Nov 22:  Phnom Penh

We had a local guide for this morning's activities.  I didn't get his name but he was born in 1970 and lost 5 siblings to starvation during Pol Pot times (and other family members).  He's fond of the phrases "me myself", "I would like to inform you" and "in Pol Pot times".  Pol Pot is short for Political Potential.  I want a name like that!

First visit was to Tuol Sleng, aka S-21, the Khmer Rouge prison where 14,000 were sent and 7 survived.  This used to be a high school.

One of the school buildings/prisons.

One of the VIP cells, larger than the others.  This remains as it was found in 1979, except the corpse was removed.  The photo on the wall shows the corpse.  The bar on the bed is threaded through a leg shackle, and the box was a toilet that the prisoner was allowed to empty every 2 weeks.

The Security of Regulation.  I've shrunk all these photos to half size for layout and download purposes, and I apologize that these rules aren't completely legible here.  I can send the full-sized photo if you want, or you can take some initiative and look them up on the Web.

Another VIP cell.  This prisoner had it a bit easier; the items on the bed are a microphone, a shortwave transmitter, an Atari 2600 prototype, and some kind of '70s sex gadget.

Somewhere along the way a mystery chick started following our group and listening to the guide.  It was like she was an orphan trying to get adopted.  I would have taken her in because she looked adorable in that hat.  Turns out she asked the guide if she could listen in.

A cell for a non-VIP.  I saw an interview with one of the 7 survivors on TV--he said you had to lie on the ground and couldn't change positions without permission from the guards.

Some of the 14,000 non-survivors.  Real skulls of Pol Pot victims.  Nearby on the wall is a photo of the Skull Map, which was disassembled a while ago.

This wall isn't too different from Hollywood High School.

Next we went out of the city a bit to the Killing Fields, subject of an '80s movie of the same name.  I believe it starred Boy George as a gender-bending Cambodian doctor who fled the Khmer Rouge.

Someday soon I'm gonna tell the moon
About the Killing Fields

(I can't get through to right now to confirm, but I think I have the details of that film correct.)

Stupa containing 17 levels of skulls, some of the 40,000 people who died here.

Mass graves.  Only a portion of them have been excavated.

Stupa and mass graves.

Cambodian boys have huge racks!  These guys were all excited to pose for a photo.  In the middle of it I suddenly remembered that I was being scammed, and sure enough they demanded $5 for the photo.  I unilaterally bargained them down to 2800 riel, or $0.70.  I didn't notice at the time but the boy on the left is wearing a John Cena shirt, so I should have given them nothing at all.  (Why does typing the words "nothing at all" make me think of Ned Flanders' spandex-wrapped ass?  Stupid sexy Flanders.)  John Cena jumped the shark long ago.  In fact I think it occurred when he ran out onto Hollywood Blvd to mingle with the fans a few days before WrestleMania 21.  I was there to witness it on my lunch break.

Now this is sick and cool.  Bone fragments and clothes sticking out of the ground.  The Khmer Rouge weren't very formal with funeral rites.

Bones are more visible here.

More bones and clothes.

Mass graves.

We had lunch at Friends The Restaurant, another place working to help orphans.  There were a bunch of kids playing outside and one wore a Rey Misterio shirt.  OK, that's respectable.  After lunch I walked back in the general direction of the hotel.

Along the way I took this pic of Wat Ounalom.

The Riverfront.  Sisowath Quay is its name.

Sisowath Quay.

I stopped at the hotel to freshen up, then continued to Wat Phnom which is nearby.

Part of Wat Phnom.  The spire is barely visible in the background.  This is atop a hill and camera angles are bad.

I started walking around the premises and encountered some stray dogs, which I'd seen lot of so far on this tour.  But I instantly noticed that these weren't dogs.  In LA when I get that feeling it always means "oh, wow, coyotes".  But these coyotes had much rounder asses.  "Possums?" I wondered.  Then they turned around and WATCH OUT, BABY WHO'S THAT, DON'T LOOK NOW THERE'S A MONKEY ON YOUR BACK, WATCH OUT, BABY WHO'S THAT, DON'T LOOK NOW THERE'S A MONKEY ON YOU...



The little dude by the bush is drinking an energy drink.

Interior of the temple I showed you before.

On my way back down the hill, that big monkey came after me with his fangs bared.  To paraphrase Jerry's barber Enzo:  I like the monkeys, but I don't like-a the monkey business.


WITH A MONKEY...AI-EE-AI-EE-AI.  This is the main group of monkeys at the bottom of the hill.  I think those three at the top were Michael Nesmith and his family.  Liquid Paper Boy is too rich to hang out with the rest of the band.

Wat Phnom from the bottom of the hill.

Better shot with the Neverland clock.

A street urchin followed me from the wat for several blocks, repeating some phrase I couldn't understand.  I tried to lose him by darting back and forth through traffic.  Maybe I was his best hope for survival, but nevertheless he was a pest.  Finally he left me, I think because he was spooked by a dog in my path.

Central Market.  They were selling numerous John Cena and Batista shirts in here.  Batista remains MEAN.

I turned the wrong way on the right street back to the hotel and went way out of my...way.  That Street 51 (Pasteur) goes at a wrong angle, like National Blvd in West LA where you always get lost.  All the walking made my left knee hurt.  That happens sometimes when I go for a hike and walk down a steep hill, like from the Hollywood sign.  (The pain disappeared in day or two, so no damage.)

I went back to the hotel and used the remaining free time to read, shave and shower.  This was my 2nd shower of the day, strategically done so I could sleep an extra 25 minutes in the morning.  I'm like Kramer--I can't figure out how the Jerrys of the world take 10-minute showers.  On my Contiki tours I tended to shower every 1.5 days, which I could get away with in the party atmosphere.  People preferred to get out of bed a few minutes before the bus left.  Not so on this tour--it was far too hot, plus I was surrounded by hotties all the time.  I would have stunk everything up with my boy-scent.

At 6:20pm, 10 minutes before we were to meet for dinner, there was a blackout.  Since my room had no window to the outside, I was in total darkness.  But I'd followed Intrepid's instructions and brought a flashlight with me.  I had almost retrieved in from my bag when the lights came back on.  Damn.  I wanted to navigate my way downstairs in the dark.

For dinner we went to the morning guide's house (above).  He lives in something resembling the Stanaland Compound, with 7 families and 44 people.  He personally has 2 daughters and his wife is due again next month, but they support 23 children in total.  His tour-guide wage of $80/mo is relatively good.  After dinner he told us his life story and about life in Cambodia.  The government is corrupt at all levels and to get a decent job you have to pay.  But then you receive bribes on the job so it all evens out.  Cambodia and Vietnam seem to run on a more advanced version of hypercapitalism than even Russia.

We were so stuffed from dinner that no one wanted to go out drinking.  Rachel proposed it but I don't think there were any takers.  We were all looking forward to partying in Siem Reap so this was an early night, plus we had a flight the next morning.  I went back to the hotel, took a putrid dump, and went to bed.