Horror and beauty, crazy climate, Pink Floyd in Phnom Penh and anyone for cricket? Final impressions of Cambodia

Choeung Ek, where a pair of teeth lay in the mud above a burial [caption id="attachment_7533" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Khmer Rouge cells in a former classroom at Tuol Sleng"]Khmer Rouge cells in a former classroom at Tuol Sleng[/caption] pit, newly surfaced after last night’s storm, but the former secondary school at Tuol Sleng, where those destined for the killing fields were held prior to transport for exec ution. The rusty barbed wire, iron bedsteads and manacles are still there, along with gruesome black and white photos of what the liberating army found there in 1979 – mangled bodies hurriedly dispatched by fleeing Khmer Rouge troops. Only 7 people survived out of some 20,000 victims at this one torture centre. Second, the beauty. This year’s catastrophic floods are receding and the fields are full of families ploughing and planting in the new layer of fertile silt left behind (unfortunately the months until harvest will be hungry ones). The scenery is dazzling – plains of patchwork paddy dotted with palm trees and the extraordinary silhouettes of temples – masterpieces of gold-painted Buddhist bling, their roofs topped with distinctive swan’s neck finials. Climate change: ‘The weather is crazy. We don’t know when the monsoon will come, or the winter, or anything,’ says one NGO worker. ‘We shouldn’t even be having bad floods this year – they normally come every 12 years, in the year of the dragon, which is next year. We get longer periods of rain and drought, higher temperatures in winter, rain is more variable – both high and low volume, farmers cannot predict what will happen next month. Pest outbreaks are getting worse.’ Anyone for cricket? (Come on, how cd I resist?)Dinner of crickets and frogs – and I don’t mean wimpy French-style frog thigh, but the whole frog, as if caught in mid-swim, dipped in batter and popped into a wok. Fried in garlic and spices, the crickets are yummy. If any budding entrepreneurs out there can get past our health and safety laws, they could make a fortune by importing crickets, along with other extreme snacks like ants and scorpions (sadly off the menu that night) for consumption in the bars of Europe. Finally, the Memphis bar in Phnom Penh, where a brilliant pan-Asian house rock band produces a perfect rendition of Pink Floyd, Springsteen and others, although the ageing French Cambodian lead guitarist’s English vocals are pretty approximate.’ What have we found? The same old fear. How I wish you were here.’ You can listen to (but not see -it’s completely dark) them on this youtube video. ]]>

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2 Responses to “Horror and beauty, crazy climate, Pink Floyd in Phnom Penh and anyone for cricket? Final impressions of Cambodia”
  1. Duncan,
    To relive some of the beautiful, crazy, memorable and haunting experiences it sounded like you had in Cambodia feeling, you should check out a Californian-Cambodian psychodelic indie band called Dengue Fever on MySpace. I don’t know much at all about Cambodia but what you’ve written here really evokes what I’ve heard of their music.

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