A valentines at the Killing Fields

So most couples start Valentine’s Day with a romantic breakfast in bed. They spend the day watching lovey movies or go out for a posh lunch, we however, decided to go to the Killing Fields and S21 prison. What a valentines to remember. 

Another educational and deeply shocking experience. (There seems to be a lot of these in S.E Asia) 

We educated ourselves on the Khmer Regime. On the 4 tragic years of the 1970’s where psychopath Pol Potts ordered the killings of millions of innocent Cambodians.

The communist party led by Potts attempted ‘agriculture reform’. If you were educated, if you could be influential, if you disagreed or even just if you looked in the wrong direction, off with your head. 

Killing Fields

Never have I been to a place that conveys such reality of one mans inhumanity more than Choeng Ek Killing Fields.

The sight of the “Magic tree” that Khmer soldiers used as a tool to smash the heads of babies will be forever lodged in my mind.

 

This place was just 1 amongst 20,000 mass grave sites in Cambodia where victims were murdered and buried in secret between 1975-1979.

Somehow today it’s a very peaceful place. Thousands of tourists and locals come here to educate themselves and to mourn the dead.

Choeng Ek has multiple mass grave sites where hundred of victims were executed; including one specifically for women and small children. 

  
When you dig up the grass, you must remove even the roots” 

The Khmer Rouge slogan used to justify the murder of the whole family of each victim, including their children and babies.

Remains of bones and clothes of victims that have been found over the years are showcased around the site. 

Remains of the victims found in the field

Bones are still being discovered to this day, over 35 years on!  

I will never forget the way this place made me feel. Scared, sickened and deeply saddened at the thought of what a human can be capable of. 

S21 prison
A school shut down and converted into a secret prison; to torture victims until they confessed to crimes that they never committed. 

 It was here that thousands were whipped and beaten until they signed confessions that validified the Khmer Regimes ‘reason to kill’. The victim would then be taken to the Killing Fields to be massacred.

  

The prison has lots of information on this dark period in history. 

There are some very interesting exhibitions on 4 of the survivors of s21. Great men who today use their tragic experienc to promote the importance of education to young people. 

See, all 4 men were spared their life at the prison because they were useful to the communist party. They had previously obtained skills like art and mechanics and Pol Potts needed them for their abilities.

These survivors are sit at the grounds of s21 each day for tourists to ask them questions. Real first hand information.

Survivor Mr Mong was an artist ordered to draw a portrait of Pol Potts.

  He was warned that if it wasn’t good enough, he would be killed. Luckily for him, he was a very good artist. 

It’s estimated that the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7-2.5 million of a population of 8 million in 1975. A quarter of the population. As a result of this, 70% of the Cambodian population today are under 35 years old! Crazy eh? 

So not the most standard of valentines for us but definitely a memorable one. Thankfully in 1979, upon realisation of what was happening, other countries got involved and put a stop to Pol Potts and his sadistic ideology. 

I dread to think what would’ve happened to the history and people of Cambodia if this regime continued. 

LwL x 

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Goodbye Vietnam

 So that’s it Vietnam. Romeo done. Another country down and a further 16 days into my itinerary.

I’m now some days into Cambodia.

What a wonderful and educational experience Vietnam has been.

I’ve learnt so much about the history of this country and how far Vietnam has come in recent years. Visiting all of the museums and attractions gives you a great insight into the physical and mental scars that the people have endured over the decades of war with the US. 

I can truly say that the Vietnamese people are an inspiring and determined bunch. They are a generous and caring culture and still promote peace despite everything. Us westerners could learn a great deal from them. 

Here’s my highlights and low points of travelling Vietnam

Highlights

Favourite place

Hoi An   

 This place felt most like Vietnam. There isn’t a vast amount of touristy things to do but I think that’s what make it great. So pretty and so much culture. This place is super relaxed and truly reflects Vietnamese living. 

Favourite activities

Quadbiking on the white sand dunes, Mui Ne.  

The dark cave and the mud bath, Phong Nha. 

Favourite new experiences 

Tasting Vietnamese coffee: did you know it’s the third best coffee in the world?   
Brazil is the first and Columbia is the runner up

A few Vietnamese eats were amazing too. There is a post on this to come! 

Low lights 
Headaches from the sound of bibbing horns. God don’t you guys like to honk? Honking for indicating, honking for warning, honking for fun. It’s highly unnecessary and it really hurts my ears! 

We’re in Cambodia now and I’m glad they don’t enjoy this as much. 

Crappy weather: 10 of those days were a mixture of clouds and rain so we didn’t really get to enjoy the beauty of Ha Long bay or Nha Trang beach. We did however, get some great Anorak photos..
Vietnam, it’s been emotional.tạm biệt người bạn của tôi.(Goodbye my friend)
LwL x 

Hectic Hanoi: Exploring day 1 and 2

Where the weather is shitty but the sights are quite pretty.. 

Ah, the political capital of Vietnam, a peaceful living yet crazy place with a population of 7 million people. 

You could easily lose yourself in this place for 3 days, just don’t forget to look, and look again when you run across the roads. Unfortunately Vietnam is very similar as Thailand in the sense that there are no rules on the road! (You think I’d be used to it by now) 

  
Hanoi as a city boasts lots of attractions that educates on the history of Vietnam. There’s the Hoa Lo Prison, the Museum of Literature, Ho Chi Minh museum and Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, not to mention the beauties of the Botanical Gardens and Ho Hoan Kiem Lake. Most of which we have visited over our time here. 

Here is a low down of our itinerary and the sites/attractions we saw in those days. I hope this helps if your wondering what to see/how much time you may need etc. 

Day 1

We arrived in Hanoi at 9am from Bangkok. As we had slept at the airport the night before; or not slept should I say, we went straight to our hotel and slept until about 3pm. Basically we wasted a whole morning where we could’ve seen more things but we sleep was more important at that time. 

Temple of Literature

We spent the afternoon at the temple of Literature. This was Vietnams first university. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. 

   
 The area has a lovely garden, shrines and rock carvings of doctors and graduates and is only 30,000 VND to enter (just under £1).    

 Location:

  

Day 2

On our second day in Hanoi we went to Hoa Lo prison museum and took a walk around the area of the Botanical Gardens 

Hoa Lo Prison

What a fascinating museum! A prison built by the French that detained up to 2000 political prisoners and US pilots during the Vietnam War. 

Most of the prison was knocked down in 1997 to make way for the Hanoi towers. Don’t be disheartened though, architects preserved some of the old prison to create the museum. What lies in tact is a creepy enough atmosphere for you to experience.  

 There’s a horrifying array of instruments of torture and solitary confinement cells (of which you can enter) also on display is the sewage pipes in which  some prisoners escaped in August 1945. 

  Definitely worth a few hours of your time, and it’s only 30,000 VND to enjoy!  

Bach Thao Park/Hanoi Botanical gardens   This is a big beautiful park with a lake and home of many rare species of plant. It is one of the few green areas left in industrialised Hanoi. 

 
 In the 1890s, the French imported many exotic tropical plants from all over the world to make up a rainforest right at the heart of the city. Cool huh? 
  Lots of people come here to relax, socialise, admire, study and participate in Tai Chi exercise (yes I crept in for a few moves).

  
  

I presume this would be lovely to lunch in on a hot sunny day, unfortunately we didn’t have that luxury, being January and cold.

Entry fee is just 2000 VND (6p). 

  
There’s lots around the area of the garden, including the Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum. All of which we passed for a photo op of course. 

   
One Pillar Pagoda

 
   

 

Ho Chi Minh Museum
  
Mausoleum  


The presidential palace is located right next to the gardens, which was completed in 1906 to house the Frend government-general of Indochina. You can do a tour here and see the palace for a 25k entrance fee but we chose not to, we was all info’d out for the day. 

So that’s our first 2 days, keep an eye out for day 3 and a Hanoi nightlife post! 

LwL x 

Hellfire Pass: Kanchanaburi 

After lunch we headed to Hellfire Pass. The museum of the railway built by Thai prisoners of war during World War || to enable Japanese soldiers to travel to Burma to fight their enemies from there.   
  The location holds a contrast of feelings. The backdrop is beautiful but the reality of the pain and suffering that people experienced is overwhelming. There is even a memorial area for Kiwis, Australians, British and American troops that were taken as prisoners.

  
I have to say, as we didn’t know we was spending the afternoon here we did not come prepared at all. The 2.5km walk was painful considering it was all rocks and steps and I was wearing my flip flops! Lesson learnt – always wear walking shoes. 

  
  
Our last evening at Kitti Raft was spent drinking beer, watching the sun go down and lots of drunken beer talk. The scenery was so beautiful, and it was a nice feeling to know that this is my life for the next 4 months. 

   
 3 days ago I hated beer, but the options here are pretty much beer or water. So sober or drunk. Considering that I hadn’t had a great nights sleep since we got here because I’ve been ill, opted for the beer in the hope id pass out in bed drunk. To be fair, the more you drink the better it tastes. I will be a beer drinking pro by the time I get home, my brother will be thrilled ha. 
It worked – slept straight through! Well until 5.30 but it’s an improvement for my 1am interruptions. 

Bed time and early start ready for the Erawan Waterfalls 

LwL x