I spent my final day in Phnom Penh visiting the killing fields (where you can still see bits of bone and teeth on the ground) and the high school-turned-prison-turned-museum where many of the Khmer Rouge’s victims spent their final days.
My tuk tuk driver, an employee of the hotel I stayed in, asked if I wanted to go to a shooting range after seeing the killing fields. Several former military bases around Phnom Penh have been converted so that tourists can fire live ammunition from hand guns and AK-47s and throw hand grenades. Apparently, it’s even possible to buy a live animal – a chicken or a cow – to shoot or blow-up.
The driver said that I was unusual in not wanting to go – at least 90% of British men he gives rides to go shooting. He said he took a group of three Brits a couple of days ago and they spent $900 shooting bazookas. I’m glad to belong to the 10% of people who, after seeing the site of a genocide, don’t feel compelled to fire a rocket at a farm animal.
The next day, I left Phnom Penh for Kampot, a small riverside town in the south. The sun was so bright in Kampot and Bokor that almost every picture I took looks bleached – the pictures below are the best of a bad lot.
Many buildings in the town are derelict or in varying states of disrepair. The old market looks like its days are numbered:
A lot of the town’s French colonial buildings are in a similarly run-down condition:
The old prison is in better shape than most:
From the front:
Remember to rubber up:
I like Kampot but I’m definitely a city person. I don’t know what to do with myself in a place like this. Once I’ve walked around and taken a few pictures, what next? I’m not good at relaxing. I always feel like I should be doing something else – like I haven’t done the homework that has to be handed in tomorrow. Only I don’t know what my homework is.
Today I kept busy by going to the jungle close to Kampot. It’s not really possible to go there by yourself because you need a park ranger (armed, for some unknown reason, with a machine gun) to guide you. So I joined a day tour. When I bought my ticket, there were eight people on the tour. By the time I arrived this morning, there were 31.
The jungle wasn’t quite what Disney had led me to believe a jungle should be – no singing bears for a start. There are bears – and leopards, elephants, cobras, pythons, etc – but it seems that they stay away when 31 tourists and three guides traipse by. I saw a worm.
It was good exercise though. At the top of the hill is a former French holiday resort with an abandoned casino-cum-hotel and a church. This is the casino:
Back of the casino:
The view of the south coast was hazy but quite spectacular:
And the church:
Though its at the heart of a national park and conservation area, 140 sq km of Bokor have been sold to a well-connected developer who is in the very early stages of building a $1billion ‘tourist city’ with two golf courses, a 650 room hotel and 1000 villas. At the moment, the only real work being done is on the road leading up to the top. What will happen to the abandoned colonial buildings is unclear. There are some artist’s impressions showing the planned development here.
Well, that wasn’t one of my best posts. I’ll try to up my game next time.