. . . LAND ROVER OVERLAND EXPEDITION

. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
     
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Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02
 

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath

 

Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition

 

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#8 - Phnom Penh
Sally deFina -  March 28, 2002

Phnom Penh is the place to visit if you have a macabre fascination with the Khmer Rouge.  The Khmer Rouge was the Communist movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The regime, which was headed by Cambodian guerrilla commander Pol Pot, came to power after years of guerrilla warfare. While in power the Khmer Rouge murdered, worked to death, or killed by starvation close to 1.7 million Cambodians, or more than one-fifth of the country’s population. The regime accomplished this by sending almost all of its population to a life of hard agricultural labor in the countryside, and by out-and-out murder of members of minority and religious groups, people suspected of disagreeing with the party, intellectuals, merchants, and bureaucrats. (Microsoft Encarta)   

Mike and I arrived in Phnom Penh after a gruelling 7 hour boat ride from Siem Riep. We quickly found a taxi and arranged a price to our preferred hotel - one recommended in the Lonely Planet guide book.  Our driver promptly took us around the city and then returned to where he had picked us up...our hotel was less than one block away.  Feeling conned and tired, we caused a scene by refusing to pay him the $2 agreed upon price (we settled on $1).  Unfortunately, the hotel we ended up with had been turned into a pseudo-brothel since the write-up in the LP.  Rooms were rented by the hour, 24-hour Thai porn graced the TV, mirrors were placed on either end of the bed, and quite a few young men milled about downstairs (a gay brothel?). Too tired too complain, we accepted our lot and headed out into the city. 

Our first afternoon in the city was spent at the Tuol Sleng prison where suspects were held and tortured before being exterminated. The prison used to be a school before the Khmer Rouge seized it. The prison was now a museum dedicated to the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Gruesome paintings, photographs of victims, and torture instruments were displayed in the cells. But due to lack of money, the overall condition of the museum was a bit poor.

We headed for The Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh on our second day.  For $2, we rented a driver on a motor scooter and both of us hopped onto the back for the half our ride.  The only way you would know that thousands of people died at the location was the monument in the center of the field filled with skulls.  After walking around the monument,  we became aware of the great pits everywhere.  Small signs announced the number of dead buried in each mass grave.  Victims killed here were bludgeoned to death - apparently because bullets were in such short supply. The place is very quiet, a place to reflect on the monstrosities that human beings are capable of inflicting on each other.  

Ever feel like blowing up a cow? Well, in the Phkor Lan Club shooting range, you can.  You could shoot AK47s (which Mike actually did) for US$20, or a rocket launcher for US $200.  For an extra US$200, you could shoot a rocket launcher at a cow (although this was not mentioned on the menu).  The fact that this kind of stuff was on offer meant that there was actually demand for this crazy stuff.  I, personally, could not understand the attraction with actually firing weapons that were once used in war. To me it seemed like an insensitive thing to do after visiting such solemn reminders of the brutal power of gun wielding lunatics. Mike informs me that it is a guy thing.  Whatever. 

After such a grisly afternoon,  we decided on lighter fare and went to visit the Royal Palace.  Cambodia was a monarchy until 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took over.  Its Royal palace was left intact by the regime and is now a beautiful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  

As the monarchy was violently replaced by the Khmer Rouge, so too was the Khmer Rouge violently overthrown by the Vietnamese when they invaded Phnom Penh in January of 1979. From that moment until 1989 when the Vietnamese withdrew, the Khmer Rouge waged a guerrilla war. After the withdrawal,  a peace treaty between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government (set up by Vietnam) was signed. In 1989 the country abandoned socialism, and in 1993 a new constitution restored the monarchy. Eventually, Pol Pot was placed under house arrest and in April 1998, he died. So far, the government has put very few of the Khmer Rouge leaders to trial for crimes against humanity.

Due to the constant turmoil that has plagued Cambodia over the last thirty years, its economy is lagging behind its neighbors in a major way.  It is currently one of the poorest nations in the world (GDP per capita at $270 in 1999. Microsoft Encarta). Its roads are mainly dirt and in a state of disrepair (it is extraordinarily difficult and time consuming to get around the country overland) and its citizens are very poor.  Tourism is slowly increasing, especially to Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh, but with a lack of basic infrastructure and land mines still littered throughout the land, travelling to other parts of Cambodia is out of the question for most visitors.   Still, if you want to visit this beautiful country before the hordes start arriving, now is the time.

I found this Lilly on the grounds of the Royal Palace.  I took a photo of it because to me it was such a contradiction to the overcrowded, poverty-stricken city surrounding me.  I hope that Cambodia, in time, will become as beautiful.   

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com