Ok, I ate a spiced, bbq tarantula leg. If it was cooked with different spices…it might be tasty!
So, I am writing from Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The name means “Hill Temple/Pagoda”and Grandma Penh was a beloved widow they named the city after. My hotel is on the river confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap. There are a lot of motor scooters racing up and down the streets (Have yet to see a stop light). Outdoor markets are bustling with locals buying and selling fruits, vegetables and raw meat kept out in the open, including skinned frogs, pigs heads, chickens, fish etc. It is still VERY hot (100 degrees) and sunny.
Now I am going to get a bit educational on you as I love to not only learn about other cultures, but also the history in the counties I visit…..Today we went to the Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21 (Security Prison). It is one of the saddest places I have ever visited. It was a high school with 5 classroom buildings before the Khmer Rouge took it over in April 1975 and used it to to house, interrogate and torture anyone viewed as a threat to Pol Pots regime. The now run-down buildings are haunting and echo with pain and suffering. Classrooms became cells and torture chambers. Playground equipment became gallows. Of the 20,000 people who went through this prison between 1975-1978 only 7 survived.
Over 2 million people died in the 3 years, 8 months and 21 days of the regime. I write the exact number as that is what the Cambodians say. They don’t round up to 4 years. It was such a terrible time, they counted the days to be free again. Tomorrow we pay our respects to the largest ‘Killing Fields’, mass graves, located 15km outside the city. It is so heart wrenching to see these places and it amazes me even more how we, as people, keep letting it happen again and again… We never learn.
Ok, so on a BRIGHTER side…we have enjoyed our time in Cambodia. The food is great and last night I spent $2.50 on an amazing Thai-Cambodian meal. You can get 1 hour massages for $7. Internet cafés charge only $.75/hr. Tuk-Tuk (rickshaws) rides are dirt cheap and you feel safe walking down the street…at least I do… but I am also used to NYC.
We have had a few learning experiences along the way…
- 2 of the British guys rooming together had a ‘lady-boy’ (transvestite) follow them back to their hotel room from the bar one night. The prostitutes can be aggressive with the guys. Its amusing, as a female, to sit back and watch them awkwardly handle these situations.
- The vendors also sell a lot of pretty scarfs which a couple of the girls bought. They wore them out as shawls one night until a sweet, older Cambodian women nicely told them they were wearing tablecloths Oops!
- I have learned NOT to use the term “Fanny”pack around my new British friends. Their eyes all shot up with a look of surprise the first time I said it. Then they started laughing. …Apparently in their country, the word “Fanny” is slang for a female body part. I had no idea. So now I use their term, ‘Bum Bag’.
That is the update for now. After our morning excursion we start cycling again to the Vietnam boarder. We’ll cross into the country mid-day, cycle another 20km to a small town and spend the night. Hope to write again tomorrow