Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cambodia - Battambang to Siem Reap

We left Pursat with another driver who spoke absolutely no English. This makes things very interesting when we need to stop or to do something that is outside of the set program. More on this later. We headed north to the second largest city in Cambodia called Battambang. During the Khmer Rouge days, this was the last refuge for many of the KR as it is the closest large city to the Thai border.

18km outside of Battambang on a rutted bone-jarring road are the Killing Caves where Pol Pot made his last stand. The caves are up in the hills and we hired motorbikes to take us there. What this meant is that a young 16 year old kid with a great entrepreneurial spirit intercepted our vehicle as soon as we stopped. He offered in very good English to be our guide and to get a couple of motos for us to ride on. Next thing, we are 3 to a bike, 2 of us and a teenager driving it. Up a steep hill and off to a monastery first. Next came the caves themselves. Here the people had been lined up and pushed into the pits where if the 100 foot drop did not kill them then they would be beaten by someone who went around and came in the bottom of the cave. Children were also killed here, usually by other children. The skulls were once again in evidence and our guide described how his grandfather had been killed by the KR and his father had survived being shot by them. It is just below the surface for everyone here.

John was hit very hard by some belly bug and shortly after we left the Killing Caves, Anna was also wiped out. We had to travel the 113 km to Siem Reap which we figured would not be a big deal, but as soon as we left Battambang the road went from being pavement to a rutted totally under repair dirt track where we averaged 40km per hour. We had to speak sign language to our driver to get him to stop along the way as nature necessitated it. 5 hours later we arrived at our hotel in Siem Reap. It was Feb 28th and Paul's 11th birthday.


No comments: