Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 8

1:00pm

This are the last few ours that everyone would have left in Cambodia. We woke up early and had breakfast outside. My flight was at 9:35 in the morning so we needed to get to the airport fast. The big group is breaking up into 3 different smaller groups. Migel would be flying from Siem Reap straight to Singapore. Noemie is flying with Lexi and Cory back to Phnom Phen where she will fly to Bangkok and finally to Paris. The rest of us are just flying from Siem Reap to Bangkok. This would be the last leg of my journey. For 3 of our group it shall be the start of a new adventure because they are going to other Rustic Programs in other countries. For the rest of them it shall be the start of the long journey back to America.

At the airport, we said our goodbyes to Yi and Mr. Thay first. They have been our local guides on this trip and they were funny and were very nice people. After checking the big group in, we said bye to Cory, Lexi and Noemie and the 7 of us walked past immigration and into the back of the terminal. Migels flight leaves an hour after ours do so it wasn’t long until we said goodbye to him too. It was quite emotional.

After the short hour plane ride we landed in Bangkok. This was the end of my trip to Cambodia. After meeting up with the Rustic staff in Thailand, I said my goodbyes to everyone and left on my own. I had an amazing group of people on my trip. All of them were nice and nobody ever complained about anything. They made my trip memorable and I shall remember all of them.

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 7

9:30pm

Today was a very busy and interesting day. It was our final full day in Cambodia and it would be the longest day. We all woke up at 4 in the morning because today we are going to go to Angkor Wat to see the sun rise. This was something I have been waiting for since the start of the trip. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world so I am very excited to see it.

We arrived at the ticket office at around 4:30 and the booth hasn’t even opened yet. They needed to take a picture of us so that it can be printed on the paper card that they give us. For a days visit it is 20 dollars for all foreigners, but for the local people it is free for them whenever they go. After getting our bad looking pictures taken, we headed to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was surrounded by water, which in the olden days were filled with crocodiles and big fishes. This protected the Wat from attackers that tried to destroy it. We got out of the vans and walked across the only bridge to the island around the water. We have officially reached Angkor Wat. From the pictures I have seen of the Wat, it looked really small, but now I have realized the massive size of it. It was truly amazing.

Our guide, Mr. Thay took us to sit at the right side, this place didn’t have a lot of people so it was nice and peaceful. The sky at this point is still dark so we can just barely see the outline of the Temple in the distance. As we waited for the sun to rise, Mr Thay explained some basic history of how Angkor Wat came to be. It was very complicated and there was lots of fighting between nations. Also the structure was influenced by mostly Hindu so there were lots of mythology. The sky started to become lighter but there the sun couldn’t be seen, the clouds have shaded it so it is impossible to see the sun rise. It was quite disappointing not to see the sun rise, but the experience was still very amazing.

After the sky started to brighten up, we went to the left side of the Temple where a small lake where the image of the Temple is reflected into it. The reflection of the Temple reflected perfectly onto the lake, it was like a real image of Temple. Since everything brightened up we started to walk into the Temple. The Temple itself had 3 stories. On all the walls there are different wall carvings. These wall carvings are from religious accounts. Each wall is one scene of a story and most of the carvings are about war between the Gods and the Demons. The carvings are so beautiful and nicely done that no flaws can be seen. It is also very well preserved that not a lot of rock have fallen off the wall.

Moving closer to the center of the Temple, the real size of the Temple can be seen. The third level of the Temple had steep steps leading up to it. Unfortunately it is only 7 o’clock in the morning and the third level only opens at 8, but just by standing underneath the stairs make you feel like you are a very small person. We walked around it and Mr. Thay told us the history of this ancient building. We were all very amazed by it knowing that it lasted more than 5000 years ago.

After our visit to Angkor Wat we went to have breakfast at a local restaurant across from the Temple. After breakfast, we went to visit an ancient city. There was another river that ran in front of the city walls, the bridge that connected it had Angels and Demons on the sides of it. Both are pulling a huge long snake, this creates a bridge. At the gate of the city, there are statues of a 3 headed elephant. This was the guard of heaven, so that means that the bridge we were walking on was connecting us to heaven. Going past the walls would bring you into heaven. The next Temple we visited was distorted quite badly. Rocks can be seen lying on the ground and most of the Temple’s first level’s roof has been distorted. Although the stone cravens are still in quite good condition.  There are a total of around 54 Buddha face statues placed around the temple. Some were big and others were small. They were all looking at the 4 different directions, north, south, east and west.

The last temple we were going to visit was a Jungle Temple. This means that trees has grown over the Temple and has caused some of the sections to collapse, but the trees cannot be cut. This is because that the some of the trees are actually holding the bricks in place, so if the tree is cut than the temple would collapse. This Temple was truly amazing, there is this tree that grown on thing statue of a Buddha. The weird thing was that the tree grew around the face of the Buddha, showing the Buddha’s face so the Buddha can see everyone. The weather was nice and cloudy so it wasn’t hot at all, but the storm clouds can be seen in the distance so we ended the tour and went back to the vans. By this time the third level of Angkor Wat is opened, but it started to rain so we decided to go back to our hotels.

It is unbelievable after what feels like a day of touring Angkor Wat it is only 11 o’clock. We went back to the hotel and were given an hour to take a nap or freshen up, than we went out for lunch. Lunch was at a simple restaurant and after lunch some of us wanted to go back to the market to do some final shopping before we leave Cambodia. Shopping was still the same but we helped each other to bargain the price down. This was the day when everyone really started to get to know each other a lot better. We spent the rest of the afternoon in our rooms, everyone came to my room and we talked about everything. This was quite sad as it was our final day in Cambodia and together as a group and this was when we got to know each other better.

We had dinner at a International Buffet, it was quite a touristy place and had a Cambodian dance show too. The food wasn’t that good at all, but it had a good atmosphere. After dinner we were going to battle the night market. This was the time to but the bargaining skills to the test. I had the buffet ice cream and it made me feel very bad afterwards. I puked a little so I didn’t go with them to the market. That was a right decision because I later puked all of the buffet food out at the hotel and I felt much better afterwards. This is how I spent my last day in Cambodia. It was an amazing trip and one that I shall never forget. It was a truly a new experience for me and I will look back on it in the future.

Food Eaten:
Beef Loc Lak
International Buffet

 

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 6

8:57am

I woke up very early in the morning by the sound of the local people. There were speed boats speeding along the river and Monks chatting holy prayers. But today another sound woke me up. It was the sound of a pig getting slaughtered. The boys live right next to a floating pig pen and today early in the morning the cries of the big can be heard. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all. There were also two cats fighting for about 10 minutes, it was very annoying but it was nice to experience the early morning life of the Cambodian people.

We are cursing on the Tonle Sap River and now have joined together with the Tonle Sap Lake. It doesn’t seem like a lake, more like an ocean. It is huge. You cannot see the other side and in the summer it has about 3 thousands cubic kilometers of water, but in the wet season, that number could increase 3 to 4 times, to 12 thousand cubic kilometers of water! It is an amazing creation of nature. It will take us about 1 and a half hours to reach Siem Reap. There we will visit a crocodile farm where we are feeding live chickens to the crocodiles. It might sound cruel but you definitely wont see it anywhere else. After we check into our hotels we would visit local markets and start to do some shopping then go to bed early cause we are going to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat tomorrow morning.

9:27pm

I am finally sleeping on dry land tonight, after 3 days sleeping on floating boats and villages it is a very good feeling. We got to the port at around 10:30 in the morning and drove to down town Siem Reap. The hotel was a nice and small hotel without an elevator and we lived on the 4th floor so we had to carry all of our stuff up which was quite a tiring job. We were given an hour to freshen up under a real shower and warm water. It wasn’t something I missed but I definitely enjoyed the experience.

Mexican was for lunch, everyone was very hungry and when the food came, it was eaten in minutes. It was the first real food that we had for days and it was one of the best. After eating, we went to check out the old market. It contained lots of different goodies. I brought two pairs of pants which are very comfy and light, I got it for 5 bucks each which was a good bargain. I also brought other stuff like bracelets for my friends back in Bangkok.

Then some people decided to go to see the crocodile farm but others just wanted to  get some ice-cream. This is when we split up. I went to the crocodile farm because I wanted to feed a live chicken to a crocodile. Its a cruel thing to do but it is once in a live time thing. We arrived at the farm, and there were at least a thousand crocodiles lying under the sun waiting to strike. We brought the chicken for 10 dollars even though its a rip off, but the experience was definitely worth it. Theres a video that I took and click here to take a look.

After the crocodile farm, we wanted to relax a bit so we went to the fish spa. The fish spa was very weird, the fishes would bit your toes like and it was very ticklish. I couldn’t stand it at first, but soon got use to it. The weird thing was that the fishes love to bite your scab, because there are skin groaning around that part. It hurts a lot when they bite that place so I would always push them away when they start to bite it. After the fish spa, we walked around the market again and crossed the river to the other side where another market was. It has pretty much the same thing as the other market but the products here come in greater quantities and sizes.

Dinner was at 6 o’clock because we are going to have Cambodian BBQ. This BBQ was different from others because it contained some very uncommon meat. There was crocodile, ostrich and snake. Sadly the kangaroo meat ran out so it was a bummer. The crocodile was very thick and hard to chew on, it was like bubble gum. Ostrich was very soft and easy to eat. It is defiantly my favorite. The snake was very different, because it was like not soft as ostrich and not hard as crocodile, it was in the middle, but it was nice. The BBQ dinner was the best food we had in Cambodia, and I don’t think I can taste these meat anywhere else.

We were very filling after dinner so we decided to go for a walk. The night life of the Siem Reap was very loving and filled with fun, there were bars around every corner. But we needed to wake up early tomorrow to see the sun rise so everyone went to bed very early.

Food Eaten:
Enchiladas
Cambodian BBQ

  • Crocodile
  • Chicken
  • Squid
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Snake
  • Ostrich
  • Shrimp

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 5

8:43pm

Today was our second day at the floating village. The noises of the speed boats running up and down the river woke us up nice and early in the morning. We had some local fried bananas and chinese bread with pancakes for breakfast. It was a good way to start the long day we have ahead of us.

Our mission today was to teach and paint the local floating school. The local school starts at 7 in the morning and end at 11 where the morning students go home for lunch and do work in the afternoon. In the afternoon a new set of students come and study at the school from 1 till 6. The school is really small, with only 3 classrooms, so in the morning the 1st, 3rd and 6th grade students come to study. Then in the afternoon, the 2nd, 4th and 5th students come.  Since non of us are professional teachers, and with the amount of time we were given to teach the students it proved to be a real challenge.

We made short lesson plans before hand, but when we reached the school the planned changed completely. My group has 4 people so we got to teach the 1st grades. They don’t know any English at all so when we said “Hello” to them, they just stand there and stared at us. We got Yi to translate for us and we started to teach them. The first we taught was how to say “My name is”. This wasn’t an easy thing to do because lots of them don’t know how to pronounce the word correctly, but the harder thing was that all of the kids are very shy and would try to hide when we approached them.

After a slow started we managed to teach them how to say “My name is”. We went around the room asking to say their name. It isn’t something big, but it was a great achievement for us. Next, since they are only 1st graders, we decided to teach them their ABCs. It was surprising that they don’t know their ABCs, as i thought that it was something basic that the teachers would have taught them. ABCs might seem like something easy to everyone, but it was a lot harder to teach it to the children. They had a hard time pronouncing specific letters like “E”, “F” and “H” as these type of sounds don’t exist in Khmer. We repeated a letter and told them to say it after us. Then we went to each kid individually and asked them to say it so we could correct their pronunciation, it was a long and tiring task to do. After getting to the letter “M”, the students seem to lose interest and we as teachers seem to run out of steam.  This is when we decided to take a break by playing a game. We decided to split them up into two teams and test them on the alphabet that they have learnt so far. We would write down a letter and whoever says it correctly first gets a bubblegum. But since we didn’t want to lower everyones self esteem, everyone ended up with bubblegum.

We gave them a 5 minutes break and relaxed in the classroom taking a well deserved break. Teaching children isn’t as essay as it seems. We taught the alphabet after the break for a while longer then decided to teach them the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song. We first taught them how to say each body part and Yi translated it into Khmer so the children would understand. Afterwards we sang the song and pointed to each body part, this along with the song helped them to remember what each body part meant and how to say it. It was fun and exciting for both us and the children. Then we went back to the alphabet, we have to finish what we started teaching, even though it was the last few letters, it was hardest out of them all. “W” was the hardest for them cause it is said as “Double U” so it was hard for the kids to say it. Finally finishing the alphabet we decided not to teach them the song because it was too hard for them to learn the end part so we decided to do a game. Even though to us the game was nice, easy and straight forward, but to the children it seemed like high school calculus. It was impossible to teach them. So everyone just started to dance in a circle, some of the kids were very talented in dancing, it was very entertaining. Next we made a Cho Cho Train. We gathered up all the kids and made them follow a leader they found it very fun and entertaining. As the saying says, time fly when we are having fun, it just seemed like a minute but our time with the kids were up. We said goodbye to the kids and headed back onto the boat.

Lunch was simple and good, we had ginger chicken with morning glory. We took a hour and a half to relax and 30 minutes before school started we set out to paint the school. The school looked quite old, the outside blue color of the school is starting to fade away. Since we didn’t have a lot of paint, we decided to only paint the windows and doors of the first school house . We split up into twos and set out to paint the 8 windows and 4 doors that the school had. A few of the windows didn’t have a wooden closing anymore, only the frame exist, so we painted that instead. The paint gave off a very bad gasoline smell making everyone put on masks. There wasn’t a lot of paint, so the paint ran out really fast. We managed to paint 5 windows and 2 door frames, it was a good accomplishment. But this wasn’t the end of our job for the afternoon, we had to teach the new children that came to the school. This time we had the 4th graders to teach, they knew a lot more and were much easier to teach then the 1st graders in the morning. We went over “What is your name?” and the answer “My name is __”. They seemed to already know that so we moved on to other things like the names of common animals that can be found; snakes, buffalo, chicken, fish and even butterfly. This was quite challenging for them to learn but we drew pictures of each animal on the board so they would know what they are. We then decided to teach them something conversational and taught them how to say “How are you” and respond saying “I am___” and in the blank we gave them different feels that they could use, happy, sad, hot and tired. We made them repeat what they repeat the question and the phrase multiply times so it will be easier for them to remember it.

When all this learning was finished, it was time for Bingo. They have never played Bingo so Mr. Thay had to explain it to them, it was quite a hard concept for them to understand. We told them to draw a 4×4 square on their books and in the squares draw out different items that we already drew on the board. This seems to be an easy task, but it wasn’t. The whole process took more then 45 minutes to complete. These children are too neat, they would use rulers to write out the letter “A”. Also sometimes everyone would be drawing out the same bingo board even though we told them not to do that. But finally we began to play, there were a lot of different prizes on the tables so who ever won can pick their prize. Everyone ended up with Bingo, so they all walked away with a prize.

It was 4 o’clock when we finished school, this might seem like the end of our day, but it wasn’t even close. We went back to the temple to continue painting the walls that we started. Also Lexi, Cory, Yi and Mr. Thay said they have a surprise for us at the temple. Nobody would have guessed what it was. After painting another wall at the temple the surprise was reveled. The monks at the temple were going to tell our fortune. They had a very special way of doing it. There are a lot of palm leaves and each has writing on them, then putting the stack of leaves on your head and using a stick to stick it in and which ever one it falls on would be your fortune. If you get a bad fortune you have another two tries to get a good one, but if after three tries the fortune is still bad then you would have a bad fortune. When it was my turn, the story went like this: ” You are working in a millionaire house, but one day the family tried to kill you but after many attempts they still couldn’t kill you. But then the son of the millionaire get murdered so the all the possession of the millionaire goes to you. This means that bad things would happen to you but you shall always get repaid for what you have done.” This was very relatable to my life right now so I shall remember what the monk had said to me.

It was finally time for dinner, since it isn’t that hot anymore we had dinner on the roof of the boat. It was going to be the real last meal we have on the boat. Yi cooked us a lot of good food, french fries, fried chicken, mama noodles with vegetables and two other dishes. It was the best dinner we had in days. With the sun setting in the distance and a light breeze flowing, it was a beautiful place to dine our last meal.

We went back to our home stay house and turned on the music on the boat, with the christmas lights it truly turned our boat into a party boat. We were dancing and rocking it out on the boat, but soon everyone got tired and just sat down and enjoyed the music. I was going to sleep on the boat today along with the other local staff, spending the last night on the boat would truly be amazing. But for now it is getting late theres a long day of traveling tomorrow for us to do so night.

Food Eaten
(All cooked on the boat)
French Fries
Mama Noodles with Vegetables
Beef with Vegetables
Fired Chicken
Mushrooms
Ginger Chicken
Morning Glory

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 4

8:43pm

Today we left our first home stay village and continued to head down the river closer to Siem Reap, but first we have to stop at another village where we will spend the next two nights at.

On the way to this village, the river started to widen and the villages became much bigger. The boat didn’t drive that fast, so we could see the beautiful scenery very clearly. There were some birds that I saw flying close to the water, it seems like they are trying to catch some fish. Other times we could see local villagers checking the fish traps that they put out, hoping that there are fishes in their trap. It was truly a beautiful site, the blue sky blending into the green farm lands and river, it looked like it came out of a painting.

We reached the village at lunch time, and after having lunch on the boat, we headed to the local temple to help them paint the wall. The temple was under construction for many years, but due to do the amour of money the village donated to construct the temple, it’s going to take a long time to complete. We painted 4 walls with a nice pinkish white color. It was hard to paint at first because we didn’t know how to do it, but as we did it more it became easier to do so. Painting was a messy job, after painting we had paint everywhere; on our clothes, hand, faces and even on our hair!

After a 2 and a half hour paint job, we finally finished the 4 walls. Well sort of, the last wall was kind of 90% complete. Nevertheless the head Monk of the temple was very happy for our work. To thank us for our work he blessed us and tied red strings onto our wrists as good luck. The bracelet should fall by itself and on that day you would be lucky. If the bracelet is cut then that means you are throwing away your luck.

After this messy work, some of us decided to have some fun and play volleyball. It was raining when we were painting so there were puddles and mud everywhere on the floors. This was the condition which we played volleyball in and adding on with the uneven leveled ground it made it very hard to play. The 9 of us tried very hard and managed to have some good rallies, mud volleyball, it shall forever be remembered.

Finally going back to our home-stay house, we lined up for a well deserved shower. A bucket shower to be more specific. it was the best shower I have had all trip as I was so dirty and cleaning myself made me felt so clean. Dinner was again made by Yi, he is an excellent cook knowing how to use spices correctly and making everything so delicious.

After dinner we had an hour of free time were some people talked, others played cards and wrote in their diaries, it was the chill out time. As the sky darkened it was time for us to go to bed, even though its only 8:40, it makes everyone feel quite tired already. But before bed we have to reflect on some things that we would change when we go back into our lives. This comes from helping to paint the temple and seeing how a small effort we made can make a big difference to someones life. Many said that they would value what they have right now as the life of these people are so hard. Others said that they would help out their parents, minimize the stress that we bring to them. All these reflections would make us better individuals in the future.

As for now it’s getting late (8:54), so we are going to sleep now. Tomorrow we are going to visit the local school where we are going to teach and play with them. When the break for lunch, we have an hour to sand out the walls of the classroom so that the next group can do the painting. After lunch we might go back to the temple and finish painting the wall. But it might all change as the schedule is very flexible. Night.

Food Eaten:
(All cooked on the boat)
Fired Eggs with Onion
Mixed Vegetables
Beef Lok Lak
French Fries
Pineapple with Beef

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 3

12:32pm

We had just finished lunch on the Rustic Pathways boat. It was quite a nice lunch, with cooked Mama Noodles with vegetables and some other sauce. The taste was very unique and I liked it a lot. Today we moved out of Battambang and continued on to our final destination, Siem Reap. This last leg of our trip we are going to travel by boat and it shall take 3 days to complete, stopping at different villages on the way to do some community and service.

As usual breakfast was at 7 and we were on the bus at 7:45. Our first stop was the a local market called “Lotus Market”, it sounded like an other market same as the ones in Bangkok, smelly and dirty. But I was completely wrong about my prediction. Even though it was quite dirty, but there was no smell at all. It was replaced with the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables. It was really nice. The reason why we had to go to the market is because we have to stock up on all the food and supplies we need for these 3 days on the boat. We brought a bus load of fruits and vegetables and headed to the port to begin our journey on the river.

At first glance, the Rustic Pathway boat seems to be quite small, but it is actually quite spacious and big. Theres a small bar like table at the back where the food is prepared and a roof where there is room for everyone. It is a very nice boat.

The start of the trip, the bank of the river are filled with houses, they were all build with stilts and rose high above the ground. There are always children bathing or just playing in the river, they would use the mud as a slide and slide down into the river. It looked like lots of fun. As the boat continued on down stream, we reached the houses slowly disappeared and rice fields replaced them. There are endless acres of rice fields, and once in a while there will be a wooden hut where the farmers sit and watch over their rice. Off to the distance a black cloud can be seen pouring rain onto the fields for the rice to grow. It was truly a beautiful site.

The village that we are going to stay at is another 2 to 3 hours away. In this time I am going to enjoy the country scenery and enjoy the smell of freshness.

7:49pm

The sun has set and even though it is not even 8, yet everyone is sleepy and ready to go to bed. We reached the village at around 2 in the afternoon, which was a lot earlier than we had expected. We went to check out our home-stay house, which was very spacious but it wouldn’t fit all of us, so the guys would have to sleep on the boat (which is actually very cool).

We walked along the only dirt road of the village, we walked until it lead us to the end of the small village. On the way we could see the real life of cambodian country side people. All of their houses are either raised very high on stilts or has empty oil tanks underneath so when the water come they can just float on the water. It isn’t the rainy season yet, so the water level is very low, it is still possible to walk to different houses, but when the water floods this place, boats or swimming would be the only form of transportation.

 

After our short tour of the village, we visited the school. As all the other infrastructure  around the village it was about 7 meters off the ground. When the children saw us coming, they were all very shy and ran away from us, right back into their class rooms. We greeted them with smiles and tried to make friends with them, but they are too scared to approach us. I decided to take a picture with the children, it was hard at first because they didn’t know what I was doing so they ran away from me. I showed them how it worked and soon the children flooding into the picture. This still didn’t take away the fear they had of us. We then payed a game with the kids. It was quite a simple game, but the language barrier we had between us made it quite a challenge. After endless trial and error, we finally managed to tell them what was going on. They soon understand and got very into the game. After the game they shoed us some of the English that they have learnt. Counting numbers from 1 to 10 in English seemed to be a piece of cake to them. Saying the ABCs was a different story. They were saying it well at first, but when they reached the letter “R” everything fell apart. Their class was about to start so we left the school so they can continue with their education.

We went back to our boat and stayed there until it was time to cook dinner. Some of us volunteered to help cook the dinner. I went along with two others while the rest of the group stayed on the boat. The kitchen of the house wasn’t like any other, there was a fire stove and no running water. A big box of clean water sat at one side and rain water from a pond at the back of the house sat at the other side. It was nice and spacious and lots of work could be done. We were going to cook 2 dishes, Pineapple Beef and Tom Yum Chicken. They were all not hard to prepare but with only 4 people cooking it did take an hour or so to push all of these dishes out. The end product was delicious and it was defiantly a experience of a life time.

After dinner, we had a meeting and reflected about what we felt about what we saw today. I felt like even though that they have a very hard life, working their whole lives to earn money, but everyone has a smile on their face which feels very warming to me.

Back on the boat, we decided to take a shower. It isn’t a normal shower but a bucket shower and we took it on the roof of the boat. That is a really different experience and one that I have never experienced it before and I think I shall never experience it again.

For now everyone is tired and the generator of the boat are going to turn off, so it is time to sleep. Goodnight!!

Food Eaten:
Fried Noodles with vegetables
(Cooked on boat)
Tom Yum Chicken
Pineapple with Beef

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 2

11:06am

After a whole morning of visiting museum and memorials in Phnom Phen, we are finally on the van starting our 6 hour drive to the city of Battambang. We shall stop for lunch on the way to the city and once arriving we are going to ride on a bamboo train which the locals use to transport rice from the rural areas into the city.

At around 7:30 in the morning we checked out of the hotel and went to take a look at the S21 Genocide Prison. Before the Khmer Rouge took over power of the country in Phnom Phen, this security office was a high school. On April 17th 1979, this security office was created by the orders of Pol Pot. Office 21 was called S-21 and was used for detention, integration, inhuman torture and killing after confession from the detainees were received and documented.

When Khmer Rouge came took over the Phnom Phen, they told everyone to leave to their assigned province or go back to their home towns. If they didn’t go, they were killed instantly. So a city with a population of 2 million was deserted within a month, they were all relocated to different provinces around the country to work in the farm lands. Everyone started work at dawn and ended well into the night. They were required to increase the rice production by triple the amount which was impossible. When the rice was harvested they were exported to China and other countries so guns could be brought with the money. Meanwhile all the people are starving to death feeding on a little bowl of rice soup everyday. The soldiers believed that if they feed them too much a lot the people will have energy to fight back against the soldiers.

When we first walk into the compound 14 graves can be seen. These were the only people that were killed in the prison, others were transported to the killing fields. They either tortured themselves to death or just committed suicide, by hanging themselves.

The compound has 4 buildings, each labeled A,B,C and D. Which originally was class rooms were now all transformed into individual prison cells. The first and second floors of building A were for VIP prisoners. These people were actually high ranking officers of the old Cambodian Government. There were given a room for themselves. This might seem good as they get their own prison cell, but instead they are locked up in that room for 3 to 6 months before they are killed. In each cell, there is a bed in the center of the room, with sheets and pillow. Sometimes a desk with a chair are also in the cell. Every prisoner gets a metal box type like thing. This box was their bathroom. They weren’t allowed out of the cell so had to all their business in that box. In the months they are in the cell, each of them gets tortured in the most inhuman way possible. They do this until they confess about a crime that they haven’t done or tell them information about who is against the regime. After this information is told, they are taken to the killing fields and killed instantly.

On the other floors and other buildings each classroom are split into 11 individual cells. At the entrance to each classroom there are numbers on the wall from 1 to 11. This is where they would put the keys to each cell. Each cell isn’t spacious at all, a grown man could hardly lie flat down in one cell. Each cell wall isn’t that tall, so the prisoners in each room can peak over the wall to see the prisoners in other cells, but they weren’t allowed to talk at all. The prisoners placed in these rooms were ones that were smart and had some sort of education. Again each prisoner had their own toilet box in their cell.

Other cells weren’t split up but instead just cramped with 20 to 30 inside the cell. Their legs are tied to a chain and there are 10 people to a chain. This prevented them from escaping. Even if they did mange to get free there are barbed wire outside the classroom that stops the prisoners from jumping down the three story building and committing suicide or running away.

Every few weeks, 2 to 3 trucks with 20 to 30 people on them transport prisoners from S21 to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The prisoners hands are tied behind their backs and eyers are blind folded. They were told that they are going to a new home, but actually they are getting moved to their death. The Killing Field was once a traditional Chinese cemetery. Once arriving to the Killing Field each prisoner was documented and checked of the list. Then they are lead to a side of a huge whole, which sometimes are 5 meters deep, and beaten at the back of their head breaking their neck and causing them to fall into the hole, which is now their grave. Incase the prisoner doesn’t die, a chemical powder is sprinkled over them which would kill them and also prevent the horrible smell of flesh decaying. These massive killings happen in the night. A luge speaker blasts out revolutionary music so it covers up the screams and shouts of the prisoners when they are getting killed. It is a horrifying scene. Getting towards the end of the regime, trucks to the Killing Field increased taking 60 to 70 prisoners everyday to their death. At the end of the regime, 3 million people have died from these 300 or so Killing Fields around the country. Out of 4 people, 1 person would have died because of the killing.

When rain pours down the Choeung Ek memorial site, soil shifts and sometimes clothes that the prisoners wore comes to the surface. Even though they are now only rags but they are still very valuable. Sometimes bones and teeth surface too. They are all collected by the staff and put on display. At the center of the site, there is a memorial where more than 400 skulls of the victims lie. They were all examined by forensic experts which sorted them into groups.

10:11pm 

We left the museum and went on our 6 hour drive to the city of Battambang. The drive was long and it got us talking to each other and getting to know each other better. Also the view of the country side from the van was very amazing. The blue sky and green rice fields made it look like a scene from a picture book.

After stopping for lunch in a local restaurant next to the highway, we continued onto Battambang, reaching finally at around 5 o’clock. The van took us to the place of the bamboo train. These trains were defiantly not made for comfort. They were firstly very loud because the engine of the train was just a normal motor, secondly the tracks for the train are very bumpy and they are getting very old.

At the 2nd train stop, we stopped at a small village. As we pulled into the station, kids greeted up and gave us some small origami artifacts that they made themselves with leaves and sticks. There were grasshoppers, rings, necklaces and even hair clips, they were all so beautiful and adorable.

We visited the brick making farms and the cambodian guides introduced us to how these bricks are made. They took about 18 days to fully cook and it was a long and hard process. After saying goodbye to the children we headed back on the bamboo trains and went to check into the hotel. This was basically the end of our day.

Dinner was at a local restaurant and I had a traditional Khmer food, it tasted really good. Tomorrow we are going to go to the market and get our supplies for our 3 day journey on the boat. It shall be very fun!!

Food Eaten:
Fried Rice with Beef
Lok Lac

Rustic Pathways Cambodia Floating Village Trip- Day 1

After arriving at the airport, I immediately saw the Rustic Pathway group that had arrived in Bangkok a couple hours ago. They were about to check into the final flight of their very long day. The flight from Bangkok to Phnom Phen. I went up and greeted the group leader and told him my name. This was how I met up with the Rustic Pathway group. After checking in myself, I joined the group and proceed through immigration and went on to the boarding gate.

This was when I really started to make a lot of new friends. Even though everyone is going to Phnom Phen but there are a lot of different programs in Cambodia. I met up with people also doing the Floating Village Project and began talking and making new friends.

The flight to Phnom Phen was short, it went by in a flash. Upon existing the airport, the Cambodian Rustic team were waiting for our arrival . They were all very friendly  and I started to get to know them. A van took the 6 of us to the hotel which we were going to spend the night at. We left our luggage there and went straight to dinner.

Dinner was at a small restaurant next to the river. They had a range of different food from western all the way down to the local specials. The local staff Mr. Thai recommended two dishes. One was a Khmer curry paste and the other was beef with sweet and sour sauce. I gave the curry a try and it turned out to taste very good.

After dinner, we went to have a walk along the river. The night life of Phnom Phen was very rich; there were people jogging, playing football and there was even a dance competition. Others just came out to enjoy the light cold breeze from the river. We stopped for ice cream at a shop called, “Blue Pumpkin”. According to Mr. Thai, this is a chain store and we shall see another one of these in Siem Reap.

Even though it is just 9 o’clock but everyone is tired from flying to different places. So it is time to go to bed. Tomorrow we are going to visit the Genocide Museum and take a look at the killing fields where it happened. But for now I am very looking forward to sleeping.

Goodnight.

Food Eaten:
Khmer Curry