July 24, 2007

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After Chiang Mai we caught a late flight to Bangkok, and since our flight to Phnom Penh was leaving early the next morning we decided to make like European backpackers and sleep in the airport. And by airport, I mean THE COLDEST PLACE ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. I'm pretty sure I saw a snowflake... inside... cause, you know, it was cold... pretty sure.

The next morning we hopped on our super-cheap Air Asia flight and arrived at Phnom Penh at 8am, where we quickly noticed that nearly everyone was carrying $20 US and a passport photo, neither of which we had. Come to find out you need both for a visa. We decided just to wing it through the first line where you turn in the visa application and passport photo. We found out that if you don't have a passport photo of yourself (for them to keep) the fee is $1 USD or 50 Thai Baht. The funny part about that is $1 US = 33 Thai Baht, so they made like an extra 50 cents off of us. The next part was the $20 US in the next line. Obviously if we didn't have $1 we weren't gonna have $20 (or $40 for the both of us). The great part was that I could see not one, but TWO ATM's about 20ft after the immigration line. Here's how the conversation with the guard went:

Anthony: "Excuse me, would it be alright if I walk over there and get out some money for our visa?"

Guard: "No, you need a visa to get over there."

Anthony: "Yes sir, I know, but I need $20 to get a visa."

Guard: "That's right."

Anthony: "So, can I go?"

Guard: "No, you need a visa."

Anthony: "But I need the money first in order to buy a visa. I'll leave my bags here and you can watch me."

Guard: "I'm sorry, you can't go over there without a visa."

Vicious cycle.

Luckily a nice American named Paul graciously paid for us and another British couple who had no clue about the $20 visa. We paid him back 20ft later.

After checking in to our hotel, we took a motorcycle taxi into town. That's right, "a" motorcycle taxi, as in "one" motorcycle. Three people. One motorcycle. Actually, 4 people if you count the baby, which we do. I can actually hear our family collectively gasp.

Here's some sights around town. This is an unfinished temple. From what I understand, it was started years ago but the money ran out, so they just left it. Gotta love third world countries.

Here we are looking mighty fine after spending all night in the sub-freezing Bangkok airport (that pink Mickey Mouse T-shirt looks mighty familiar... look at the elephant show pictures on the previous post taken the day before). We were in a tuk-tuk and headed back to the hotel when we took this picture. Unfortunately, our driver didn't understand where our hotel was (a few miles outside the city) and we got a nice tour up and down the Mekong River and Downtown Phnom Penh before he finally figured out where the hotel was. We see it as training for the Amazing Race one day.

Pretty typical scene of Phnom Penh: lots of dirt, various Buddhist shrines, tuk-tuks and SUV's (although a Rav-4 does not count as an SUV - but there were Land Rovers and Land Cruisers everywhere) from all the NGO and UN workers.

Here's where the post is going to get a little sad, but you can't take a trip to Phnom Penh without learning about their horrifying recent history. Back in the late 70s, Cambodia experienced a terrible genocide at the hands of its own leaders. You can read about it here. I'm not sure how to comment about genocide, other than it shows how completely evil man can be. Around 2 million Cambodians were killed by other Cambodians. Many were tortured and held captive at the prison below (at what used to be a high school).

The Khmer Rouge took pictures of all the captives at this particular prison camp, all of whom (except for 5, I believe) were either taken to the killing fields and executed or died in the prison. The prison has thousands of pictures lining the walls, much like this one:

After being tortured, the prisoners were taken to the infamous Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh. When the Vietnamese freed the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge regime, they discovered this field from its awful stench. This monument is where many of the bones and skulls found in the fields were laid to rest.

Over 9,000 victims were found in this field alone, all buried in shallow pits.

You can still see some of the victims' clothing lying around half-buried in the mud and visitors are still finding human remains.

The rest of our time was spent swimming in the hotel pool, so I'm sorry to end this on a down note. Genocide will do that. It's hard to wrap my mind around such an evil thing. But I do know that God offers us the chance to trade our hearts, which are bent towards hate and evil things, for the perfect goodness of Jesus Christ, which is mercy, love, and forgiveness. What a hope we have in Him!


SouthAsiaRocks said...

Wow! Sounds like quite an interesting trip. Was the shopping good there?

Anthony and Sharon said...

Shopping was great! Lots of REAL name brand stuff from America. I got a couple of fun maternity pieces. I wish we knew what we are having, because we could have gotten some cute stuff. Seriously, if you pay more than $5 for like a J-Crew shirt, then it's a total rip-off. It was fun (hot...way hot as the market was a day market under cramped tin roofs...but still, the price was worth a little sweat!)

Mama D. said...

Hey you two! (Three!)
Sounds like a great side trip, with the exception of the cost of the visa...bummer! Was that $20 US more than the flight itself? I did NOT gasp reading about the taxi ride ...fun, fun...6 mo. from now you would have had to hire two! Hands down you would make the best team for the Amazing Race!
Glad you are home!

Anthony and Sharon said...

Not only did it cost us $20 a piece to get into Cambodia, there's a $25 a person exit tax as well - so it cost us $90 (on top of the airline tickets) total just to get in and out of Cambodia. Word has it that most of that money goes to the French government who built the airport.

Jennifer B said...

So what I want to know is when y'all are going to come and see us!
The Boltons

SouthAsiaRolls said...

You guys are such great cultural learners and story-tellers. Thanks for that. Keep it up!