Greetings from Phnom Penh, everyone!
I am writing this post from beside the pool at our georgeous guesthouse, which is costing us an unbelievable five dollars a night. i could really learn to live like this, i think. we got here yesterday morning, after spending four days in saigon (technically called ho chi minh, but no one there calls it that). saigon was incredible--i absolutely loved it. we were very cultural, and spent more of our time in museums, visiting galleries, and walking about, exploring the cities. soem of the highlight from saigon:
-the cu chi tunnels, which were built by the viet cong during the vietnam war as places to take refuge from the American and southern Vietnamese army. These caves are TINY....and they pop up in places near fellow rabbit holes (basically just a hole in the ground that a tiny Vietnamese person would sit in for hours at a time). We saw some of the methods of torture that teh Viet Cong had in place--trap doors that opened up to razor sharp spears of varying length and bodily aim. We went IN the tunnel, but not the tourist tunnel that they had enlarged--no no, we went in the LOCAL tunnel. the tunnel for teeny tiny Viet Cong. It was the scariest 25 meters of my life. I literally had visions of being trapped in there...claustrophobia majorly kicked in and i got out before the rest of the group did. still, though, i was quite impressed with myself!
-war museum--interesting and horrifically saddening. yes, there was a lot of anti-american propaganda in the galleries. but the most horrifying exhibit was that about agent orange. the realization of the effect that the toxic chemicals (sprayed by the US as basically experiments) had on the people there and the children of the people there was a dark one indeed. Physical deformations about, and there has been nothing done, barely much recognition by the US government of the deleterious effects of agent orange. Deformed fetuses, pictures of horrifically enlarged body parts, of people born without arms and legs due to exposure to these chemicaly--it was a rough exhibit.
-the first subway in vietnam, where i ate not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. my friends have named my alter ego Josie--they say that inside me is an obsese girl that needs to be fed all the time (which is pretty much true). With subway subs right aruond the corner, I got a little nostalgic for Western food chains and indulged in some tuna on honey oat. It tasted pretty delicious after two months of rice and noodles.
We stayed at a lovely hostel where the owners were this older couple, totally dedicated to providing us with the best service. They all hugged us goodbye, gave Georgie (who was sick as a dog) medicated tea, and walked us to our bus to wave us off. Just lovely. You meet the sweetest people traveling.
We arrived in Phnom Pehn yeserday afternoon and spend the day relaxing. This morning we went to the royal palace which was stunning, and then the famed silver pagoda that had a life-size gold statue of the buddha with 2,086 diamonds. I drooled a little bit. Then it was on to the history museum, where we saw hundreds of years of statues of the Hindu and then Buddhist gods. It was beautiful.
Tomorrow we are off to see the Killing Fields, where thousands of innocent people were brutally murdered by the Khmer Rouge. A modern day Auschwitz, the Killing Fields are a potent reminder to us of the devastated past of Cambodia--of a massive genocide that happened only thirty or forty years ago, that wiped out an entire generation of people. From the Killing fields, its on to s-21, the prison in which cambodians were brutally tortured for Khmer enjoyment. It's going to be a rough, but very necessary, day.
My time here is slowly coming to an end. I leave to go back to the states on april 14th, which is way too soon. I have had the most unbelievable time here--have had so many transformative and memorable experiences. I can't believe that two and a half months will have elapsed since I left home. I feel like I'll be returning a new person, enlightened and alive after seeing a part of the world nothing like my own. But I still have almost two weeks left--with good friends, good food, and good sights, it doesn't get much better than this.