Switching back to black and white and slightly faded.
It really is how you feel, so it is how I will show it.
I don’t know if you’ll remember my initial Cambodian blog when I 1st came here – I’ll assume not so shall start from the beginning. You arrive in high spirits, maybe having had a bit of a giggle on the bus or tuk tuk. You stop in the car park and then walk through the gates to see this beautiful pagoda.
Snap Snap Snap go the cameras.
I remember last trip this was the 1st and last photo I took – this year I wanted to show more, I feel I have earned it perhaps?
This pagoda is actually stacked floor to ceiling with skulls of those poor poor people massacred here. There are 100’s maybe 1,000’s.
It truly is a stark reminder of how fucked up Pol Pot was.
But this is just some.
Some of those exhumed.
There are still so very many more at this location.
Then add all the other killing fields around the city and you kind of get the scale.
It is horrifying.
With shoes off, heads bowed, and talking in whispers you are allowed a rather solemn walk around the inside of the base of the pagoda – literally eye to eye with these poor people. Life snatched away from them because maybe they wore glasses, were a teacher, could speak a foreign language, basically had any form of intelligence that needed to be ‘cleansed’.
You then exit the pagoda and enter the fields themselves.
Basically a lush green wooded field with a series of hollows though out, with lovely walks through leafy, shaded pathways. A beautiful lake sits in the middle, with seats to sit relax. Some small houses are nestled between the trees, almost gazebo like. Beautiful trees stretch high in to the sky, with lush green leaves glinting in sunlight, and on the tree trunks people have hung beautiful braids in multi-colours. It truly is a beautiful almost faery-like glade in a peaceful woodland.
Do not be fooled.
This is a killing field, now a place of rest, mourning, remembrance and I have to assume hate.
People were shipped here from in the city, from S21 and the like, to be executed. At certain times there were too many executions for the guards to handle so they built holding stations – sheds – to house the prisoners. Or they got the prisoners to execute each other (saving bullets) by sawing off each others heads with the sharp ferns that exist here (yes ferns = plants, saw edged type). Babies were smashed against trees. Mass graves were dug and filled with headless corpses. Mass graves were dug and filled with children and babies. And so the city could not hear the screams they put up huge speaker systems playing music.
This is what the killing fields is. Lest we forget.
Just such a shame we the Western World did fuck all when this was happening.
The gazebo is actually a mass burial grave – this one I believe housed some 200 corpses with no heads.
No not a bring and buy sale. This is the dead victims clothing excavated in 1980 – I was 12 years old.
A beautiful tree, covered in multi-coloured braids left by passing travellers.
Actually the killing tree against which guards would smash small children and babies – saves a bullet.
Can you believe it – how could you contemplate doing such a thing…
It is beyond me.
Almost Tolkien-like this is the Magic Tree.
Ooooh children what magic do you think this tree has???
Not what you think.
This is the tree they tied huge speaker systems to, then played loud music so people in the nearby city could not hear the screams of the poor, unfortunates being executed here.
Magic is NOT a word I would use.
Within this Killing Field there is still much excavation to do. But not much has changed in the 4 year gap between my first trip here and now. It all looks very similar, feels the same – if not worse.
There are areas of un-excavation that you can meander through. These are these leafy glen walkways. Shaded from the sun, it is actually a very beautiful walk. So very peaceful and so very beautiful.
Small lakes sit in the middle of the fields, birds feeding, frogs croaking – usual stuff going on.
But you can’t really enjoy the beauty.
Seriously hit home for my main man Mario – he got wiped out by the place.
You see below the paths snaking away, and the depressions on either side. Those depressions are the excavated graves where they have exhumed the bodies and likely displayed the skulls in the pagoda.
But so many more lie here in mass graves – and it becomes VERY evident when you meander off down the snaking pathways.
When you start to see this one path.
Yes human teeth.
Where it has rained the bones and teeth start to work their way to the surface from the graves beneath. It’s horrific. You end up tippy toeing around so as to not step on ‘someone’ – whilst knowing that you’re actually stood atop a grave of potentially 200 poor souls anyway.
It is a life changer to come here.
Never complain again about waiting at a red light, flight delays, poor service in a restaurant, poor wifi signal, traffic etc etc. Just come here and see this place.
It puts it all in to perspective – we have it easy, we still have a life.
But life goes on as well.
No more black and white from now on.
Cambodia re-bounded incredibly well and you’ll see that in the next blog or two – that’s why I love Cambodia so. Such atrocities committed to them by their own, but you visit now and it is truly a land of smiles and just amazing people.
Again I want to share the poem – the poem that stays with me whenever I come here. Written by a local – it just sums it up for me in 4 very short lines.
Harder to silence now, the cries
of anger and sorrow,
and through them, however indistinct,
the mysterious music of hope and grace.