush Day.

Long, long airplane ride to Seattle and arriving realized I was in Saigon clothes and this was Seattle, in December, I got some very funny looks. Huge build up to Christmas, shopping, wrapping, cooking, all the usual stuff but interesting to spend the first one at the house of one of my children. I guess the baton has been passed on. That’s ok. I won’t go into all the family fun but suffice it to say it was absolutely fabulous. Twenty five around the table, crackers, hats, tons of food, flaming puddings, gifts, a one year old who started walking, leftovers, nice wine, some rum and cokes. Marvelous time.

Then it was all a bit busy for the resumption my journey. To Marin to sort a few things out, fix computers, see friends etc. Then back to Seattle for the cheap flight to Frankfurt, and Edinburgh to stay with my Sister Sally. Another great time, I love Edinburgh, cold though, very, very cold. More great times with old school friend in York, to London to stay with an old room mate, more fun, it snowed. I had a lovely lunch beside the River Thames with my Sister in Law Vicky and her husband Terry. Then to my Mother’s in Winchester for a week before getting on this plane back to Bangkok. Thanks you everyone back there, you were all so generous, friendly and accommodating. I will miss you all.

Now you are up to date and I am halfway from Paris to Bangkok and over Islamabad. I did get a bit anxious before a sleep that our route was taking us over Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, but when I woke up, still alive, I saw that we had taken a huge swoop to the South. Something of a relief. What’s next? A few days in Bangkok to recover from this marathon then to Sangkhlaburi, up near the border with Myanmar to see Luca, Juli, Amalie and Paolina where they have been working at an orphanage since September and our stay at Koh Samet. Apparently I shall be teaching English. I’m looking forward to that.

Does this make any sense at 40,000 feet? I hope so. I’m going to go to sleep again so see you in Bangkok.

I arrived at 6.00am, the height of the rush hour and the legendary traffic jams did not disappoint. I was greeted with many smiles and welcome backs at the hotel and of course the hand clasping, which I now know to be called a wai, plus I am almost brave enough to say ‘sah wah dee kap, Hi or hello.

Onward then to who knows where or what but I have a plan for the next few weeks so stay tuned and lets hope the jet lag doesn’t last too long.

NB. A meeting of the Editorial Staff voted for the last blog post to be posted separately. I will abide by their decision!

A lady selling drinks to stall holders at the Floating Market. Can Tho.

A lady selling drinks to stall holders at the Floating Market. Can Tho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floating Market. Can Tho

Floating Market. Can Tho

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone was very busy.

Everyone was very busy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure what happened here but the colours went berserk at sunset on Phu Quok.

Not sure what happened here but the colours went berserk at sunset on Phu Quok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Tree in Saigon. Just a little over the top.

A Christmas Tree in Saigon. Just a little over the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traffic. Saigon.

Traffic. Saigon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping at the Main Market. Saigon.

Shopping at the Main Market. Saigon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toothbrush Day Dinner.

Toothbrush Day Dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun set on 2014. Happy 2015.

The sun set on 2014. Happy 2015.